Lessons learned from a Non Profit

Recently, the Peabody Area Chamber had an interesting networking event hosted at Haven From Hunger on Wallis Street in Peabody.  For those who are not familiar with Haven From Hunger, it is an organization that helps people struggling to put food on the table.  Who are these people?  It could be your neighbor who lost their job, single mothers who are heads of households, the elderly, the handicapped, those on fixed incomes, and what is now termed the working class poor.  They provide good, nutritional food that consists of fresh fruits and vegetable, meat, fish, dairy products through their food pantry or evening dinners.


If the location was a bit unusual for a business meeting, the event itself accomplished what the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce intended to - help connect business professionals with each other to build their referral network by learning more about each others business and area of specialty.  As host, it gave Haven from Hunger the ability to personalize their mission and talk about the people and families they help, as well as how the community can support them.

This is where things got interesting.  I've personally known about the Haven for over 15 years having donated food, coordinated fundraisers and volunteered to serve dinner.  As president of the Chamber, I've worked with the past 3 executive directors to promote their cause and highlight their events, with full understanding of how important a role they play in many families lives.

Over the years, I learned that highest percentage of donations of food and money come in during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, when people are feeling generous and recognize that others may not be as fortunate.  

Yet, it was at this networking event that I heard their plight described in a whole new light and I bet it will surprise you, too.

The last thing that the Haven from Hunger really needs is food donations.

Sounds crazy, right?

As a food pantry they have access to food and staples through many sources such as the Boston Food Bank, excess food from school systems, restaurants, grocery stores, bakeries, etc.  In fact, the only hard cost of food is approximately $20,000 a year to purchase milk, which cannot be donated in Massachusetts.

So, what's the problem?  

Like any business they have overhead.  While volunteers accomplish much of the work, someone needs to coordinate all of the above and running the organization from day to day. They need to pay for electricity to keep the lights on and food cold.  The van drivers who pick up the food need to be paid so they can feed their own family.  The state requires them to pay for car insurance and excise tax.  The mortgage on their building (which is less than the rent they had been paying) needs to be paid to the bank every month. 
When you donate a $3 box of cereal or a $1 of canned vegetables, the Haven can give out a $3 box of cereal or a can of vegetables.   Which of course, is much appreciated.

However, what you don't probably realize is, if you donate $3 cash that can be leveraged into $6-7 dollars worth of food through their own sources.

I share this information for 2 reasons.  1) Food donations are always welcome, but the impact a cash donation (of any size) is much greater; and 2) if you attend networking events and think you know everything about someone, guess again.   Take your conversation in a different direction, ask more questions, etc. and you might just find a person you can help or can help you grow your business.

Non profit organizations play such a major role in our community and make an impact on peoples lives every day.  If you want to learn more about how you can help, volunteer or get involved check out www.chamberforgood.com/peabody   

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Chamber for Good is sponsored through the generous support of Peabody Wealth Advisors, an organization committed to giving back to charitable organizations in the communities we serve. Our firm's culture is to give back through either the donation of our time, sharing of our expertise or through financial support. Peabody Wealth Advisors is proud to be the lead sponsor of the Peabody Area Chamber of Commerce's Chamber for Good program. Through this program, we hope to raise awareness of local non-profits to allow them to continue their core missions to deliver vital services and improve the quality of life in our communities.


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