An Interview With Kerry Whitlock, director of major gifts, Friends of the World Food Program
Friends of the World Food Program (Friends of WFP) is a U.S.-based, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that focuses on building support in the United States for the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and other hunger-relief operations. Friends of WFP unites organizations and individuals committed to solving world hunger. Its education, advocacy and fundraising efforts in the United States support WFP’s life-saving global food assistance and development programs.
Friends of WFP was incorporated in 1995 to provide a tax-deductible means for donors to contribute to the United Nations World Food Program (donations to a U.N. agency are not tax-deductible under IRS regulations). For the first few years, Friends had no office or staff — donations were processed by a WFP official in New York.
In its early years, the advocacy work of Friends of WFP provided the greatest opportunity to generate resources to end hunger, as it worked with the U.S. government to provide funding to feed hungry children in schools in the world’s poorest countries. In 2005, Friends of WFP hired its first president and CEO, Karen Sendelback, and the work of the organization began evolving into what it is today, adding to the public-policy work a communications team raising awareness about the mission, an outreach team involving volunteers across the country and, of course, a development team raising critical funds to support WFP.
Here, we talk with Director of Major Gifts Kerry Whitlock about the organization and its fundraising strategies and challenges.
FundRaising Success: How do you fund your mission?
Kerry Whitlock: Donations from corporations, private and family foundations, and individuals. We also mobilize resources, in the form of cash and commodities, from the U.S. government to help provide food for those who need it most in the world’s poorest countries.
FS: What are the biggest challenges your organization faces as far as fundraising is concerned? How do you overcome them?
KW: One of the most common misperceptions about the issue of hunger is that it mostly affects people in areas hit by natural or man-made disasters. The fact is that only a small percentage of the world’s hungry are in need as a result of a disaster. There are nearly 1 billion hungry people in the world today, or nearly 15 percent of the world’s population. Every day, an estimated 25,000 people will die of hunger. Yet people often only think of the hungry when a disaster strikes, such as an earthquake or hurricane.