Building an endowment so no person goes hungry
Donors and friends are invited to join the Quad Cities Community Foundation for a special tour and volunteer opportunity at the River Bend Foodbank. Volunteers will sort donated food from the Student Hunger Drive. Please dress casual and wear closed-toe shoes.
Tuesday, November 19
4010 Kimmel Drive / Davenport, IA 52802
If you tried to pat Mike Miller on the back, he'd likely duck.
As CEO of the River Bend Foodbank, Miller isn’t looking for accolades for the incredible growth of the organization during his tenure—he just wants to keep the momentum going. “We know there are 114,480 people who are missing 19.5 million meals a year in the counties we cover. Our goal is to feed everyone, literally,” he said. “One day, we want every single person to go to bed without being hungry.”
It’s ambitious. And it’s possible, thanks to the food bank’s partnership with generous donors and the Quad Cities Community Foundation who continue to rally behind the cause. “We are only able to do our work because the community is with us,” he said.
The food bank opened in 1982 and serves 23 counties in eastern Iowa and western Illinois. They are 90 percent privately funded. Armed with a five-figure estate gift in 2014, they opened an endowment with the Community Foundation and started looking more purposefully to the future. “It’s always a challenge for any nonprofit to balance that tension of daily cash flow and setting aside for the future,” he said. “An endowment is an eye for the future.”
The Community Foundation has been a steady source of support, including providing an Endowment Building Toolkit to access better resources and ideas for growing the endowment. The Community Foundation is also hosting a tour of the food bank on November 19 to highlight their work and connect donors with ways to give.
“We are incredibly proud to partner with Mike and the team at River Bend Foodbank,” said Joscelyn Rowe, director of donor engagement and stewardship. “They know how critical an endowment is to their mission and are an example of how to place a focus on the near-term needs of annual fundraising and long-term sustainability through their endowment building work.”
The Community Foundation has provided a channel to support the food bank’s thinking regarding certain types of gifts. They designate all unrestricted estate, memorial or honorary gifts to their endowment fund at the Community Foundation. “My philosophy is that those gifts should provide for hungry people forever," Miller said. "We won't just take the check and pay the light bill, and then it’s gone.”
It’s part of the idea that planned giving is often about relationships. "Most of our fundraising was direct mail," he added. "But now we're trying to build relationships with donors. Our planned giving program is in its infancy and the Community Foundation, through their expertise and resources, is going to help us build on that."
Miller has also been encouraged by the support of several of the Community Foundation’s donor-advised funds, which have invested in the food bank’s mission through several grants over the years. “There are so many legacies of families in the Quad Cities helping us end hunger,” he said.
His message to the Quad Cities and the greater region is that there is an attainable end goal. “Hunger can often seem like a bottomless pit,” he said. “A donor gives, and we want more and more because it's never enough. That's discouraging when people are thinking about giving."
The goal is simple: feed everyone who is hungry. That means tripling the number of meals by 2025. It’s possible, Miller said. Since 2014, they have more than doubled their meal distribution and staff. Last year, they provided more than 17 million meals. And if there is any real indication that it can be done, he will have you look at the volunteer counts.
“In 2014, we had about 500 volunteers,” Miller said. “Now we have more than 3,500. The community has gotten behind this, and it's exciting, and we are so thankful. We’re just getting started.”