Partners for Success - Capital Area Food Bank
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Partners for Success

By Loretta Monterastelli DeLuca September 4, 2013

LorettaIn our business, we are often tasked with putting together the “right” mix of technology and technology management recommendations to help an organization succeed. It’s about finding our clients the right partners and technical solutions – the whole package. Success is realized when people use technology to further the organization’s mission, vision, and business objectives.
The same philosophy applies in service to our community, which is why DelCor has partnered with our clients and colleagues for 11 years in service to the Capital Area Food Bank. Together, we’ve collected more than 230,000 meals, driven hundreds of miles, served hundreds of hot meals (at CAFB partner agency Shepherd’s Table in Silver Spring), touched more than 100 organizations (and countless individuals), and filled more than 1,700 weekend grocery bags. Whew! The numbers really add up. But it all started with a simple question: why don’t we do something to alleviate hunger?

Organic origins

Because we are a small business serving association and nonprofit clients, we are naturally inclined to believe in community-driven missions and attract employees with the same community-oriented mindset. In fact, it was one of our staff who first suggested we do a food drive. And so we did!
That was in 2003. We started with 15 organizations and collected about 2,500 meals, primarily through donations of nonperishable items. In 2013, with about twice as many organizations participating, we collected 63,000 meals in our first “all virtual” food drive using the AidMatrix online shopping system – touching hundreds of lives, both givers and receivers.

Simplicity is the key to success

Although it started small, the DelCor .org Community Food Drive is now our flagship charity event. The progress we’ve achieved with our partners and donors proves that you don’t need full-time staff (our marketing manager runs ours) or a charitable foundation to do something good for your community. You just need the will.
Once you make the commitment, you can keep it simple enough that it doesn’t become overwhelming. For starters, why not put all those business connections to use for a great cause? You can do it, and here’s a 10-point playbook to get you going:

  1. Contact the food bank. Learn what’s involved in a food drive.
  2. Consider a virtual food drive (raising money online) if you don’t want to shop or schlep (particularly if your employees commute via Metro or work remotely).
  3. Don’t go it alone; recruit other organizations! Many people simply don’t know or can’t comprehend how large the need is. Tell them. They’ll contribute great ideas to make your food drive a success.
  4. Set a goal – even a modest one. It gives people something to shoot for. (You might even suggest a particular gift amount: “$20 provides 60 meals!”)
  5. Choose a theme. Make it fun, informative, competitive, or whatever works for the personality of your organization and potential donors. This year, we focused on the fresh produce that CAFB can buy with all the dollars donated.
  6. Communicate. If you’re launching a multi-organizational food drive, make sure you have a clear and committed point of contact (POC) at each organization; communicate with them early and often. Provide updates, tips, and tracking devices (in case they have their own goals). Make sure everyone knows how to give – and how the donations are being used. CAFB provides a number of statistics about hunger in the Washington region that you can share.
  7. Encourage. It may be slow going in the beginning of a 2- or 3-week food drive, but it will pick up; don’t be discouraged! Folks are busy and need fun, informative, gentle, prodding reminders. CAFB staff members are a great resource when you don’t know what to do next.
  8. Socialize your food drive. Use the tools readily available to you (your website, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, your private online community) to promote your drive, and to provide public updates.
  9. Rally and tally. Inevitably, your food drive will swing into high gear in the final days. You may want to share more frequent or more detailed updates with your POCs and donors.
  10. No matter the final outcome, you’ve done something good by raising awareness about hunger in our community – and probably inspired others to do more, too. Make sure your staff, board, clients, and participating organizations know. Thank everyone for their gifts and support. Send a press release or update your community following.

Whatever you do, do more of it

DelCor’s food drive grew not only because we committed ourselves to the cause, but also because of how generous and engaged our community became. Every year, we expand our goal and encourage new ideas. You can do the same – but you have to start somewhere.
Regardless of the type of drive you choose, sometimes just giving isn’t enough; many people want to do something. Instead of a scripted teambuilding exercise, volunteer to sort and pack groceries or staff an event at one of the food bank’s partner agencies. For example, we capped our most recent food drive with a volunteer night at the warehouse, where DelCor staff partnered with our association clients to pack weekend bags for children. Add volunteer hours to your benefits package. Solicit personal stories about the effects of hunger from your staff. Do good things, and spread the word.
Together – and only together – we can solve hunger!