Posted by & filed under Inspiration, Leadership/Management, Marketing/Communications, Next Generation Philanthropy.

Adam Lowy, Executive Director, Move For Hunger

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the idea of creating real change. Nonprofit organizations talk about this quite a bit when they’re communicating with donors and foundations. You see it all the time in social media posts and fancy marketing pieces. But what does this really mean? Are we, as non-profit organizations, actually fixing problems, or are we just raising awareness that change needs to happen?

When I founded Move For Hunger five years ago, I really didn’t know much about the non-profit space. I didn’t even know anything about hunger – the problem I was trying to affect. Rather than start with a cause, we were able to work backwards with the solution.

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        .photo credit: SomeDriftwood

My family has owned a moving company for over 90 years. After years of seeing non-perishable food get thrown away when people moved, we decided to ask people to donate their food during their moves. Our moving company was in the home anyway, so it really didn’t create any extra work. The food bank was just a few miles away. It just kind of made sense. Customers LOVED it! And why wouldn’t they? People want to work with companies that give back to the community. Companies are always looking for new ways to connect with customers. Add in the donation of food to local food banks and we’ve created a win – win – win!

We’ve since grown to mobilize over 600 moving companies across the US to deliver over 3.5 million pounds of food to our nation’s food banks and pantries; this is enough to provide over 3 million meals to individuals in need. With over 50 million Americans struggling with hunger, our work is only just getting started.

As Move For Hunger continues to grow, I find myself thinking about what we are really doing here. The real problem we are tackling is food waste. 40% of all food is wasted. The simple idea of rescuing food when people move is actually quite powerful when you scale it throughout an entire industry across an entire continent.  We are literally changing the business processes of hundreds of small businesses and mobilizing them for a common cause. By creating a process that both moving companies and consumers want to participate in, we can guarantee its sustainability for generations to come.

If our goal, as nonprofit organizations, is actually to fix problems, then we need to begin to think more about process oriented solutions. We need more collaboration with our for-profit counterparts. We need to mobilize existing resources in a way that doesn’t detract from the bottom line. Companies won’t cut charitable initiatives that are helping increase profits.

In order to actually solve so many of the major problems our world is facing, we need to think less about our brand and our donors, and more about the sustainability and impact of the programs we put in place. If Move For Hunger was to shut its doors tomorrow, there would be hundreds of moving companies rescuing food and delivering it to those in need. If we are able to create an industry standard, then there is no need for our organization to exist, and we can move on to the next problem to be solved.

I am encouraged by the innovation I have seen in the nonprofit space over the past few years, and challenge some of our nation’s leading charitable institutions to take a step back and ask the question: Is the work we do actually fixing a problem or merely providing a short term solution? Though both create value, only one creates real change.

Adam Headshot (2)After seeing so much food go to waste, Adam launched Move For Hunger to mobilize relocation companies to rescue food during the move. Adam was included among Forbes 30 Under 30 in 2014 and proudly represents the NYC Hub of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers Community. In 2011 he became a Bluhm/Helfand Social Innovation Fellow and was honored at the VH1 Do Something Awards and NBC American Giving Awards.

Posted by & filed under Career Development, Inspiration, Leadership/Management.

Maeve Strathy

It’s the summer. We’re all staring longingly out our office windows (if we’re lucky enough to have them), wondering why on earth we’re stuck inside working when we could be enjoying the sun, the fresh air, and this brief period of time in Canada where we don’t need a jacket or coat of any sort. Prospects aren’t returning our calls or emails, our colleagues are all taking turns going on vacations, and it’s hard to find the motivation to get back to the work in front of us.

I’ve had a few of these moments lately myself. Despite the lack oSummerKitef motivation, summer is an important time for planning and preparing for the new fundraising year. It’s during these quieter months at work that we have the rare opportunity to sit and think; analyze what worked this past year, strategize about what we need to change, plan out our mailings, and firm up our stewardship processes. It all sounds well and good, but there’s one problem…

I just can’t find the inspiration! Where is that passion I had for my job a few months ago? So naturally I turned to Facebook and asked my friends, what do you do in this situation? How do you motivate yourself?

One of my very wise friends said, “I have stuff on my wall in my office to remind me of the outcomes of my work.” Brilliant! And then I turned and saw a card on my desk that I received from an alumna of the institution who was selected this year for our annual Philanthropy Award. She wrote me to thank me for my help in preparing her for the event that honoured her. She wanted to thank me! She has a great philanthropic story to tell; she’s never given more than $350 in any given year, but she’s given to the university every single year since she graduated. Every year!

Even better, her gifts have been designated annually to pretty much wherever the funds were needed most. In many cases she’s directed her gift to our unrestricted fund, giving the university the flexibility to respond to unforeseen emergencies or even worthwhile opportunities. She’s given to the library many times, too! Her gifts directly impact students, and that’s what I’m here for in the first place.

Speaking of students, next to the card on my desk is a photo of a student and a donor. This donor created a financial assistance opportunity at the university in memory of his deceased son. I had the opportunity to set up a meeting between the donor and this year’s recipient of his award which gave the donor the chance to truly see the impact of his philanthropy. The student expressed – eloquently, I might add – his gratitude to the donor, and he shared what he plans to do with his life after university. It was so rewarding to witness a donor seeing the effect his generosity has on an actual student.

All of us fundraisers, wherever we work, are here to raise money to make an impact. The outcomes of our work are clear; we are so lucky in that sense. Other professionals out there might struggle to see the point sometimes, but fundraising professionals know exactly what they’re here to do, and we have lots of examples that can motivate us through even the sunniest of days.

Maeve is the FounderMaeve Strathy of What Gives Philanthropy and has been working in educational fundraising for the past seven years. Learn more about Maeve and connect with Maeve via: Twitter | LinkedIn | Email | Web