During any ordinary year, the holiday season is the busiest and most costly time for organizations like Manna Meal Inc., a nonprofit soup kitchen located in downtown Charleston. This was truer than ever in 2020 as our communities suffered from the effects of COVID-19 and resulting economic crisis. With so many of our neighbors losing their jobs and receiving notices of eviction, the need for Manna Meal’s services had skyrocketed just as food and supply costs were going up.
In spite of these challenges, Manna Meal remained steadfastly committed to their mission to provide two meals a day, 365 days a year, no questions asked: so the hungry can eat.
They enlisted our help to develop and implement a fundraising campaign with the primary objective of preventing hunger in our community over the holidays.
Results at a Glance
Compared to the same period in 2019, the campaign led to. . .
increase in revenue
increase in new donors
increase in the number of donations
We developed the campaign concept “Share a Meal” as a response to the isolation experienced by everyone impacted by COVID-19.
We knew there were people who wanted to help but felt overwhelmed by the need and didn’t feel safe venturing into the community. The concept of virtually “sharing a meal” by making a donation of the cost of a meal for one or for a family of four allowed people to feel connected to each other and their larger community as well as reduced the scope of the overwhelming need down to the cost of a single meal. The campaign demonstrated that despite the global pandemic, we could still share a meal with neighbors in need by donating to Manna Meal.
Next, we crafted a campaign strategy and schedule.
Since the “Share a Meal” concept was initially introduced in the spring when the global pandemic first hit, we expanded it to serve as the concept for Manna Meal’s annual campaign. The campaign would roll out in six phases from late October to the end of the year, corresponding with the holidays in that period.
Then, we buckled down to create the two months’ content: emails, social media posts, and graphics that reflected Manna Meal’s branding but also evolved in appearance with the season.
The campaign combined statistics and storytelling, alternately featuring the massive increase in numbers experienced by Manna Meal from 2019 to 2020 (i.e. number of meals served, average cost per meal, etc.) and content that had more of a human face to it.
As part of the campaign’s storytelling, we conducted an interview with Manna Meal staff and wrote up a piece about what it’s like working there on Christmas Day.
Using this approach, we were able to both honor Manna’s Meal’s “no questions asked” philosophy—protecting the privacy of Manna Meal’s customers—and provide a compelling window into the value Manna Meal brings to its community, especially during the holidays. The story was incorporated into the campaign and shared on Facebook and via email.
The “Share a Meal” campaign led to a 61% increase in revenue for Manna Meal, a 119% increase in new donors, and an 83% increase in the number of donations compared to the year before.
As these figures demonstrate, the campaign reached a significant number of new donors and, at the same time, effectively encouraged renewed support from individuals who had contributed previously. The “Share a Meal” messaging and its accompanying visuals resonated with Manna Meal’s audience, leading to excellent engagement, reach, and ultimately follow-through.
While 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, we found that members of our community were mobilized by the “Share a Meal” sentiment to give to their neighbors who had it even harder than they did and to sustain Manna Meal’s operations through and beyond the holidays.