Founded in 1984, Philabundance is the Delaware Valley’s largest hunger relief organization, seeking to drive hunger from its local communities today and end hunger for good. Philabundance serves more than 90,000 people each week, and in 2018 distributed more than 26 million pounds of food through a network of 350 member agencies.
Philabundance Community Kitchen (PCK) is a program created 19 years ago to promote economic self-sufficiency through training in culinary arts and life skills. PCK has an impressive record of preparing no- to low-income adults for successful long-term employment in the food industry. As students in the program prepare for brighter futures, they also prepare more than 250,000 meals annually for some of the region’s most vulnerable residents.
Schultz & Williams has been working with Philabundance on various fundraising activities since 2013. When Philabundance began planning for PCK’s new home, S&W conducted a feasibility study, researched potential funders, and eventually embedded campaign staff to work with the Philabundance team.
S&W has been working on various fundraising activities with Philabundance since 2013. During this time, the firm conducted a feasibility study to raise funds for a professional-grade kitchen where no- to low-income adults could be trained for long-term employment in the food industry. It was clear that raising major gifts from individuals would be critical to the campaign’s success.
Philabundance had few relationships with major individual donors that could be easily considered for its $10.6MM campaign. While the City of Philadelphia offered land to Philabundance free of charge and a grant of $4MM toward the project, it was clear that raising $6.6MM more would require contributions from a significant number of individual donors.
Schultz & Williams’ onsite StaffSolutions team jump-started the campaign by making the most of key personal connections, especially by Philabundance’s charismatic and well-liked executive director. This approach, plus outreach to former Board members and a $2MM grant awarded by the State of Pennsylvania, helped the campaign exceed its goal by year end.
Philabundance has long been dissatisfied with PCK’s facility, located in a city-owned women’s shelter and lacking sufficient space and appropriate professional-grade kitchen equipment. For many years, the organization looked for a suitable new space for PCK. Then, in 2017, the City of Philadelphia offered a 58,000 square-foot parcel of land in North Philadelphia, free of charge, and a grant of $4 million (through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development) for the construction of a brand-new facility.
The central challenge was that Philabundance needed to raise $6.6 million ($10.6 million minus the $4 million pledged by the City) over a short period of time (calendar year 2018). Furthermore, the organization had few relationships with major individual supporters beyond its Board. (Despite a history of growth, most contributed income from individuals came in through a robust, year-round direct mail effort, as is the case with most food banks.)
Although the campaign team expected institutional support and had hopes for a significant grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program (RACP), it was clear that raising major gifts from individuals would be critical to the campaign’s ultimate success.
Moreover, despite its 19-year track record, Philabundance Community Kitchen was a relatively small and unknown part of the overall organization. Many loyal Philabundance supporters were unaware of its work and history.
Finally, Philabundance was understandably hesitant to approach major supporters of its General Operating Fund for fear of compromising funding for the organization’s primary mission of hunger relief.
Schultz & Williams’ strategy for jump-starting the campaign started by making the most of key personal connections. S&W developed a campaign action plan that emphasized an intense schedule of personal outreach to individual donors by Philabundance’s charismatic and well-liked executive director. He began with the small number of donors who knew him personally, and almost immediately received positive feedback—and pledges to the campaign.
Outreach to former Board members proved particularly productive. Three former Board members agreed to make pledges and sign a letter to other former Trustees asking for their support. One of the letter signers held an event in his home to promote the campaign, and several gifts resulted from that evening. One brand-new donor was so inspired by the PCK program that she pledged $50,000.
In this way—moving step-by-step and linking one relationship to another—the campaign team succeeded in building a network of significant support around the project.
At the same time, Philabundance was following up on foundation and corporate funding leads that Schultz & Williams had developed during its campaign feasibility assessment and also pursuing past institutional funders, a number of which made significant grants.
In June 2018, the campaign received a huge boost when the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania awarded $2 million to the project through RACP. This was followed by a $1 million gift from The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation. Then, in December, a longtime Board member who had already contributed $200,000, pledged an additional $500,000 to bring the campaign to a close.
That was a thrilling day. The campaign raised $10.9 million by December 31, 2018, exceeding its original goal by $300,000. The success proved the power of a truly worthy program to inspire support—and the value of a smart, careful approach in building a community of major gift donors.
S&W helped plan a May 2019 groundbreaking ceremony for the new PCK facility. Speakers and guests included Philadelphia’s mayor, Jim Kenney; Pennsylvania first lady Frances Wolf; city council president Darrell Clarke; and congressional representatives, local elected officials, Board members, and campaign donors. PCK’s new facility is rising fast and will soon welcome its first class of aspiring new students.
As often happens, however, toward the end of 2018, it began to become apparent that the cost of the project would be greater than originally thought. The decision was made to continue the campaign and raise an additional $1 million to cover those higher expenses. Stay tuned!
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