Give What You Can
Every gift matters. That was the message the greater Chicago Food Depository got across to donors as it undertook its recent capital campaign, which hinged on the tagline, "Give What You Can."
“Our development team is made up of dedicated professionals who have a lot of fundraising experience — we all know the rules of a capital campaign, but we agreed to throw out the rule book,” says Kate Maehr, director of development for the Food Depository, who led the campaign. “From the beginning, we didn’t want this campaign to be about 10 major philanthropists.”
The campaign, which ran from October 2001 to August 2005, raised $30 million in gifts from more than 50,000 individuals, corporations and foundations.
Reaching its fundraising goal enabled GCFD to qualify for a $1 million Kresge Foundation challenge grant to complete the campaign. With the donations, the organization built a 268,000-square-foot food bank and training center, and now can provide additional programs and resources for people in need in Chicago’s Cook County.
GCFD’s facility became operational in March 2004 and has the capacity to allow the food bank and its member agencies (600 soup kitchens, food pantries and shelters) to distribute up to 80 million pounds of food a year; double what it could distribute from its former facility.
Maehr, who’s been with the organization for nearly a decade, says GCFD’s capital campaign defied fundraising expectations.
“We had the horrible misfortune of launching this campaign three weeks after Sept. 11  — one of the most difficult fundraising climates I’ve known,” she says. “A lot of people running campaigns then lowered their goal or suspended their campaigns altogether.”
Maehr’s team felt strongly about continuing with the campaign since it was such a critical project for GCFD, a nonprofit food-distribution center that provides for about 90,000 people monthly. “From day one we said we were going to raise $30 million. We never wavered,” she says.