"Everyone Can Relate to Kids." Funding a Push Against Childhood Hunger

One in five American children don’t consistently get the food they need, a situation that can cause both emotional and physical problems as well as poor performance in school. Share Our Strength is taking on this problem. 

Originally founded by two siblings, Bill and Debbie Shore in 1984, Share Our Strength began as a response to an Ethiopian famine. At its twentieth birthday, the organization shifted its focus to ending childhood hunger in America.

We were curious about how this effort's been going—and, more specifically, how Share Our Strength raises the money for its work. Recently, Inside Philanthropy spoke with the group’s Chief Revenue & Marketing Officer Peter Kaye who began with the nonprofit in January. Previously, Kaye spent the last 20 years marketing the world’s largest food and beverage brands. He sees Share Our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign as tapping into his “personal passion and commitment to leave a legacy.” 

A key asset Kaye brings to his new position is a keen understanding of the corporate world. He says that "companies are looking for ways to have a point of view on issues, to engage their employees and really to motivate their customers and the research supports that.” Share Our Strength already does well with corporate partners and Kaye aims to build on that. The organization has pulled in millions in funding from the Wal-Mart Foundation and ConAgra Foods’ Feeding Children Better Foundation, and has a number of companies behind its work, including Arby's, Citi, and the Food Network.  

Nurturing and expanding these relationships—and being flexible about how to do that—is central to Kaye's mandate. “We try to be very donor centric," he said. "Some would prefer to align with us through their foundations, others with the business. Ideally, it’s both. It depends on what the goals and objectives are of the given partner. We go into it pretty agnostic and as we get to know an organization and the people in it. Citi is one example of many significant partners."

Over the course of several years, Citi has pledged to back several Share Our Strength initiatives. Last year the bank had a campaign to encourage its card holders to dine out using Citi credit cards. From its fees the bank donated $1 million in 2015 to support the No Kid Hungry campaign. “We are looking to develop programs with partners that are win-win, that help drive their business and their brand," Kaye said. "We have wonderful case studies that show this. We had a major restaurant chain that did a promotion with us that had a 60 percent lift in foot traffic. Brands that align with us are seen more favorably by their customers. Aligning with a cause that’s true and authentic is a great way to differentiate your brand. And it’s a win for the kids which is our ultimate goal."

Citi has also pledged to be a presenting sponsor of the Taste of the Nation fundraising events, held around the country featuring top chefs and bartenders who donate their time and talent to put on food festivals. In Los Angeles, tickets for adults start at $110. “Citi gets to align with an issue, ending childhood hunger. They also get access to a lot of young culinary interested consumers that they want to get their credit card message in front of,” Kaye said. “And this is just one example. We have many other corporate partners for events. It is very common for a brand to want a unique, customized program just for them.”

Share Our Strength has a long history of doing events. The first Taste of the Nation started in 1988 and raised nearly $250,000 in a single day. Over time, the organization has gotten more creative about ways to bring in revenue from these events.

Meanwhile, like everyone in the fundraising world, Kaye is attuned to new strategies for raising money through online donations. “We are definitely putting some thinking and strategy into how we grow that part of our revenue stream.”

Kaye is convinced that donors give to the No Kid Hungry campaign because of the organization’s experience with practical solutions, like "breakfast after the bell," so kids don’t have to get to school early to get a nutritious meal to start the day. On an emotional level, “Everybody can relate to kids," Kaye said. "It’s such a compelling issue area.”

What advice would he give to other nonprofits? “Push to really understand your stakeholders whether it’s a corporate partner or a donor so you can build that relationship to the one you want to have not assuming it is one-size-fits-all. It often isn’t. Look where there are commonalities.”