Feed Washington's annual fall campaign to raise funds to provide weekend food packs for hungry kids in the Lake Washington School District saw new challenges and new successes this year.The BIGGEST success is our campaign total. Since we began our efforts within the LWSD during the 2015-16 school year, with two campaigns to date, we've been able to distribute a Grand Total of $115,296 to the Hopelink Pantry Packs program! That's enough funds for over 23,000 weekend food packs to the kids of the LWSD.This year, our campaign focusing first on Microsoft employees, and then the community-at-large, raised $51,282 (so far) of that grand total! And although we set an ambitious goal of $120,000 to fully fund the program for the 2016-17 school year alone, we're so thrilled that a small, grass-roots organization like ours was able to rally so much local support. However, with the numbers of kids in need of food on the rise, we will continue our efforts until the goal is met.
Challenges of Rising Numbers
Shortly after the school year began, our food distribution partner, Hopelink Pantry Packs, saw a dramatic increase in the number of students identified as being in need of weekly, weekend food packs.
With an already large rise from 450 to 650 students during the 2015-16 school year, we were hopeful the number of hungry kids would stabilize at 650 for the 2016-17 school year. However, by October, Pantry Packs saw numbers swell to an all-time high of 730 kids served per week! That's over 2,900 food packs distributed per month to students in Redmond, Kirkland and Sammamish. While happy to serve each and every child, Pantry Packs' resources were being stretched like never before, so Feed Washington quickly increased its campaign goal to help with funding.
Successes in Meeting the Need
Food drives, large food donations, and bulk food purchasing power have been significant in helping to meet the need thus far, but the need for increased funding is even more vital to the future of the program. At a cost of around $10,000 per month for the packs, Feed Washington has had to become strategic and focused in our fundraising efforts. We therefore chose to focus a large part of our campaign on Microsoft's Giving Month (October) because of Microsoft's location within the LWSD and their 100% company match program. The match program would give us a unique opportunity to double every donation received and maximize our efforts.
Feed Washington attended 3 Microsoft events in October and we are very pleased to report that, to date, $37,036 has been raised through Microsoft donors. Most notably, one very generous, returning donor mobilized his entire department to get behind the campaign, and together they contributed over $23,000 in one afternoon event! We can't thank him and his crew enough for being the cornerstone of the Microsoft campaign, because without their efforts, this kind of success would not have been possible.
We also reached out to our non-Microsoft community donors, both past and current, asking them to step up and either renew or continue their donation to the LWSD through Feed Washington. They too gave in a BIG way and brought in the remaining $14,248 through both one-time and monthly donations. Many of these donors have remained faithful to the campaign since last year and some are new donors, but without this base of support, Feed Washington could not make such a consistent impact.
Even with $51,282 raised so far this year, and $115,296 since 2015, we're not stopping until the we've secured enough funding for the entire 2016-17 school year. So, what's next?
Plans for Reaching the Goal
Since the Microsoft campaign ended, we moved on to local businesses. After contacting One Redmond - the local chamber of commerce, economic development, and community development organization in one - Feed Washington was fortunate to be chosen as their charity of choice for their Holiday Community Connections Premier Networking event in November. Our participation in this event enabled us to get exposure to many local business owners, as well as donations. We are confident these connections will continue to be a valuable resource for funding the Pantry Packs program for a long time to come.
We are also working, in cooperation with Hopelink Pantry Packs, to plan a follow-up campaign at the school level within the LWSD in the Spring of 2017. Our goal will be to raise enough awareness and support for the program so the non-hungry will support all the hungry within their own school. Supporters from each school essentially feeding their own could go a long way in promoting community within each school and provide long-term funding accountability. Stay tuned...