The Best Way to Give?

January 09, 2012

Does sending a check to a food bank make more sense than dropping off a couple of cans?

The holiday season was the season of giving, and we can’t forget that many people benefit and rely on donations year round. Whether it’s food drives, direct donations, monetary gifts, or giving to a charitable organization that has ties to the food industry and can link surplus food to emergency food providers, all types of year-round giving are encouraged. 
The Washington Post brought up an interesting point quoting Katherina Rosqueta, executive director of the Center for High Impact Philanthropy at the University of Pennsylvania. Rosqueta explained that food providers can get what they need for “pennies on the dollar.” She also estimates that they pay about 10 cents a pound for food what would cost you $2 per pound retail. 
In essence, your money would be better spent through a direct donation versus purchasing the can off the retail shelf for donation.
There are also overhead costs. Ezra Klein’s WONKBLOG further reported that, charities are obviously reluctant to turn down donations, but the reality is that dealing with sporadic surges of cans is a logistical headache. Feeding America notes on its website that “a hastily organized local food drive can actually put more strain on your local food bank than you imagine.” Food dropped off by well-meaning citizens needs to be carefully inspected and sorted. A personal check, by contrast, can be used to order what’s needed without placing extra burdens on the staff.
It’s important to keep these concepts in mind when giving year round, as well as informing your customers the best ways to make an impact. The Lempert Report by no means discourages you from any kind of giving, as different shelters and food banks have different needs and requirements at any given moment.