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Capital Campaign Jitters? Find Success in Your Own Back Yard…and Board Room

March 14, 2017

Considering a capital campaign but not sure where to start? Sara Griffen, executive director of Imperial Valley Food Bank learned some helpful lessons on her current journey and offered advice for others who may find themselves longing for facility improvements.

Juxtaposed between verdant rows of broccoli, spinach, and potatoes and long lines at the unemployment office, the Imperial Valley Food Bank provides healthy food for thousands of low-income residents each month. However, its current space is ill-suited for the task. The food bank distributes millions of pounds of food without a loading dock (thereby wearing down equipment), its lack of adequate cooler/freezer space has led to missed produce opportunities, and the neighboring county jail’s expansion is encroaching on the food bank’s county-owned land. Top that off with two buildings that would not pass an impending food safety audit for Feeding America partner distribution organizations, leading the food bank’s board of directors to launch a capital campaign in 2013.

                    Imperial Valley Food Bank staff and board members on site of future facility


The first task after getting the board’s support was a feasibility study.  This evaluation analyzes factors such as cost, scheduling, and legality to determine if the project will be successful.

 “The feasibility study done at the beginning of a campaign is absolutely essential and worth the cost of an outside firm to perform. The information we received about our image in the community, the strength of our case for support and other key factors was extremely helpful,” Griffen stated.

However, when it comes to fundraising, she advised against the expense of paying others to manage those efforts. The board has better relationships with local residents, and some tactics that may work for an urban audience didn’t appeal to the rural Imperial Valley community.

At the start of the campaign, board members weren’t sure the food bank would secure any large gifts. Due diligence paid off, though, and two big checks arrived, thanks to relationships with those on the board.

 “I would attribute our success to our board members who were reluctant to be fundraisers until they had success at it. They are now confident and determined to reach our goal in a timely manner,” said Griffen.

Imperial Valley Food Bank is already 62 percent of the way towards the $6 million goal. They have purchased the land parcel, courtesy of a foundation’s support. When the time comes to build, they will more than double their space, with a 28,000 square foot facility, complete with ample refrigeration, freezer space, and even a teaching kitchen.

We at California Association of Food Banks wish the best of luck to the staff and board and to anyone else considering the plunge into capital campaigns*.

*Be sure to sign up for the workshop on this topic at the CAFB Conference May 1 and 2 in Sacramento. 

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