Top 12 Fundraising Tips for Food Banks and Hunger-Relief Nonprofits

Today, more than 820 million people do not have enough to eat. The total number of undernourished has been increasing for several years in a row. This means that today one in every nine people in the world suffers from hunger. Hunger is often not a food problem – but a logistics problem. Approximately 15-30% of food in…

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Top 12 Fundraising Tips for Food Banks and Hunger-Relief Nonprofits

Today, more than 820 million people do not have enough to eat. The total number of undernourished has been increasing for several years in a row. This means that today one in every nine people in the world suffers from hunger.

Hunger is often not a food problem – but a logistics problem. Approximately 15-30% of food in emerging economies is wasted. In the United States, food waste is estimated at between 30-40 percent of the food supply.

These statistics urge immediate and constant action for our society to do better with food. And this is where food banks come into play.

Food banks amidst the coronavirus pandemic

In today’s crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the need for food banks has been taken to unprecedented levels.

The International Labour Organization estimated that the number of lost jobs due to COVID-19 could climb to nearly 25 million.

  • Many employees have been put on unpaid leave, causing ​additional financial hardship for food-insecure families.
  • Measures intending to reduce virus transmission are leaving seniors and immunocompromised people relying on expensive and limited grocery delivery services.
  • Disrupted supply chains and panic-buying and hoarding make it even more difficult to get food to those who need it most.

This, combined with chronic hunger and poverty, is driving record-high demand for food bank services.

Food banking systems capture surplus food and deliver it to the people who need it most, engaging all sectors of society (governments, business, and civil) in the process. Food banks acquire donated food and make it available to those in need through an established network of community agencies.

A large number of individuals depend on food banks for sustenance. Feeding America network of food banks provides service to 46.5 million people in need across the United States.

Before the coronavirus, 821 million people around the globe were considered food insecure. In just a few months, according to Bloomberg, that number could more than double.

In a survey conducted by The Global FoodBanking Network across 39 countries found that there is:

  • 50-100%+ increase in demand for emergency food assistance
  • 90% reported an urgent need for food.
  • 21% reported an urgent need for more employees or volunteers

To help keep up with this growing need, in this post we cover the top 12 best practices and bonus tips to maximize fundraising for food banks.

Best Practices and Tips for Food Bank Fundraising

1. Set Fundraising Goals

Setting fundraising goals is incredibly important. The goal-setting process invites your whole team to really hone in on what’s important and what you’re hoping to accomplish. It ensures that you and your team are on the same page with the desired results of a fundraising campaign.

Goals help you keep track of where you’re at, which can then give you the information you need to adjust your fundraising strategy or improve your outreach.

Your goals should be clear and specific. Ideally, they should pass the S.M.A.R.T test: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and time-bound.

Read about how to set and meet fundraising goals here.

Pro tip: As you make progress toward your goal, use a fundraising thermometer to motivate donors to give—if they see others are giving, they will be more likely to give as well. Furthermore, seeing the donation thermometer rise also gives donors a sense of instant gratification, making them more likely to give again. Finally, fundraising thermometers are incredibly effective when you’re close to achieving your goal.

Feed frontline NYC is looking to raise $1.75M and are sharing their progress on their website:

increasing food banks donations

2. Promote Recurring Giving

One of the best ways to ensure your food bank’s sustainability is running a monthly giving program.

When a donor sets up a recurring donation, they choose to give a predetermined amount of money on a regular basis. Many people like to give monthly (the most common form), bi-monthly, or yearly, but they can give as frequently as they’d like – the process will be automated. Instead of inspiring a donor to give multiple times, you only have to do it once, and then maintain the relationship.

An online donation system that offers recurring giving can have an enormous positive impact on the long-term financial sustainability of your food bank. It provides a steady stream of income, making it easier for you to plan your activities.

Recurring donors are also more engaged, give more, and keep giving for longer.

Place a prominent link to your recurring giving program in all your email newsletters, share social media posts, and on your website, highlighting recurring donors and the impact their donations are having.

