But even though the department has been split, the silos remain a thing of the past, Wallace says, adding, “The synergy is still alive.”
“It has been our road map to success, and we couldn’t break from it now,” she says.
A study in donor retention
City Harvest is one of many independent nationwide affiliates of Feeding America. As such, in addition to local food rescue from restaurants, grocers, corporate cafeterias, manufacturers and farms, it receives food that’s processed through the national organization from companies that prefer to give products en masse to a huge clearinghouse rather than in smaller amounts on the local level. Feeding America doesn’t govern City Harvest, but in order to avoid fundraising competition it does stipulate that affiliates can only do donor acquisition in specific areas. City Harvest is restricted to acquisition efforts within the area it serves — the five boroughs of New York City.
If a supporter from outside that area attends an event or writes a check out of the blue, or if a current donor moves to another area, City Harvest can continue its relationship with him or her. But it cannot do full-on acquisition outside of its service area. In that respect, its donor retention must be aggressive. With a mandated geographical donor base, it is even more susceptible to death by attrition than most organizations.
Because of that, City Harvest has zeroed in on the specific strategies to help it offset as much of that donor-base vulnerability as possible — mainly diversification of funding sources and focusing on higher-value donors with better long-term value.
“We have to look very carefully at the types of donors we’re going after. We’re looking for donors who support our mission and feel strongly about supporting our ongoing anti-hunger work,” Wallace says. “We’re looking for quality long-term donors. Because of that strategy, we have a good amount of success upgrading donors from direct mail to major gifts and creating that pipeline.