The Origin of ‘National Doughnut Day’
June 1 marked the 80th birthday of “National Doughnut Day.” This day was established by The Salvation Army and is a tribute to the fact that, in 1917 and 1918, about 250 Salvation Army volunteers served American troops on the front lines in France, supplying clothes, support and baked goods. Facing limited rations and difficult conditions, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance began frying doughnuts in oil in metal helmets. These home cooked foods, provided by these brave volunteers, served as a morale boost to the troops.
The “Doughnut Lassies” continued to boost the morale of American soldiers through WWI and WWII, popularizing the doughnut in the U.S. In 1938, The Salvation Army celebrated the first Doughnut Day to raise funds to help those suffering during the Great Depression and to commemorate the Doughnut Lassies. Today. The Salvation Army continues to serve doughnuts and warm meals in times of crisis, along with offering many services to those in need.
National Doughnut Day is celebrated in the U.S. every year on the first Friday. Many American bakeries offer free doughnuts on National Doughnut Day. There are three other doughnut holidays, but the origins of them are obscure. “International Jelly-Filled Doughnut Day” is widely recognized on June 8, “National Cream-Filled Doughnut Day” is celebrated on Sept. 14 and “Buy a Doughnut Day” occurs on Oct. 30.
The author of an article published on Forbes wondered if everyone in the country snagged their free doughnut that day. The author also noted that on the WWI battlefield, foodstuffs were limited. Doughnuts were relatively easy to make since they were composed mostly of sugar, water, flour and lard. The Doughnut Lassies would fry seven doughnuts at a time to save resources.
Many stores across the country provided free doughnuts on Doughnut Day. A few spots mentioned in the Forbes article include Duck Donuts, Dunkin Donuts, Entenmann’s, Fractured Prune, Kimpton Hotel Palomar San Diego, Krispy Kreme, Lamar’s Donuts, Shipley Donuts and Walmart. Whether you paid sales tax on your purchased doughnuts while you are in the store depended on what you were going to do with them. In many states, taxation on this food depends whether it is considered “take-out” or “eat-in” food. In many cases, you pay tax if you eat the food on the premises, but don’t pay tax if you take them with you.
At The Salvation Army Indiana Division, Doughnut Day is used to promote The Salvation Army in a variety of ways. A Salvation Army canteen truck and other vehicles are stationed in the center of the city of Indianapolis. The organization works in conjunction with radio station WIBC 93.1 FM to promote a community doughnut giveaway in the center of downtown Indianapolis. Three thousand free doughnuts are distributed to attendees at the “Donut Day Indy” event thanks to a big donation by Square Donuts, The Salvation Army’s main sponsor for the day.
A live, outdoor four-hour WIBC-FM radio show from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m. on downtown’s iconic Monument Circle is used to promote the event. Members of the police, fire, armed forces, Indianapolis Colts Cheerleaders and Indiana Pacer Pacemates, plus the Governor of the State of Indiana are involved in this event. Bakeries from across central Indiana compete in both live judging and online polls for the title of “Best Donut in Indy.”
This year, online voters were entered in a drawing for a beautiful diamond doughnut pendent given away by event sponsor Nelson Jewelers. Donut Day Indy has grown tremendously over the last several years, and is now the place to be in Indianapolis on National Doughnut Day. The event is promoted through every social media channel available. Salvation Army organizational leaders are downtown meeting as many people as possible. Community Relations staff are visiting key television, radio, print and social media outlets with donuts, in order to tell our story and strengthen existing relationships. Visitors to this event includes both organizational internal leadership and the external community served by The Salvation Army.
While the Donut Day Indy event is in full swing downtown, my staff and I are spending several hours on the road driving to many companies in the community. At each stop, for example, I give the president of a Salvation Army donor company or key designated representative, a dozen donuts, our annual report and other materials. I thank them for their partnership with The Salvation Army and seek a follow-up meeting with their key leadership to discuss items of mutual interest.
I end the doughnut drop-off visit by asking for a photo opportunity where I showcase the Square Donut box, their representative, their corporate logo, and myself in a Salvation Army logo shirt. My staff, board members, and volunteers make these stops on the day before and day of National Doughnut Day. We have done this for several years and our partners are now looking forward to our visit and the free doughnuts!
Our job as a nonprofit fundraising organization is the generate “dough” in whatever means possible. On National Doughnut Day, we let actual “dough” do the talking for us. I suggest that your organization find a similar activity or special event that allows you, your organization, board members, volunteers, and staff to enhance your message internally and externally. These types of events are a win-win for everyone and are a fun way to get in the door of many companies! Who is going to turn down a free, warm, tasty doughnut?
Duke has extensive experience as a nonprofit practitioner, author, educator and consultant. He has been a contributing author to NonProfit PRO for the last 10 years and has had the CFRE designation for the last 26 years. He has also been a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for over 35 years.
He received his doctorate degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in education administration, master's degree from Marshall University with an emphasis in public administration and a bachelor's degree from West Virginia University with an emphasis in marketing/management. He has also done post graduate work at the University of Louisville.
He is currently executive director of development for The Salvation Army Indiana Division plus Adjunct Professor for Olivet Nazarene University. Contact Duke at firstname.lastname@example.org or 317-224-1029.