In the image below, Greater Cleveland Food Bank is encouraging its website visitors to join their monthly giving program (and they have a donation matching too)! And The Mississauga Food Bank shares benefits of its branded monthly giving program.

Pro tip: Make sure donors can cancel their recurring subscription at any time, and that they are aware that they can

food bank fundraiser covid-19

food bank fundraisers

3. Create a Fundraising Campaign and Tell Stories

Reduced to its bare essence, an intensive fundraising campaign can be defined as an effort to raise a specific amount of money, for a specific purpose, over a specific period of time.

Why is creating a campaign important for food banks?

As mentioned briefly in Tip #1, a specific dollar goal provides a measure of success. Having a goal can also help you determine how much each prospect should be asked to contribute (which you can then use to suggest donation amounts).

Furthermore, having a specific project (defined by a purpose and a time frame) gives your team a focus — something to be working for that has a beginning and an end.

Campaigns are by definition specific – they help the donors visualize what they’re giving the money to. They are important because they mobilize donors to give.

There’s a lot to planning and executing a successful fundraising campaign, but one of the key elements of success is storytelling.

Storytelling plays a huge role in developing an emotional connection with your donors. Essentially, a compelling story is much more effective than any stat could ever be.

Pro tip: Whenever you’re sharing stories, don’t forget about using emotion. Emotion is what sets the scene, leads the potential donor through a story, and helps them empathize. If your readers are not emotionally engaged, they’re less likely to be moved to act.

4. Capitalize on Peer-to-Peer Fundraising

Peer-to-peer fundraisers lend themselves really well to food bank fundraising. There are multiple ways to go about Peer-to-peer fundraising and it helps scale fundraising to a new level by tapping into your current supporters’ networks—their friends, family, and colleagues.

It lets your community feel more connected to your mission and helps you reach more people. Peer-to-peer fundraisers are powerful because they help expand your reach.

These campaigns typically run for a fixed period of time and have an overall fundraising or impact goal. Fundraisers then participate by setting a personal fundraising goal towards the overall goal and share their personal fundraising pages with their friends and family.

Whichever peer-to-peer fundraiser you choose, harness the power of your supporters by giving them the tools and material they need to fundraise on your behalf.

Pro tip: Just let your supporters know that peer-to-peer fundraising is an option (on your website for example, and individuals can then choose to fundraise for your organization. They may simply raise money, or undertake a personal challenge, like running a 5k or shaving their head. You can also organize peer-to-peer fundraising events like runs, walk-a-thons, bowl-a-thons, or golf outings.

5. Partner for Discounts and Special Deals

Successful food banks are excellent networkers. Through partnerships with organizations of all types and sizes, food banks can effectively reach their fundraising goals and serve more beneficiaries.

Donorbox is offering a lowered price of only 0.5% of a month’s donations, specifically for Food Banks during the months of June and July.

It’s standard practice that food banks get special deals and discounts with producers, farmers, and retailers.

But, now is the time to get even more creative with partnerships and deals.

For example, shared a few great best practices submitted by their member food banks:

Here is how some organizations are utilizing partnerships:

  • After seeing a significant decline in retail and manufacturer donations due to panic-buying, Foodbank Australia in collaboration with the country’s largest retailers Coles and Woolworths, arranged for a dedicated supply of products for Foodbank Australia to distribute to those in need.
  • A food bank in El Salvador reached out to Unilever who gave them cleaning and personal hygiene products to take to the shelters.
  • Some foodbanks in Colombia are approaching airlines asking if they have surplus food available given the sudden and drastic reduction in the number of flights.

You could also work with schools, organizing competitions between classes, or having students pay off their library fines by donating.

increase food bank donations

6. Work with the Government

If you have not yet made contact with your local/regional/national government, we recommend that you consider doing so soon so you can liaise on relief efforts.

And working with the government is great at all times, not just during the coronavirus pandemic.

In 2019 the Canadian federal government unveiled the Food Policy for Canada – the first-ever comprehensive food policy of its kind in Canada.

