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Organizations adapt to provide food to those in need during COVID-19

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to progress, organizations that provide food to a growing number of people are on the frontlines.

And while it’s safe to say that all of us are feeling the affects of this crisis, those impacted by food insecurity and homelessness are facing a time of heightened vulnerability.

In several of our blogs, we’ve mentioned how critical it is to shift and adapt during this period. And local organizations like food banks and rescue missions are already doing just that as they look for ways to safely and effectively provide food to those who need it.

With many staff members at nonprofits still in the triage mode, trying to keep up with all the changes being thrown their way, we’ve already seen organizations make incredible strides.

Rescue missions across the nation are working to provide isolated space to at-risk guests. Food banks are building meal kits for those who have to go into self-quarantine. And all are doing everything they can to continue to feed anyone who walks through their doors.

So, although no one can predict the future right now, let’s discuss how food banks and rescue missions can lean on each other to continue reaching donors and brace for what’s to come.


Many of our food bank clients have seen sharp spikes in giving over the last week as people look for ways to help during this time of need.

Athletes and celebrities are all donating and advocating on behalf of organizations like Feeding America, and it’s been amazing to see communities band together to face this.

For nine of our food bank clients, online donations over the last 6 days have raised more than $2.8 million. Last year, they had raised just $250,000.

Unfortunately, given the current predictions from the government and the CDC, this is likely going to last longer than most had hoped for. As we saw during the Great Recession, the economic impact is going to continue to affect Americans, which will further increase the need for food banks and rescue missions.

Now is not the time to pull back on your fundraising strategies. Don’t focus on cost; focus on sustainability as you prepare.


Digital is the obvious go-to for quick updates and communications among donors during this rapidly changing climate. However, you don’t want to appear tone deaf by failing to update your direct mail packages that are getting ready to go out.

Adding inserts and P.S. notes are great ways to update packages that are already planned, designed and printed.

We also recommend developing response appeals that describe the need to donors during this time.

Timing is an important thing to keep in mind as you work on any messaging going out in the mail. Given that we have new information daily, avoid any statements that may not be timely by the time they reach your donors’ mailboxes.


This is a crucial fundraising period for organizations as volunteers become more limited and, in some cases, restricted.

Look for ways that volunteers can help from home, like making wellness calls to donors on your behalf.

We know this is a hectic and busy time, but don’t forget to update your donors as frequently as possible. Whether that’s via email, on your website, or even hosting a Facebook Live video, because donors will give when you express your need.

During times of great need, the best thing to do is lean on each other for support.

Although each city’s situation looks different right now, look to other food banks and rescue missions for advice and support. Together, we can make it through anything.

Tonie Howard

As Senior Vice President at RKD Group, Tonie Howard works with food banks to provide innovative mail, digital, phone, research, major gifts and planned giving strategies for clients. A strong champion of RKD’s donor-centric philosophy, Tonie and her team consistently exceed clients’ fundraising goals. She brings more than two decades of experience and leadership to her role of providing multichannel fundraising and marketing services to organizations that market at the local and regional level.

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