Team 1: Greater Chicago Food Depository

Description of the project

We worked on a service project with the Greater Chicago Food Depository. The objectives of the project were to host a virtual food drive ‘A Plate of Cheer’ and to take a group of 15 volunteers for one of their repack sessions.  The team had an initial meeting with the charity on May 4, when we also helped repack brown rice. The team repacked approximately 1,239 lbs of rice. Total volunteer hours were 17.25 hrs. This session helped us understand how the volunteer repack session operates. On May 7 we set up the virtual food drive that ended on May 28th. Our target was to raise a minimum of $500 through the virtual food drive. Each dollar contributed would provide 3 meals. The virtual food drive raised $923.67. This amount translates to 3,325 lbs of food and 2,771 meals.

In the second volunteer event on May 25, we had a target of 15 volunteers. We only managed to get 12 volunteers. We repacked a total of 1,580 lbs of pasta and the total volunteer time was 33 hrs. We raised awareness about the charity, our virtual food drive and the volunteer event by sharing details about our project on social media, putting posters on campus and by connecting with our contacts in person, through emails and calls.

Description of the charity

The Greater Chicago Food Depository has been providing food for the hungry since 1979, across Cook County. It does this in partnership with 700 agencies and programs. These include pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and responses for children, older adults and veterans. Their impact led to their recognition as one of the leading charities in Chicago. In 2017, they distributed 72 million pounds of food, an average of 164,000 meals per day. This was with the help of 22,800 volunteers who help with the repackaging of the food.

Factual analysis of success in terms of project objectives

Task Goal Achieved
Virtual Food Drive Raise $500 $923.67
25 May Volunteer Event 15 Volunteers 12 Volunteers
  1. Most of our donations came from our networks. We worked hard on promoting our project to our friends, and the result was good because our friends generously donated to the cause.
  2. Having a previous volunteer event for team members to familiarise themselves with the process of the event was helpful for when recruiting volunteers for our main event. We were better able to explain the volunteer event to prospective volunteers.
  3. Team members were willing to work together and enjoyed and worked towards making both the volunteer events and the fundraiser, a success.

Lessons learned about managing projects

  • Finalize Charity as soon as possible. We spent a couple of weeks finalizing the charity that we wanted to work with. The response from the charity we had selected previously took time and we kept on waiting for them to respond. Since this first step got delayed, all the other things like event ideas and planning kept on getting delayed too.
  • Leverage personal & professional connections. All the responses that we received whether for our volunteer event or virtual food drive was from our personal and professional contacts. Don’t hesitate to reach out and ask.
  • Explain expectations to the volunteers/attendees. Getting volunteers was a challenging task as the event was on a Friday morning and far from the city. A couple of volunteers signed up but couldn’t make it as they didn’t consider the time commitment and travel distance while signing up. Setting the expectations right while recruiting the volunteers could have avoided the last minute cancellations.

Advice for future teams doing similar projects

  • Before finalizing which charity to work with, spend time contacting different charities and the possible events that you can do for them. Consider the amount of support that you are getting from the charity in terms of marketing support, speaker availability for the event if applicable etc. Finalize the charity once you have all these details. Don’t finalize just because a charity said they are interested in working with you too. The first charity we contacted was very interested in working with us but denied to provide any support in terms of marketing or speaker needs for the event.
  • Use your network. Reach out your personal and professional contacts, and they may surprise you.
  • Follow up the progress of the project and make sure everything is on the track.