The government launched the new Local Food Infrastructure Fund (LFIF) – a $50 million investment over five years to support organizations such as food banks to build up their infrastructure and capacity.

Currently, with the coronavirus pandemic, food banks are being actively assisted by government agencies who view food bank operations as critical to providing emergency services during the health crisis. Make sure you’re not missing out on available government support!

Pro tip: Given the economic impacts of COVID-19, many governments are discussing bail-out/relief packages generally targeted towards consumers and small businesses. Engage with government funding decision-makers to encourage support for nonprofit services like yours.

7. Engage With Supporters on Social Media

With so many social media networks available now, it’s important to clarify that you don’t need to be active on every single platform to have a successful social media strategy that boosts donations. Find those platforms where your target audience is most active, and then focus on those networks.

Spread the word on your targeted social media networks (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc.). Whether you choose to use paid ads or not, give your audience a reason to share your post and your organic reach will soar.

Provide updates to your network regularly – depending on your capacity and your audience. Tell them how the campaign is going, and remind them to donate. Make sure your donation page is shareable!

Pro tip: Make it very clear on your website and on your social media that you’re still operating and distributing food to those who need it despite the coronavirus outbreak. Share that you need support from donors to continue providing services.

Here’s how Food Bank of North Alabama has done it – front and center in a pop up on their website. They share their coronavirus preparedness, and also created a COVID-19-specific donation form to raise funds, stay open, and serve the community.

Food Bank of NEA is using their social media to link directly to their donation page and The Trussell Trust is using social media to answer questions and engage in conversations with their supporters.

fundraising for food banks

increase donation for food bank

food banks fundraiser

8. Highlight the ‘Most Needed Items’

When fundraising, specificity almost always beats generality. People respond better to appeals that make it clear what is needed and/or what will the money be used for.

Consider highlighting the ‘Most Needed Items’ on your food bank fundraising page. Your Most Needed Items could be items like canned legumes, canned fish/meat, peanut butter, fruit and vegetables (canned, juice, pasta sauce), cereal, rice, and boxed macaroni and cheese, baby food, and personal care items (menstrual products, shampoo, soap, etc.)

In the image below, Trussell Trust encourages its readers to support their local food bank if they’re able to by checking what items are most needed in the search box, and donating those if they are able to.

securing funds for food banks

9. Designate a Drop-Off Place

Depending on your specific circumstances, you might not be able to pick up as many donations as you used to.

Designate a drop-off place for the donations – whether it’s your own warehouse or another location.

For example, The Mississauga Food Bank designated a fire station as their drop-off location for collections less than 500lbs. They pick up collections larger than that.

fundraising tips for food banks

10. Fundraise Online

Digital givers give more money in general, and they give it more often too. On average, digital givers donate 44 percent more often than non-digital givers (2.3 times a month vs. 1.6 times a month). (Dunham + Company)

Online donors give more and more often because they have better tools. They can give when they’re inspired, no matter where they are.

So, online fundraising matters.

Furthermore, time is now of the essence as food banks around the country race to transform donations into meals for people in need. Having the right fundraising technology to collect donations securely and reliably and manage them at scale is a critical part of the success equation.

If your nonprofit doesn’t have an online donation page, now is the time to get one up and running. With Donorbox, you can set up appealing and effective donation forms with a plugin that is very simple and fast to set up.

Pro tip: Suggesting specific gift sizes ($10, $50, $100) leads directly to an increase in giving. Most people, when left to make their own choices, will not give quite as much as they would if they were provided with options for how much to donate. Always provide smaller offering options for those who would like to give but don’t have the means to contribute significantly.

Here’s how Sahuarita Food Bank is using Donorbox to raise funds online:

food banks fundraising covid-19

11. Utilize Workplace Giving

Private employers, federal, state, and local governments all offer payroll deduction opportunities.

Encourage your donors to check with their employers if it’s possible to have a payroll deduction with a tax-deductible donation (given directly from the paycheck). Payroll deduction is one of the easiest ways for donors to support your food bank.

