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Whig Standard November 07 2007

Food bank gets new look, attitude; Organization attempts to raise its profile as it competes for donations

By Jennifer Pritchett

After experiencing a deficit for the first time in its 23-year history, Partners in Mission Food Bank has rebranded itself with a new logo as a way to battle a drop in donations.

"I think it was just a wake-up call for us that we did have to be more effective in fundraising," said the food bank's executive director, Sandy Singers.

He said discovering the food bank had a deficit in 2006 has forced the organization to take a more competitive edge to garner donations at a time when many charities are feeling the pressure from larger fundraising efforts.

"For the most part, the funding has been there, but when we see it slip away we need to prepare ourselves to compete a little more for those donated dollars," he said.

"We're on track for a better year this year - I don't think we're going to have a deficit for 2007. However, what we are noticing in general is that the financial contributions are down. We are feeling that and other small charities are feeling that as well."

Singers blames the drop in donations at the food bank on large fundraising efforts currently happening in the city, such as the drive for the downtown sports and entertainment centre and the hospitals' fundraising efforts.

"[Institutions] that have been traditionally funded completely by government are now having their own deficit issues - they're now reaching out directly to the community and that's really our bread and butter," he said.

"That's where we get all of our funding from," Singers said. "We don't get any government funding so we're just a little sensitive to that."

Earlier this year, the food bank undertook a communications strategy that found the organization needs to be "more conscious about educating the public" when it comes to the service it provides in Kingston, said Singers.

Part of that included raising the profile of the food bank in the city by creating a new logo and launching a website, which will make it easier for people to make monetary donations once it's up and running in the coming months.

"A lot of charities are doing well online," said Singers. "We make 80 per cent of our budget in November and December - that's the way it's always been."

He said that until about four years ago, when the food bank launched its first golf tournament to raise money, the organization hadn't really been aggressive in its fundraising efforts.

The golf tournament has become an annual event that raised about $23,000 this year.

"[Until four years ago], we were really depending on the kindness of strangers ... but when you have a deficit, it really forces you to take stock of what it is that you're doing," he said.

Singers said the food bank will focus more time on reaching out to the community to keep people aware of what the organization does.

The food bank provides food to about 6,000 Kingston residents - or roughly six per cent of the population - every year and operates with a budget that fluctuates between $250,000 and $300,000. It also receives about $1 million in food donations each year.