Monday, November 21, 2005

A recipe for the holiday blues

According to this online article at, donations are down sharply at Food Banks in some major US cities. The article goes on to quote officials representing these food banks attributing the decline to "donor fatigue."

What should the food banks do to encourage more donations? Should they send out the same appeal as years prior, talking about the number of children and elderly that use their services and need your help? That will appeal to those loyal donors who give to the food banks year after year, but how about trying something along a whole new line of appeal.

Take what I talked about in this blog entry and turn it into an organized practice.

If I was Director of Fundraising at a Food Bank, this is what I would do to fight donor fatigue:

> Create a website and/or a simple pamplet in the form of a recipe or shopping list.
> Encourage everyone whose hosting a party through the holidays to send this pamphlet along with their party invite. (Of course, through a website, people can RSVP with the items they're bringing ensuring little to no duplication of items donated).
> Include a downloadable PDF document for hosts that want to collect financial donations and have tax-receipts issued
> Get a local courier company, delivery company whatever to agree to donate a day of a couple of their drivers and trucks to pick-up these items the next day from the party.
> Encourage the host of the party to take a picture of all of the items collected at the party together and then get a volunteer at the foodbank to take a picture of all of the food collected from these types of events and create a downloadable template thank-you card for the host to send to all the people at their party.

If you're a charity and decide to use this idea, please let me know. I'd love to know how it goes. But the good news is we don't have to wait for a charity to offer this idea. This idea in some simple form can be done very easily. If you decide to do this at your party, please let me know. Maybe we can create a flickr tag for it.

Or tell me why this idea doesn't work or needs improvement.


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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Not exactly "black tie"

Originally uploaded by tomgivemeaning.

When I think of a fundraising dinner, I think of a room full of round tables, solemn looks and the age-old culinary diveristy of "chicken or fish."

But recently a number of threads collided to make me aware of just how cool a fundraising dinner can be.

The first thread was this article I read in the New York Times about a group of women who get together monthly and take the $35 dollars they would otherwise spend at a restaurant and donate it to charities selected by the group.

Amongst the very wealthy and influential this kind of "home dining fundraiser" has been a fundraising tool for ages but never has this type of get together popular in the mainstream.

Even though we go to a lot of parties, we've never thrown one. Our apartment before the one we're living in now had been taken over by GiveMeaning so there was no space to entertain and our current apartment has a lot more space but with her record being completed and GivingGroups launching, we really hadn't had a lot of time to make our living space really comfy and cozy.

Finally, having decided to make the time to make our apartment a real home, we wanted to share our environment with our close friends. We're lucky to have a working fireplace in our apartment (a luxury in an old building like this in Vancouver) and with really no money, Jess and I have made our apartment really cozy. We jokingly refer to ourselves as the "scrimp-scrapers." Some people pay thousands of dollars for the "chabby-chic look" we spent about $70 including a great couch that was made the same year as our building (1910) thanks for that R.P!!

Jess was understandably uneasy about making our first party, a fundraiser for GiveMeaning. It's a valid point: We spend so much time talking to friends about GiveMeaning and the various GivingGroups on the site that to have a party and then ask people to contribute to a GivingGroup might be a little much. But, we knew we wanted to cook for our friends so we knew that our friends would want to bring something if they couldn't bring food or wine.

We sent out an evite for our "autumn feast" to about 20 friends. In it, we made it clear we were cooking for everyone and would provide the booze. We said "only if you need to bring something here's a list of items we're collecting for a GivingGroup that is feeding and clothing the homeless in Victoria (my hometown).

Because a GivingGroup has an area for "supplies requested" we could email our guests with an exact list of what's needed. With the email invite, friends could check the item they were bringing, making sure that not everyone brought the same thing.

It's so important to make sure that the items people donate in-kind are actually needed by the charity, that's why our supplies wish-list is so helpful. even though it's the worst designed part of GiveMeaning (it's on our list of things to do!)

Anyway, everyone brought something and in one night, the value of the items (that the charity would have otherwise had to purchase) we collected was over $200. In addition, I know of at least two people who made donations the next morning at the website the GivingGroup profile of CARTS, the charity benefiting from that specific GivingGroup.

Jess made a small toast to our friends and spend 30 seconds telling people how their contribution was helping. Everyone walked away knowing who this small grass-roots charity is and the next morning, it appears more than half of the people who received the email invite clicked on the link we included.

If GiveMeaning were to automate what we did such that every GivingGroup displays a list of events (some private, some public) that are all fundraisers for that GivingGroup, I think this would not only be a huge real community builder but also a preferred way to give for many young people.

It's now on our list and though it won't be ready for Christmas, we'll launch it early in the New Year. It goes beyond dinner parties too.. Bands, Art Exhibits, you name it....

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