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Last Look: Gerry Brisson, vice president for development, Gleaners

May 2008 By Margaret Battistelli
The 31-year-old Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan serves all of Southeast Michigan, which is home to 5 million people. It has five distribution centers strategically located throughout a six-county area, as well as storage, transportation and other capacities that enable it to quickly and efficiently get food to people where and when it’s needed. In addition, the food bank purchases food at prices that are dramatically lower than market rates in order to meet the nutrition and quantity requirements of its more than 400 member partners, which include food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, churches and other agencies that distribute emergency food.

“We fill hunger gaps,” explains Gerry Brisson, vice president for development at Gleaners. “Just in the area of children’s nutrition alone, we increase nutrition awareness, provide meals in after-school programs, provide snacks in schools in high need areas, and get young people involved in volunteer work and philanthropy. And we raise awareness of the causes of hunger, and the issues that still remain as we feed our hungry neighbors.”

Here, FundRaising Success talks with Brisson about Gleaners’ fundraising efforts and philosophies.

FundRaising Success: How do you fund your mission?

Gerry Brisson:
We fund our mission primarily through unrestricted donations from individuals and corporations. We also solicit grants from private and public foundations and receive a small amount of local, state and federal government funding.

FS: What are the biggest challenges your organization faces as far as fundraising is concerned? How do you overcome them?

Our biggest fundraising challenge is to meet the rising demands being placed on our food bank today. Food costs are soaring. The availability of free food from all sources is declining. Fuel costs are also rising dramatically. At the same time, more people in our community are asking for food assistance. This puts great pressure on the food bank to raise more funds than we have ever needed.

We overcome those challenges through a comprehensive, integrated fundraising program that includes nine annual direct-mail appeals, individual donor solicitations, four special events, dozens of strategic grant requests and efforts to leverage government funding wherever possible. We combine our fundraising with a robust communication program with three comprehensive newsletters, a powerful and informative Web site, and integrated communications planning so that the fundraising and communications efforts maximally support each other, giving us the most return on our investments and expenditures.


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