How the Maryland Food Bank is reinventing the food drive - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Sep. 7, 2018 4:07 pm

How the Maryland Food Bank is reinventing the food drive

After creating virtual food drives with Sizeable Interactive, the nonprofit is launching a fundraising platform for food banks. Meet Fenly.

With Fenly, the Maryland Food Bank is embracing social enterprise.

(Courtesy photo)

For the Maryland Food Bank, food drives are a time-tested way to bring the public into its work fighting hunger. It redirects items that would otherwise go unused, and offers a way for people interested in helping the organization a direct way to get involved.

So when the Halethorpe-based nonprofit launched a new website a few years ago, it looked to keep that popular and familiar outreach tool in the digital space, said Chief External Affairs Officer Meg Kimmel.

With a virtual food drive, Kimmel said the organization could prioritize the kinds of foods that were needed for distribution, and create an entry point into the organization’s fundraising activities.

Finding no other existing platform that served its needs, the organization teamed with Baltimore-based Sizeable Interactive to create a virtual food drive that integrated into the site.

“We wanted it to look like us, and wanted it to look great. We also needed to be able to manage the payment processing,” said Kimmel.

After a few years of using it in-house, the Maryland Food Bank is set to begin selling its platform to other food banks as a subscription service. Following beta testing over the summer, Fenly is expected to launch this month.

Introducing a SaaS product is a tech-focused approach to social enterprise. “Our unique selling proposition is that all proceeds from use of the product will go to fund the Maryland Food Bank,” Kimmel said.

The platform allows users to pick from a group of food items to donate, which represent what the Food Bank will purchase using the donation. Kimmel said the food bank is always looking to fulfill its needs of highly nutritious foods such as peanut butter and tuna. With wholesale and other purchasing arrangements, the food bank can also maximize the value of donations, Kimmel said.

It also introduces elements of crowdfunding, allowing groups or companies to create campaigns and encourage others to sign up.

“Behind that activity we have many ways that people can make a financial donation, and many ways that retailers and manufacturers can make large food donations as well,” Kimmel said.

Sizeable Interactive and members of the food bank’s external affairs team including Kimmel and web designer Brian Albright began work on the version that would be available to anyone earlier this year. Along with overhauling the front-end, Andy Stratton of Sizeable Interactive created automated functions allowing as few steps as possible to create a food drive or campaign. The fundraising pages can be customized for a specific organization. Another key was providing reporting on progress of the campaign, Stratton said, and Fenly also includes a public-facing tracker for the funds.

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Here’s a look at the tech stack powering Fenly:

“Our stack is a traditional LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP stack running WordPress multisite with custom themes/plugins built by Sizeable) and it’s a customized e-commerce solution as well. We’ve also integrated Stripe Connect OAuth (Open Authorization) for onboarding, payment processing, and routing,” according to the Maryland Food Bank and Sizeable Interactive.

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