This weekend was the annual “Scouting for Food” drive here in Rhode Island. If you don’t have this program in your hometown, it’s a food drive organized by local Boy Scout troops. In my area, it has collected more than 7.8 million pounds of food over the past 25 years.
Essentially, Boy Scouts go through neighborhoods and distribute plastic bags for residents to fill with the requested food items. Once filled, the bags are then left outside to be collected about a week later.
My fiancé, Matt, is an Eagle Scout, so participating in Scouting for Food is a forgone conclusion in our household. We don’t go through the cabinets picking out old, unwanted canned goods to donate. Instead, Matt usually makes a special trip to the market and buys the products the Scouts have specifically requested.
As I pulled out of the driveway that day, I smiled when I saw the overflowing bags he had left by the mailbox. I then looked down the street and noticed that only one of our neighbors had also left out a small bag of food. Driving through the neighborhood, I saw more of the same.
As a fundraiser, I started to think about how much more could have been collected for our local food bank by applying some fundraising basics.
When the bags were first delivered, they were left on our mailbox. I can only imagine just how many more people on our street would have been moved to donate if a young Boy Scout had knocked on doors to explain the need for food in our area and made a personal request for help.
People would be so much more invested in donating food if they could put a face on the program, especially if they knew that same boy would be back soon! Even if no one was home, a note from the Boy Scout with his phone number and email address is much more personal than just a plastic bag.
After the bags were collected, I found myself wondering – what if someone else came along and stole the food because they were aware that it was Scouting for Food day? I was also somewhat surprised to find that there wasn’t a thank you of some kind in the mailbox. I might be conditioned to expect a thank you, but in this case, not only would I feel appreciated, but I’d also take comfort in knowing that our gift was going to our local food bank.
Now I understand that these efforts would take more time and the Scouts may not be able to cover as much ground. I also realize that public sentiment towards the organization is a bit marred. However, I still have a vision of looking down our street and knowing that only two of us gave to support local food banks and think we can do better.
Next year, we’ll give again, but I hope to see more of our neighbors doing the same!
Shana Masterson has been working in event fundraising for national health nonprofits for the past twelve years. She is currently the National Associate Director for Interactive Fundraising and Engagement with the American Diabetes Association. Find her on Twitter: @npshana.