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How we raised money for our local food bank

How Wandsworth Foodbank benefitted from the generosity of a community in challenging times

How Wandsworth Foodbank benefitted from the generosity of a community in challenging times

Sarah Chapman and her local church opened a food bank in Wandsworth in 2013 after discovering that an increasing number of people in the London borough were struggling to afford food and basic essentials. Part of the Trussell Trust Network, which campaigns to end the need for food banks in the UK, the Wandsworth Foodbank doesn’t only provide food and food vouchers to those in need. It also offers expert advice in partnership with Citizens Advice Wandsworth on topics such as benefits, debt, housing, immigration and employment – some of the main reasons behind residents’ need for help.

It’s been a challenging time for the Wandsworth Foodbank recently, with the need for emergency food aid in the community almost doubling during the pandemic. We spoke to Sarah about how their charity has managed to offer a lifeline to many people in such difficult times.

Has the pandemic had an impact on your donations?

We saw a huge increase in donations! In fact we found it all really moving. People’s generosity and the desire to help those around them is incredible. I don’t want to take too much credit for us getting more donations because I think there’s a wider societal understanding that life is really difficult for some people, and many people want to help. Surveys show that the public attitude to benefits has changed since the start of the pandemic – more people believe benefits are a good thing, and that benefit payments should be more generous.

As for why this change has happened, well, I think people like Marcus Rashford, the national treasure, helped people understand what life is like for many when he spoke in such a powerful way about his own experience of poverty as a child. I also think in those first few weeks of the pandemic, when the supermarket shelves were empty and there was a real sense of panic, many more people experienced the terror of thinking 'I don’t know if I’ll be able to feed my family'.

How have you found using Virgin Money Giving?

We have found it really easy to use, and the people who’ve given to us via Virgin Money Giving have also found it really straightforward. We like that people can add a little bit more to pay the transaction charge. People are so kind to tick the Donor Covers Fee box.

An unusually large number of your contributions made through Virgin Money Giving are from regular donors, rather than one-off givers. How have you encouraged supporters to give regularly?

I think it’s a really organic process: that through seeing what we’re doing and hearing the stories of people we work with, people feel they can trust us. A lot of our regular givers have volunteered, so they can see the difference the donations make. Regular giving does really help because it means we can plan ahead.

Have you made an effort to convert one-off donors into regular donors?

No, not at all. We don’t do massive fundraising campaigns or call people and ask them to make monthly donations. We don’t do any of that. It’s all about people seeing what we’re doing and liking what we’re doing. We’re not in this to fundraise loads of money and have it sitting in our bank account because it’s our goal to end the need for this food bank. We hope we won’t be needed forever, and while we are needed we just want to do the best job we can getting help to people who’ve been pulled into poverty and hardship.

What’s your advice for other small charities?

It’s important to have a really clear vision about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. And about what money you need and what money you don’t need. You have to act with integrity and use the money you raise really well because it’s people’s hard-earned cash that they’re giving.

It’s about trying to make it feel like there’s a direct line between the person who’s giving and the person benefiting from that gift at a difficult time in their life. The charity is just a vehicle – you’re just trying to connect people; those who want to give and those who really need help.

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