Origin and Evolution of Toys for Tots

The Foundation was able to satisfy the six needs identified by the Marine Corps.  First, the Foundation could provide toys to supplement the collections of local units that had fewer Marines due to military cutbacks of the ‘80s and ‘90s.  Second, the Foundation could arrange and pay for the creation, publication, manufacture and distribution of promotion and support materials to Toys for Tots Coordinators.  Third, the Foundation could enable individual and corporate donors to Toys for Tots to take a charitable deduction on their income tax returns.  Fourth, the Foundation could enter into contracts with corporations to conduct promotions, which would produce royalties for Toys for Tots.  (Needs three and four were two important elements of this charitable endeavor that the Marine Corps, as a federal agency, could not fulfill).  Fifth, the Foundation could ensure that the Toys for Tots program operates in compliance with IRS regulations, state laws and regulations and charitable standards.  Finally, the Foundation took responsibility for the day to day operations of the Marine Toys for Tots Program, thus relieving the Reserve Headquarters Staff of that responsibility and allowing them to focus on training, organizing, and equipping the reserve force.

In 1995, the Secretary of Defense approved Toys for Tots as an official activity of the U. S. Marine Corps and an official mission of the Marine Corps Reserve.

In 1996, the Commander, Marine Forces Reserve expanded Toys for Tots to cover all 50 states by authorizing selected Marine Corps League Detachments and selected local community organizations (generally veteran Marine), located in communities without a Marine Reserve Center, to conduct toy collection and distribution campaigns in their communities as part of the U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Program.

In 1999, the Commander, Marine Forces Reserve delegated authority to the President, Marine Toys for Tots Foundation to approve and manage local Toys for Tots campaigns conducted in communities without a Reserve Unit.

2001: Despite the trauma the nation experienced as a result of the September 11th attacks in New York City, Washington, DC and Pennsylvania, the economic downturn and the anthrax scare, the 2001 U. S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots Campaign was the second best in the previous 54 year history of the program.  Local campaigns were conducted in 388 communities covering all 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.  This was the most extensive coverage to date.

The Marine Toys for Tots Foundation celebrated its 10th anniversary as the fundraising and support organization for Toys for Tots in 2001.  The highlights of the year were that the Foundation had its most successful campaign to date plus was ranked #289 in the 2001 “ Philanthropy 400”.  This was the first time the Foundation earned a ranking in the “Philanthropy 400”.

In 2002, Charity Navigator awarded the Foundation a 4-star rating and the Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked the Foundation #267 in the “Philanthropy 400”.

In 2003, the DMA Nonprofit Federation named the Foundation the “Outstanding Nonprofit Organization of the Year” for 2003.  The Chronicle of Philanthropy ranked the Foundation #341 in the “Philanthropy 400”.  Starburst ranked the Foundation website #9 of the “Top 100 Toy Websites”.  Reader’s Digest, in the November 2003 edition, named Marine Toys for Tots Foundation “America’s Best Children’s Charity”.  In December 2003 edition, Forbes included Marine Toys for Tots Foundation in its “Gold Star List” of charities.

In 2005, the Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance reported that Marine Toys for Tots Foundation had met all 20 of its standards and had been designated as an accredited charity.

From 2006 to the present the Foundation has continued to receive, on an annual basis, the accolades noted above.

Over its life span, the Marine Toys for Tots Program distributed over 469 million toys to over 216 million less fortunate children.