Profile: Hunger Cannot Wait
Who: John Laurence Gile, executive director, Project Angel Food, which delivers meals and companionship to more than 1,200 people living with AIDS and other serious illnesses in Los Angeles County each day. Current budget: $4 million.
Grew up in: Whittier, Calif.
Education: Graduated with a degree in political science from California State University, Chico.
Role models/heroes: Mother Teresa, [Mahatma] Gandhi, President Clinton, Martin Luther King Jr.
Responsibilities: Executive management and fundraising.
Challenges: “There is a constant need to raise funds, as public funding provides only 10 percent of our total budget. Managing expenses is a challenge as we are really creating a product (fresh meals) every day, and the cost of delivery and production increases each year. It is also a challenge to draw attention to hunger in this community of abundance. We act out of a sense of urgency because hunger and illness cannot wait.”
Favorite causes: AIDS, hunger, poverty, civil rights. Current causes and projects in addition to Project Angel Food include The Names Project, Human Rights Campaign, Democratic Party, Emily’s List and America Coming Together.
Personal views: “Since I enjoy fundraising and special events, I find that I don’t mind working long hours, weekends and odd times. It has become a real spiritual journey for me, and the diversity of each day and the lives of our constituents are very intriguing. Hunger and poverty are directly related to civil rights issues, so my personal beliefs fit well into my goals for the agency.”
Management philosophy: “Delegate, be clear about your intentions and manage the not-for-profit like a [for-profit] business, with sound decisions and business plans.”
Keeping it fresh: “Our mode of service continues to evolve with the changing needs of the people we serve. In the past two years, we have expanded our program to any person with serious illnesses, expanding beyond our focus on people living with AIDS. This brought a new world of opportunities from individual donors, corporate and foundation donors, and volunteers. We have also added a breakfast program for those most in need and expanded our delivery routes.”
Keys to success: “We have reduced fundraising expenses for special events and engaged new corporate sponsors. We also invested in e-philanthropy and launched an online auction that netted $230,000 in the first year. We are streamlining many direct mail activities and enhancing the efficiency of our merchandising program. We are also launching a new, aggressive mail-phone program that will involve two personalized letters followed by a phone call asking for long-term donations. We expect this campaign to generate over $500,000.”
Challenges for fundraisers: “The rising costs of direct mail is a challenge that we hope to alleviate through e-philanthropy. In addition, added scrutiny from government agencies and increased focus on expense ratios bring new burdens of reporting and audit standards which can be misinterpreted by the public. The busy lives and multiple commitments of community leaders make it more difficult to engage or retain them as key major donor fundraising campaign volunteers.”