Workplace giving can be a potent way to raise funds for your food bank or hunger-relief organization. For example, workplace giving enables Feeding America to assist people who struggle with hunger in the U.S.

Share a toolkit with the company you are working with for creating a workplace giving campaign, including the promotion templates and assets for sharing on social media and other places.

Donation matching is one of the best ways to make use of workplace giving. Many employers have a philanthropic matching gift program, where the company matches their employee’s donation to any nonprofit.

Pro tip: In addition to employee matching, your organization can ask foundations, major donors, and companies to participate in a challenge match by agreeing to raise a certain amount of money by a specified deadline. If you’re successful, the supporter will match your donations so that you end up raising twice as many funds! You can also reach out to a smaller local company to see if they’ll match donations up to a fixed amount.

Here’s how to boost your food bank fundraising with Double the Donation and Donorbox.

hunger relief fundraiserhunger relief fundraising

 12. Tie Donation Amounts to Outcomes

When fundraising, it’s essential to show potential donors that your food bank is a good and efficient steward of funds.

When donors are able to clearly see what their donations will enable, it’s easier for them to visualize the impact. This, in turn, makes them more likely to give.

To accomplish this, add a sentence to your fundraising appeal or to your donation form about what the donation amount will “buy/provide/supply/enable.”

Five families with food for a week? Is a month worth of food for a family? 100 individual meals?

Remember, if you don’t want to do this in the main body of the text of your fundraising appeal, you can set these up in your donation form.

Pro tip: Consider highlighting the importance of monetary donations. For example, you could highlight how your food bank buys food items in bulk and receive charity discounts – which means their money can go a longer way than if they purchased the food themselves.

Pro tip: Share how moving food items takes a lot of time, money, and volunteer effort to sort, store, and distribute. Underline how in-kind gifts do not support your important operating costs, educative programming, or efforts to effect policy change. (Just be careful that you don’t make it look like in-kind donations are not welcome or appreciated too!)


food bank fundraising

Bonus Tips – Food Banks and the Coronavirus Pandemic

  1. Mandate that all staff washes their hands with soap; otherwise with hydro-alcoholic gel; cleaning surfaces with bleach (door handles, stainless steel table) every day. Disinfect the truck cabin at the end of each journey.
  2. If possible, have a psychiatrist specializing in crisis situations speak to your team. Especially focussed to take care of their mental health, considering their line of work.
  3. In case of shortage of staff, concentrate the available staff on the preparation and distribution of dry and stable products because fresh products require more resources.
  4. If possible, deliver meal bags for families to cook at home when and if agencies are no longer serving food onsite.
  5. Suspend nonessential services (e.g. food nutrition classes) to focus on food collection and distribution.
  6. Look into online ordering for beneficiaries and explore working with package delivery services to provide meals to those that need to self-isolate.
  7. Work closely with local monitoring agents and health inspectors. Ensure that you are fulfilling the guidelines, regulations, and legislation as they apply to your facility and programs when it comes to food safety regulations.

Moving Forward

Food banks, as a community-​based organizations, ​are at the forefront of local ​civil society response to global needs and crises.

In essence, your contribution to the world is invaluable. And to do what you do, you need funding.

We know that your fundraising needs are changing rapidly. Many food banks are now relying, more than ever, on online and mobile giving to raise funds.

Hopefully, this article helps your food bank raise the much-needed funds and eventually aid your recovery from the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic.

We want to offer you support, as a key partner, to get through this crisis and continue to serve millions of families. This is why Donorbox is reducing its platform fee to 0.5% for nonprofits – food banks and organizations working directly in relief for those affected by a coronavirus for the months of June and July.

Please reach out to our Donorbox team if you have any questions or concerns that we might help you with!

Ilma Ibrisevic is a content creator and nonprofit writer. She’s passionate about meaningful work, sustainability, and social movements. If she’s not working, she’s obsessing over coffee or cooking. You can connect with her on Linkedin.

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