Tips for Improving Baby Bottle Returns

by: Plans for You, Inc

The following are ideas that have resulted from conversations with those who have sought help to improve the rate of the bottle return when at the end of a Baby Bottle Campaign (“BBC”).

The rate of improvement will depend on a number of factors, chief of which is the cooperation of the participating churches.  Naturally having record of your previous results is a starting point from which to compare any improvement.  Good record keeping is essential to determine any improvement.

These suggestions have been tried by many who have done the BBC program.  Different ones work differently for different ministries.  Look them over and consider if one or all of the ideas might have a practical application for you.  One thing all three ideas have in common is that they require advance planning.  (A fourth suggestion has recently been added.)


  1.     A special appeal for return of the bottles.

Address the bottle loss with the participating church at the beginning of the process by asking for their cooperation in improving the bottle return rate.  Just letting them know your bottle loss rate might help them to go along with the suggestions presented here.

Ask if you can place some kind of container to receive empty bottles in a less traveled area of the church when the campaign is officially over.  Naturally, put the name of your ministry and “Return Empty Bottles Here” on the container as well.  It is better that the container not be in a high traffic area.  The reason that people don’t return the bottles is they feel somewhat intimidated or embarrassed to return an empty bottle, so a more discreet location might lessen their apprehension.

As stated above, keep good records.  Record the number of bottles distributed to the church and the number returned.  We suggest that you let them know the amount of money raised in their church through the BBC program.  Ask the pastor, or other appropriate person, if they would inform their congregation of the results of the program a couple of weeks after the last publicized day of the program.  Request that he share the amount given and your ministry’s appreciation for the church’s generosity and help in doing the program.  Also ask that he state something like, “One hundred baby bottles were distributed to our congregation, and we have received 60 of the baby bottles back with an offering of approximately $1,100.  However there are still 40 baby bottles that have not been returned. Some of you have likely been collecting money in the bottle and simply forgot to return it.  If so, please bring it by our church office so we can get it to (the ministry).  If you took a baby bottle and just didn’t participate, for whatever reason, that’s okay.  You can still help.  The return of your bottle will still be an offering to (ministry name).  We’ve placed a carton with (the name of the ministry) on it in the hallway down from the church office.  Please help (the ministry) by placing your empty bottle in the designated carton.”  The pastor certainly knows his congregation better than those outside the church, but the previous suggestion is representative of something he could use to encourage his congregation to return their bottles.

Certainly, you will want to express your appreciation for the church’s participation and willingness to help your ministry.  At the least, send a thank you letter.  Better yet, a nice framed certificate will be more likely to be highly valued and perhaps displayed in the church office where the name of your ministry may be visible for some period of time.


  1.    Effective Church Bulletin Articles

As a part of the overall program, exposure to your ministry’s programs and services can be attained through a variety of means, i.e., bulletin inserts, bulletin articles about your ministry, pulpit announcements and/or power point presentations , church newsletters,  Bible study or Sunday School announcements, posters, flyers, etc.   Readily available information about your ministry is key to achieving success with the program.  It is important to emphasize the “official” bottle return date as it will help people to remember to return their bottles.

The bulletin articles can serve several purposes.  They keep the program fresh in the minds of the congregation and can inform them about some of the details of your ministry.  It is an opportunity to share with them the difference you make in the lives of those impacted by your ministry.  The more different facets of your ministry you can communicate to the congregation, the more likely you are to connect with someone who may be attracted to your ministry.  While the BBC program is an effective fundraiser, it is also an opportunity to create greater awareness of your ministry and engage more people in the process.  It is also an opportunity to provide another reminder of the return date for the bottles.  You can do both with a short “factoid” or “Did you know” format.

For example, “Did you know that the ABC Pregnancy Center ministers to post abortive women through a Bible study to help them deal with their past and seek God’s mercy and help in the future?”  Or another, “Did you know that the ABC Pregnancy Center has an abstinence program to help young people make the right choices so they won’t have to face a crisis pregnancy?”  Etc., Etc., Etc. You can help us continue to minister to our clients and meet their needs when you RETURN your baby bottle on (Date).

The articles should be short and to the point, and then tie in the baby bottle return as a part of helping your ministry to effectively serve.  We recommend that you include not more than one or two ministry services and then move to the request for the bottle return.  It is best not to use the same article more than once.  Keep the articles fresh and different.  That will attract more readers and maintain a higher interest level.  The last sentence should be in bold print as above.


3.    Baby Bottle Return Incentive

This is one of the more recent ideas, but several have tried it, and those who have responded have indicated they think it has had a positive impact.  It requires getting some support from local merchants to donate gift certificates or merchandise as an incentive to return the bottles.  It should be promoted from the bottle distribution to the collection.  If you use a bottle insert form, you can use the form as an entry into a drawing for the designated prize within the church.  It is much more effective if you can get a gift certificate or prize for each participating church.  It could be promoted from the first day and in ensuing bulletin articles or even with posters.  If you do not use a bottle insert form, you would need to have a method of identifying the winner.  Dual tickets for drawings are available at many office supply stores, and are readily available online.  You could promote it by advising the participants of the benefit their donations are to your ministry, and in the process, they could win a gift certificate, or other appropriate prize, when they return the completed form in the bottle or return the enclosed ticket, as they would be entered into a drawing for a “Dinner for Two at Joe’s Restaurant,” or whatever type gift certificates or tangible prizes you are able to secure.

The merchant donating the prize for the church should be acknowledged in the bulletin by simply stating, “We would like to thank Joe’s Restaurant for helping us with our Baby Bottle Boomerang program.”  A simply expression of appreciation would be the polite thing to do, and it could even lead to some church members patronizing the business.  The merchant then benefits, your ministry benefits, and certainly the winner benefits.  They simply follow your entry requirements and return their bottle to be eligible.

This has proven to be pretty popular as people love to win.  Although the prize does not have to be an expensive one, people like to win and to receive the recognition that comes with winning.  It would be good to have some public recognition of the winners by having the church announce it from the pulpit or in the bulletin and/or newsletter.  You might consider printing the list of winners in your newsletter as well as it might serve to attract more interest the next time you do the program in that particular church.


4.    “Wanted” Poster

Another idea was recently suggested by Sharon Sizemore, Wiregrass Hope Group, Dothan, Alabama.    A copy of a Wanted Poster that they use is shown below:


Soon after the official conclusion date of your program, you could display these posters in the churches to remind people to bring in their bottles.  This would be particularly effective following the appeal process in Section I above.

If you have an idea you would like to share with others, please let us know.

BBC NOTE:  The KofC Baby Bottle Brigade of StL has designed a “Wanted” poster but not the same one as viewed here.  Please contact the Brigade for a copy.