Can You Pay My Bills?

After just one rewarding semester of serving Prince Edward County, I remember coming home for winter break and wishing I was back at FACES. I asked my mom if I had gotten any mail since my last visit and the second I saw mail addressed to me from FACES, I felt as if my wish was being granted via the United States Postal Service. The logo, alone, was enough to make me feel all warm inside. I ripped the envelope open and found a letter requesting a holiday donation. At the bottom of the letter was a handwritten note from the Board President. He thanked me for all of the hours that I had volunteered and explained that if I was unable to give money, my time was enough. My mom, sister, and I put together a donation to send back. I urged all of my friends to donate to FACES in lieu of Christmas gifts.

That semester I had quite a few talks with board members, and like many other people who work with food pantries, they agreed that money can go much further than food donations.

If we are strictly talking food, FACES can deliver TEN pounds of food for every dollar donated. Depending on the type of food and the demand for that type, FACES can purchase surplus food from a food bank (learn the difference between a food BANK and a food PANTRY here) for ten to twenty cents a pound. This means that cash contributions purchase 5 to 10 times what they would at a retail store. How much food can your dollar buy? This article shows us and it is not much.

Another reason why cash is better: food is not the organization’s only expense.

Food accounts for about half of FACES’ budget, but they also have equipment (such as computers) and office supplies to maintain for registration. FACES has trucks that require gas, insurance, and repairs. Electricity is a necessity if the organization wants to continue distributing meats and produce. The list of expenses goes on to include telephone and internet services, building repairs and improvements, and miscellaneous expenses such as trainings. And let’s not forget the fundraising expense — “you have to spend money to make money.”

With such a tiny budget, when FACES solicits for cash donations it’s their way of asking the community, “Can you pay my bills?” quite seriously.

Sorry, I couldn’t resist the urge to include Beyonce. Image Link:

So how does FACES conduct its fundraisers?

  1. Right now, their main medium is snail mail. It may seem like our society has moved on from that, but in actuality, it is very effective. FACES has a system. They send letters to everyone in the area, but also send targeted mail to a list of past donors. The target mail tends to be more personalized. How can you say “no” when the board president includes a handwritten note in your letter? I couldn’t. They follow up with phone calls and with thank you notes.
  2. FACES, also, advertises their needs in the town’s local newspapers, on the local radio stations, and on their website. These advertisements make the organization’s needs visible to the people in the community.
  3. Social media … now, that’s a work-in-progress, but FACES is on the task. They’ve used social media to participate in fundraising competitions such as The Amazing Raise and the Walmart Holiday Makeover campaign which secured a $20,000 grant for facility upgrades.
  4. The community is very supportive of FACES and often hosts events in their honor. For example, the local coffee shop hosted a live musician and invited people to come by with food and monetary donations.
  5. Lastly, FACES teams up with the local colleges to raise funds and awareness. Different departments and student-run organizations arrange campaigns in which students skip a meal or donate their spare change to benefit FACES.
I mentioned this event in my last blog post. Image courtesy of Longwood University Black Student Association Instagram page.

How can you help FACES fund-raise?

  1. Donate money! Every little bit counts. Like I’ve said before, ONE dollar can buy up to TEN POUNDS of food. In the video below, Adam “ruins” food drives. Note: some of these points do NOT apply to FACES or other food pantries. Food drives ARE helpful, but cash is more helpful.

2. Like FACES on Facebook or follow FACES on Twitter. Please share the posts and invite your friends to follow, too.

3. Show up to events in town or on campus and invite your friends (preferably your rich friends).

4. VOLUNTEER! I’ll tell you more about this in the next blog, but for now, just remember that time is money.


If you have the time, please listen to this interview which explains why we should can food drives and move to cash donations for food pantries.