Find out how City Harvest were able to overcome a fundraising shortfall when their services were needed most - and how they were able to fight hunger in the capital at the height of lockdown
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City Harvest’s mission is simple – they support the thousands of Londoners who go hungry each day, just as safe, healthy and usable food risks going to waste.
A mid-sized charity founded in 2016, City Harvest collects surplus food from a number of sources within the food industry. These include restaurants, grocers, manufacturers, wholesalers, hotels and caterers. This food is then distributed to organisations that provide meals to vulnerable people be they homeless shelters, soup kitchens, children’s programmes, centres for the elderly, and refuges for women experiencing domestic violence.
The charity is committed to redistributing nutritious food to the people who need it, as well as doing so in a sustainable way. Their commitment to solving the issues behind hunger goes beyond just food donation. Many of their warehouse staff, drivers and volunteers have experienced the struggles of homelessness and hunger first-hand and their passion for helping others has strengthened the mission of City Harvest.
COVID-19 has created a number of unique challenges and led to an increase in demand for City Harvest’s services. This was particularly pronounced during the initial phase of stricter lockdown measures. A number of factors, including increased unemployment, housing insecurity for people living in rented accommodation and people shielding of self-isolation were behind this increase in demand.
An estimated 1.5 Million people in the UK faced food poverty at the height of lockdown measures - with low-income areas in London among the worst affected.
The reality that City Harvest faced during COVID-19 highlights the fundamental challenge facing most charities in recent months. At a time when their services have never been in more demand, their normal fundraising methods were no longer viable. How do you reconcile scaling up services whilst facing a shortfall in funding?
‘We were on the front lines. We were emergency workers. We had to fundraise - hence CAF.’
‘It’s hard work. We were pushed to our limits.’
City Harvest needed an urgent new solution to overcome it’s fundraising shortfall and ensure they would be there when they were needed most.
Previously, City Harvest had relied primarily on the generosity of a small group of High Net Worth Individuals (HNWI). While this strategy allowed them to grow, its limits meant that the leadership at City Harvest needed to look at alternatives.
‘We didn’t have the people to do the outreach and get the engagement going.’
City Harvest worked with CAF to quickly set up a CAF Donate account, which adds a ‘donate now’ button to their website which enabled supporters to offer financial help quickly and securely.
Better still, CAF Donate handles Gift Aid on City Harvest’s behalf through the Gift Aid reclaim. The well-known programme allows charities and Community Amateur Sports Clubs (CASCs) to claim additional money from HMRC. Charities can claim an extra 25p for every £1 donated. The CAF Donate platform takes care of Gift Aid for you. Donors only need to complete one Gift Aid Declaration. Once they’ve confirmed their status as a UK taxpayer, CAF arranges for the Gift Aid to go direct to their account. That means supporters can donate the extra funds to any charity of their choosing.
‘[We’ve seen] a steady increase in individual donations…it’s allowed us to grow, which has been key.’
After adding CAF Donate into their fundraising mix, City Harvest saw an increase in donations, allowing them to invest in their infrastructure and broaden their reach. They also found that automating their fundraising process helped to free up capacity and allowed staff to focus their attention on other important work.
‘We can get more vans, deliver more food. We take on more staff to help with everything.’
City Harvest has plans to combine the increased levels of individual donations they have seen from their use of CAF Donate with further relationships with corporate partners. This will create a hybrid fundraising model, allowing for greater flexibility and sustainability.
‘It changes what we think we can achieve, what we can commit to. If we buy a new van, we know that the running cost of the whole thing per year is about £70,000. So we need to project forwards, and everything helps.’
With the tightening of national and local restrictions as the UK faces the second wave of Covid-19, City Harvest are preparing for another increase on their services. Even without the introduction of more stringent measures, the economic toll of COVID-19 has led to an increase in food poverty and homelessness. City Harvest will continue to scale up in order to be there to meet this demand.
‘We tripled the amount of food that we delivered over lockdown. So we know that we perform well under pressure. We’ve got all the links in place, with restaurants and food companies to receive the food.
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