Q&A: Patricia Beebe – president & CEO of Food Bank of Delaware
The Food Bank of Delaware has announced that the Longwood Foundation made a $1.5 million gift towards the organization’s Creating a Bold Future capital campaign. In 2016, The Food Bank acquired an 80,000-square-foot facility in Newark, which officials said will enable the organization to maximize operational efficiency, while increasing capacity to meet the needs of people experiencing food insecurity.
How has the Food Bank of Delaware evolved?
The Food Bank of Delaware has evolved from an organization that brought in shelf-stable food and distributed through member agencies to an organization that now provides a variety of programs and also focuses on fresh produce. We provide not just food to member agencies, but we also use food as a vehicle to bring about systemic change. Workforce development is key for our organization. Our culinary school is changing lives daily and providing Delawareans with the skills they need to get jobs that pay sustainable wages.
How will the Longwood Foundation grant be used?
That grant was so important for our capital campaign and what we are going to be doing at the new site. The Longwood Foundation grant process enabled us as an organization to strongly think through the strategies that we would be utilizing in the new program area. Specifically, we looked at the workforce development piece and how we would work that in a five-year projection and how we can raise income from some of our services. We also looked at the warehouse and the logistics and the feasibility of where we need to be to operate effectively in year one and where we need to be just as effective in year five and year 10. Not only was the funding important as an organization, but the process of applying for that funding strengthened our ability to move into the future.
In light of state budget cuts, how are you diversifying your funding?
We as an organization are in a very strong position. At this point, only one percent of our budget comes from the state. We have always had a very diversified funding base. We have depended on the state of Delaware to a lesser extent than most nonprofits. The state’s financial position has improved recently, so this year we have asked the governor and we will continue that message throughout legislative session, to give us a one million grant for the capital campaign. As everyone knows, what we do and as the governor said in our capital campaign video, is we provide a service in Delaware that is critical, crucial and very much needed. With the expansion, we will increase many of the services we provide, increase the amount of food brought into the state, the amount of fresh produce, the number of volunteers, we will double our workforce development program, employ more people, and we really feel that of all of the things we have done for the state over the long history, to ask them to make a $1 million investment in this organization is money well spent.
How do you make a case to potential donors?
What is key in finding donors and making a case is to have measurable outcomes. We have always prided ourselves on being able to say to a donor or potential donor, if you give us money for this, this is exactly what you will get for your funds. We are always communicating the results we have achieved through the donations. We have also found that many of our potential donors have volunteered here before. They have firsthand dealt with the issue of child poverty by making backpacks that go out to children to prevent them from going hungry on weekends. By doing this they have thought about the issue of childhood hunger. We want our donors to be involved in what they are funding. Having donors or potential donors come to our culinary graduations is a key way to engage them and to allow them to witness firsthand the changes we are making in the community.
How do you develop and maintain good relationships with business partners?
I think the business community has always respected and valued the fact that as an organization we are very well run fiscally. We not only achieve results programmatically but fiscally we are very strong. Any of our fiscal donors know that we have always operated in the black. The community knows that we own both facilities, we own all of our vehicles, we spent about $2.5 million on staff payroll, we have always leveraged dollars so that we can achieve the maximum result. Never as an organization have we used those funds unwisely and not been good stewards of the dollars.