How to Host Your Own Backpack Build: 10 Tips and Tricks

A “backpack build” is a great event to engage any group of volunteers who want to make a difference for children in need. At a backpack build, volunteers fill backpacks with books, school supplies, and other learning essentials. The bags are then delivered to kids who need them most!

Hosting your own backpack build is more than just gathering supplies and volunteers. When thinking about the materials, time spent planning, volunteer coordinating – it’s difficult to know where to begin. But with the right amount of planning, you can have a backpack build of your own that is organized, fun, efficient, and engaging for the whole community. Gather your friends, family, book clubs — or even your weekly Dungeons and Dragons group and help kids in your community experience the joy of a brand-new backpack.

Here are our top 10 tips and tricks to host a backpack build of your own:

1. Start Planning Early

What is your timeline for your build? Start by asking yourself when you want to build your backpacks. Consider if you want them for back to school, summer slide prevention, or perhaps an activity bag for winter break, it’s up to you! But it is crucial to start your planning your build far in advance to put all the pieces into play and make your build both fun and successful.

The Texas AFT (American Federation of Teachers) worked with First Book to host a backpack build during their June conference and began planning in March.

They were able to build 200 backpacks with just over 60 volunteers. Make sure to scale your timeline for the size of your backpack build and have plenty of time to prepare.

2. Get Creative!

What kind of backpack do you want to build? This can go beyond your standard notebooks, binders, and crayons ensemble. Your backpacks can include hygiene kits, summer play bags, weekend food packs, or transitional support bags. We recommend thinking of ways to add a personal touch to your backpacks as well so think about think about ways you can add a custom note or a fun theme for your backpacks.

3. Make A Wishlist!

Backpacks from the First Book Marketplace!

After you’ve decided what kind of backpacks you are going to assemble, think about what items are going inside. The First Book Marketplace has a “Wishlist” function to make this process simple for you! Add the items you want on your Wishlist and see all the socks, notebooks, markers, and books you will need all in one place.

4. Create A Budget

How many backpacks are you able to build? Once you known what’s going into the bags, it’s time to think about how much supplies you will need to purchase. Stretching your time and dollars thin? Check out the preassembled pallets and supply boxes available in the First Book Marketplace. Materials come in bulk or individually, so you can consider what makes most sense for the size of your backpack build.

5. Fundraise

Need an easy platform to reach out to your community? Create your own Classy page with First Book. Launching a fundraiser is a quick and easy way to invite family and friends to help support your classroom or program! Click here to start your fundraiser and check out our Fundraiser Toolkit for more tips and tricks on making the greatest impact for the kids you serve through a campaign.

6. Outreach

Who is going to receive the backpacks? Think about what challenges are facing your own community. Consider the age, grade, school, and location of the kids receiving the backpacks you build.

7. Gather Volunteers

Who’s going to help? Engage others in this project to make this a fun and rewarding process. Talk to your friends, family, community organization, book club, yoga group, even your mom’s bridge club. You’ll need extra hands throughout the whole process. Lots of moving pieces can add unwanted stress to your build. A pro-tip from our Backpack Build pros at First Book: have at least one person serve as an inventory control volunteer. This person should keep track of the amount and organization of the inventory.

A recent backpack build with volunteers from our partners Salesforce. This build had a summer activities theme. Each bag was filled with books, sidewalk chalk, and jump ropes!

8. Reserve a location

Location, Location, Location! Where will you host your build? Choose a space that accommodates the supplies, number of volunteers, and enough space for a distribution if it is happening on-site. Make sure to locate your build in a location accessible by bus and train lines, especially if the distribution is occurring at your build site.

9. Logistics

How are you going to distribute the backpacks? Now is the time to consider how they will be shipped, or it is time to coordinate how they will be shared directly with they community. First Book recommends partnering with a school or non-profit directly to help with this step!

10. Record and Share

Capture both the hard work and joy of the build process and make sure to take photos and videos. Remember to have all participating volunteers and kids sign a photo release form before publishing your pictures and videos anywhere. Share the experience from start to finish with First Book and make sure to tag us in your social media posts!

Visit the First Book Marketplace to start planning for your own backpack build!