Closing the Gap(s)
Over the years, Colleen Brinkmann has seen hardworking people struggle with the decision to pay bills or buy food, and schoolchildren so hungry they ate pencil erasers or sneaked home strands of spaghetti from the school cafeteria. Happily, Brinkmann also saw, and played a large role in creating, a hugely successful anti-hunger campaign that dramatically increased the number of meals available to hungry North Texans.
Brinkmann, the chief philanthropy officer for the North Texas Food Bank, was the driving force behind Close the Gap, so-called because the three-year fundraising campaign began in 2009 with the goal of closing the 29 million-meals-a-year gap between what undernourished people in North Texas needed and what they could access. This meant NTFB had to double its impact by increasing its output from 26 million meals to 50 million meals annually.
The task was daunting, largely because the campaign coincided with the largest economic downtown in America since the Great Depression. But it was doable, because NTFB is a well-organized nonprofit hunger-relief organization that distributes donated, purchased and prepared foods through 1,146 affiliated programs in 13 North Texas counties. As its website explains, "NTFB supports the nutritional needs of children, families and seniors through education, advocacy and strategic partnerships."
Throughout the campaign, NTFB reminded North Texans of the many ways in which they could help close the gap on hunger — by making donations, volunteering time, hosting an "E-Food & Fund Drive," or simply by being an advocate for the organization. In a nutshell, advocacy involves contacting U.S. representatives and senators and urging them to write legislation that will keep people in the United States from going hungry.
NTFB's multifaceted approach was effective, as Brinkmann notes.
"Our annual fundraising increased by 120 percent during the campaign," she says. "The Food Bank had to add more drivers and trucks in order to keep up with the growth.