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Beat winter donation doldrums with a food drive

SUMMARY: Food and toy drives are popular around Christmas, but come March and April the pantry shelves are bare but the need remains.

Your church can help fill those shelves, help families in need and show your community that people care beyond the holiday season. Emergency food assistance demand increased 99 percent over the past year. That need is likely to grow.

Help stock your local food pantry and nurture your community with a winter donation campaign. Rethink Church invites you to demonstrate the church’s relevance in the world today by doing one of the following for the Change The World Event, April 24-25.

Organize a can food drive. Mobilize an enthusiastic group of volunteers to get out and get the “goods.” Design a flier, map an area in which to give empty bags attached with the explanatory flier and disburse them; then return to the neighborhood to pick up the donations. Check out this article for helpful food drive organizational tips.

Start Coupon Sunday program. Invite your congregation to bring their Sunday papers or coupons clipped during the week for a monthly “coupon” celebration after worship. Have the participants match coupons to local grocery store circulars and see how you can maximize the shopping trip to get as much food as possible at the smallest cost possible. Then send the team to shop. Encourage families in your congregation to do the same thing on their own.

Feed and dine at church. To add a personal touch to your efforts, consider hosting a meal night for the hungry at your church. Ask congregants to cook different dishes, and serve a potluck supper to needy families in your community and anyone who wants to attend. Connect a meal to a weekly church Bible study or other fellowship, encouraging people to fill their stomachs, their minds and their hearts. Don’t waste a morsel. Many homeless shelters and other groups that feed the community will happily accept “leftovers.” Talk to potential recipients about their policies.

Host Pancake Sunday. Everyone loves a hot pancake breakfast. Have a pancake breakfast, with all proceeds going to fill the food bank’s shelves. Sell tickets and include a donation box so people can donate more money at the breakfast.

Have a virtual food drive. If the weather outside is frightful, organize a virtual food drive. Remember, for every dollar donated to your food drive, seven meals can be provided to people facing hunger in your community, according to Feeding America.

Create your own or use an existing organization, such as Feeding America, which has a donation site you can set up here. Either way, use your Web site or create a distinct Web presence to promote the drive. Involve your webmaster and financial staff who will process donations. As in any food drive, give potential donors the who, where, what, how and when information. Specify the impact of their donations. Show how the cash donation can do even more good than a food donation and detail what $5. $50 or $100 will buy. Ensure the donation page is on a secure server to protect donors and your church. Offer donors the option to give on a recurring basis, such as monthly or quarterly. Ask participants to complete necessary forms virtually or on paper. In most areas, signatures are required for ongoing donations. Post a form on your site so donors who do not want to give financial information online can print it and mail a check.

Kick off your virtual food drive with an event at your church such as a mini-rally with everyone’s laptops (and your church’s computers) ready to go. Alert the media. Sponsor a contest to reward the person who brings in the most donations. Ask a local sports organization, theater or retailer to donate a prize for the winner.

Follow up with frequent reports on the result. Post a “thermometer” to show how close the goal is to being reached. Take pictures and post on your Web site to let others see the pantry shelves filling.