Our EveryAction Hero this month is Feeding Wisconsin. Working with local food pantries and meal programs across the state of Wisconsin, Feeding Wisconsin is dedicated to eradicating hunger and improving their community. Earlier this month, I sat down with Executive Director, David Lee, to learn how Feeding Wisconsin mobilizes their audience, advocates to their local and federal officials, and engages with their community.
Feeding Wisconsin works with over 1,000 food pantries and meal programs throughout the state. How does your work with these affiliates add to your mission?
Feeding Wisconsin is the state association of the six regional Feeding America food banks that operate in the state of Wisconsin. So, together our network of food banks work in concert with local food pantries, soup kitchens, and other food distributing organizations. We distribute somewhere around 55 million meals every year in every county of our state. Our mission is to help our food banks as well as our partners and stakeholders fight hunger and improve health and strengthen communities. The way I like to characterize it is that we're basically like the nonprofit trade association of food banks. We work to help improve the conditions for food banks and food pantries and also to ensure that people who are at risk of hunger have easy access to a meal.
One of your current campaigns to get supporters involved is a call-to-action to be a “hunger fighter.” How are you able to gauge interest and keep supporters engaged?
Our Feeding Wisconsin Hunger Fighter program is our advocacy program. Registrants give us a little bit of information about themselves and in return we connect with them with rich advocacy and hunger-related content at the state and federal level. Our hope is that we're able to steward the interest of everyday people across the state to be engaged in these issues from volunteering at their local food bank to taking advocacy actions.
As part of getting folks enrolled in our hunger fighter program we have a welcome series that introduces them to us and our work, and funnels them into a number of different actions they can take. One of the initial actions in that welcome series is a survey so we know more about our audience and are able to match them to actions we know they're interested in and better tailor our content.
Speaking of your advocacy programs, I was impressed with your advocacy forms! How have EveryAction digital tools - including advocacy forms and targeted email - helped tailor your advocacy asks and strengthen engagement?
In our transition to EveryAction we had a couple of extra months left on our old system, so I was able to see how the deliverability of both EveryAction emails and our previous system’s emails compared. I was super excited to see that EveryAction emails delivered more! As far as we've been tracking since we transitioned to EveryAction, our open rate is much higher than it was before. On our old database our open rate was around 18% but on EveryAction we are averaging off all the emails we sent at a 32% open rate. It's incredible! Also because of the segmentation tools and our development practice segmenting our database, we are sending more emails to a smaller group of people which then drives higher engagement.
Are there any particular issues that you’ve found resonate with your audience?
We’re a one issue organization. All of our action alerts at both the state and federal level are on issues that affect the accessibility to food and protecting the nutrition safety net which consists of 15 programs that provide millions of low-income Americans access to a healthy and nutritious diet. As we’ve been better segmenting our audience we’ve seen a higher uptick in the level of engagement on our actions. In particular though whenever there are threats to budget cuts on these nutrition safety programs we generally will see higher involvement in those asks.
“Map the Meal Gap” is a great, interactive feature on your site that illustrates food insecurity rates by Congressional district. How important is data and research in your work?
Our national affiliates do a lot of that research work where they take national data and combine it with local area data to produce research like “Map the Meal Gap”. Part of what we've been able to do and how we partner with them is being able to produce local area and district information, particularly state senate district food and security rates based off the map the meal gap algorithm. Being able to walk in to a state legislature's office and say "look your food and security rate is 11%, your poverty rate is 12% and there are this many people in need of assistance" is really powerful and important to our advocacy efforts.
In fact, one of the reasons we decided to go with EveryAction for our CRM needs is because of the powerful advocacy and organizing tools. Even though we’re a small organization we’re excited to grow our organizing efforts and start to engage with more people using EveryAction’s organizing tools.
The Field to Foodbank campaign partners with local farmers and food processing industries to get commercial grade crops processed at low costs to food banks across the state and country. How has technology empowered your organization to run a campaign like this and how do you measure success?
Field to Foodbank is one of our campaigns this last year that was working with our state to introduce state supported partnerships. This public-private partnership would take that program to scale across the state.
We used EveryAction to work with our state legislature to introduce the bills and to do all of our advocacy and turning out grassroots support. Unfortunately, due to some of the political dynamics in our state the bill got held up in the state senate so we're going to be back at it next session! I think for us having a tool like EveryAction and being able to target messages to key legislators, especially to legislators that represent agricultural areas and to be able to map where people in our database live and what districts they're in is invaluable!
One of the things about us that you may know is that we're super small -- we’re just 4 employees. All of the advocacy and grassroots engagement lands on my desk in addition to all the lobbying, so it can be a lot of work. The ease to use EveryAction has made my life a little bit simpler. I wish I had even more time to figure out how to maximize the value of everything you can do in EveryAction.
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