You can help protect members of your community from financial fraud by organizing a shredding event where they can safely destroy and dispose of sensitive documents. People often keep sensitive, personal documents — like bank and investment statements — long after they need them. Those documents could make their owners vulnerable to fraud. Older Americans are a favorite target of scam and fraud artists. Raise peace of mind while helping people clean out unneeded paperwork!
Step 1: Determine if you want a large or small event
Determine how big a shredding event you want to organize. The basic elements of a shredding event are:
- Recruiting and organizing volunteers
- Finding a venue
- Hiring a shredding company
- Promoting the event
- Setting up for the event
- Greeting attendees
- Coordinating how people move about the event
- Helping attendees at the event
- Cleaning up afterward
Step 2: Recruit Volunteers
For a small event, you may need only three or four people to help. For a larger event, you might need 10 or 15.
Reach out to people however you can — email, social media, phone calls, knocking on doors, etc. Post your event on the bulletin board at your place of worship, local libraries, coffee shops, etc. (See the Sample Community Flyer in the "Supplemental Materials" section).
Try family, friends, colleagues and any groups you belong to. Most people want to help out; you just need to ask!
Once you have a core group of volunteers, assign people roles for planning and carrying out the event. Typical roles include those listed in Step 1 above.
Step 3: Pick a Shredding Service
Look for an established company with a good reputation for integrity and customer service. Ask for references, search online for reviews and check with your local Better Business Bureau.
Choose a company that performs on-site services rather than one that moves documents to a warehouse and shreds them there.
Ask the shredding company if it will donate the shredding service. Your event definitely qualifies as a “public service” and the potential media exposure is a great marketing opportunity for the company.
If the shredding vendor won’t donate or discount its services, look for community partners who might fund the event.
Partners could include banks, local TV and radio stations, the community newspaper, faith organizations, local governments, schools and office supply or grocery stores.
Step 4: Find a Great Place to Shred
The ideal space for your shredding event will be:
- Large enough to handle a steady stream of people
- Easily accessible, both for attendees toting reams of documents and the shredding company, which will have to move its shredders in and out of the location
- Easy to find, with sufficient parking
Start with community centers, other municipal buildings and schools. You could also try hotels and other buildings with large parking lots or large, open spacs on the first floor.
Call to ensure that you have proper permits and insurance forms for a shredding event. Most shredding companies can help you with this type of paperwork.
And remember, most waste from shredding events is recycled, so you are helping the environment too!
Step 5: Promote the Event
Contact local media — radio, TV, newspapers and internet. You're organizing a valuable public service, so be upbeat and confident in urging the media to help spread the word. Also invite them to cover the event live (but at this point, mobilizing people to attend is more important).
Post flyers in libraries, stores, community centers — wherever you are permitted to do so in the community.
Ask your volunteer team to leverage their networks — personal, professional, hobby groups, etc. — through email, social media, word of mouth and phone calls.
In all of your promotions, emphasize that fraud costs Americans millions of dollars a year and that your shredding event wil help protect people from falling victim to fraud.
Step 6: Prep Your Team
Consider a common dress code for your volunteers. Opt for bright-colored T-shirts that are easily identifiable.
Ask volunteers to arrive 30 to 45 minutes early to help set up and clarify everyone’s roles for the day.
Give everyone your cell phone number — this includes the shredding company — so they can reach you if needed on event day.
Step 7: Let’s Shred!!!
Now it’s time to carry out your shredding event! Here's how:
- Arrive an hour before the event!
- Post signs outside the building so everyone can find it.
- Encourage your team to be friendly, calm and courteous throughout the day. If people become frustrated or impatient, be as helpful as possible in guiding them through the process.
- Bring materials like work gloves, first-aid kits, name tags and copies of the Protect Your Personal Information and Spot and Stop Investment Fraud tipsheets (in the "Supplemental Materials" section below) to hand out.
- Don't forget to provide snacks and drinks (as well as paper plates, cups and napkins) for workers — including employees of the shredding company.
- Keep track of time: Make sure your team members know what’s expected of them, especially when you want them to arrive and how long they'll need to stay.
- Keep your cell phone on and charged, in case anyone needs to reach you for event-related questions or emergencies.
- Media: Decide who will conduct media interviews and direct photo opportunities.
- Keep lines moving: Make sure there is no time for a potential crook to linger; be vigilant about document security. Exercise caution when handling sensitive documents so they are not lost, misplaced or left unprotected.
How to Measure Your Impact
Track this information so you can report and celebrate your success.
Pounds of documents shredded
Make sure and ask your vendor how many pounds of paper were shredded.
Number of attendees
Keep track of how many people attended the event.
After your Event
Follow up with volunteers and the community to share your success (make sure to include the metrics noted above).
Acknowledge and thank everyone who helped. Post a notice of future events that volunteers can support so that you can further engage them in community service efforts. Ask your team and attendees for feedback to help you improve upon your success for future events.
Inspire Others on CreateTheGood.org
Visit www.CreateTheGood.org to connect with a range of opportunities to use your life experiences, skills and passions to benefit your community.
AARP Consumer Protection – www.aarp.org/investmentfraud
AARP No Free Lunch – http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-11-2009/_no_free_lunch.2.html
Nebraska shredding event article – www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-05-2010/popular-shredding-event-returns-ne.html
Washington shred event and food drive article – www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-08-2010/fight_fraud_shred_instead_wa.html
AARP Bulletin article: What Should I Shred and When? – www.aarp.org/work/retirement-planning/info-08-2010/what_should_i_shred_and_when.html