Not every organization has the opportunity to show donor love in as big a way as City Harvest. The New York City food-rescue program’s iconic delivery trucks roll through town as gigantic green-and-white love letters on wheels to its donors. Supporters see them and know it’s their money that keeps the trucks gassed up and running, the drivers on payroll, and the food flowing to fellow New Yorkers who need it.
“People don’t see us as a building. It’s all about our trucks and drivers,” says Heather Wallace, vice president of marketing for the nearly 31-year-old organization. “We have 18 trucks that are a constant reminder for donors and non-donors that we are out there. There’s a real connection to the work we do. If you’re at a bakery in the morning and you see a City Harvest driver walking out with a bag of rescued food, you know that the money you’ve given helped to pay for that driver who is helping that excess food get to New Yorkers in need.
“You can’t replicate that for people,” Wallace adds. “They get really excited when they see our trucks stopped on the street because they know they are a part of that. We’re fortunate in that it’s not something every nonprofit is able to do by just carrying out their mission and doing their work.”
But it’s not just that simple. There are hundreds of trucks on New York City streets at any given moment. City Harvest’s stand out because the organization has taken a hugely proactive and concerted approach to branding, and has done it in a way that is consistent with what is quickly becoming apparent as a best practice within the nonprofit community.
Wallace explains that when Pat Barrick joined City Harvest in 2000, she combined the organization’s marketing, communications and fundraising departments under the umbrella of “external relations” and put in motion a collaborative effort that has been a huge factor in the organization’s incredibly successful “30/30/30” five-year strategic plan — to mark its 30th anniversary, the organization set a goal to increase its annual poundage of rescued food from 30 million to 60 million annually by 2016, and it calculated it would need to raise $30 million to accomplish it. Less than two and a half years into the campaign, City Harvest already is more than halfway to its goals.