Give What You Can
The project cost just less than $29 million, including purchasing the new site, tearing down the existing structure, and constructing and outfitting a new facility. GCFD has an overall operating budget of $14 million annually,
$10 million of which is contributed revenue.
Maehr feels her team’s strategy was different than what’s typical in many capital campaigns — fundraising efforts on all fronts were rooted in getting as many people as possible invested, for life, in GCFD’s work, and then asking for donations.
“This campaign had a very grassroots emphasis, from having volunteers standing in the grocery stores and going to different public events in the city, to doing a very blanketed direct-mail campaign that asked people to help us build a better future for Chicago’s hungry, to calling donors to ask if we could come talk to them about our mission,” Maehr says.
Informally, the development team wanted to garner more individual gifts for the capital campaign than any other campaign in Chicago.
Maehr’s team chose to solicit from individuals from all economic backgrounds. “We wanted $1 and $5 donors to feel this was a response to hunger they helped build,” she says.
Getting the word out
“The food depository enjoys a very high profile, and that’s partly due to the way we get the word out to our donors,” Maehr says, adding that the organization has many points of contact with its donors, including direct mail, food drives, events and its Web site.
Over the four-year campaign, Maehr’s team found the most effective ways of soliciting donations were face-to-face meetings and the direct-mail campaign, with less of an emphasis on the Web and e-mail.
Volunteers called donors, typically women in their 40s and 50s, to ask if they’d like to meet with someone on GCFD’s staff to learn more about the organization and the capital campaign. Although she doesn’t know the
exact number of people they met with, Maehr says, “We harnessed the power of talking to every donor we could.”