Share Our Strength’s Dine Out for No Kid Hungry, formerly Share Our Strength’s Great American Dine Out, will hold its national fundraising event Sept. 18-24 at participating restaurants in an effort to help end childhood hunger by 2015.
The event, sponsored by Sysco, American Express, Ecolab, USA Today and the National Restaurant Association, is trying to raise $3 million, and get 5,000 restaurants involved in this year's fundraising effort.
"We've got about 1,400 restaurants officially registered, and more than 1,200 that have verbally engaged us and said they will be onboard," said Sheila Bennett, director for Share Our Strength's Dine Out for No Kid Hungry.
Last year, more than 4,000 restaurants participated in the event and raised more than $1.5 million. The restaurants used a variety of creative promotions and fundraising techniques, including bounce back coupons, consumer and employee donations and friendly challenges.
The funds for the campaign support anti-hunger organizations across the United States, with grants focused on increasing participation in school breakfast, summer meals, after school snacks and supper programs. Additionally, the funds are used to help families enroll in the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food stamps, and WIC, the health and nutrition program for low-income women and children.
"There is no deadline for restaurants who wish to sign up. Last year, many independent operators signed up the day before, but the challenge is they weren't able to get in-store marketing materials from our print provider," Bennett said.
Share Our Strength has put together a public relations strategy for restaurants that includes an employee training guide, media kit, creative in-store and point-of-purchase marketing materials, as well as standard or customizable materials, such as check stuffers or posters.
Redemption rates provide incentives
Share Our Strength provides owners and operators with a number of resources to make the event a success, including cause-marketing experts available for consulting.
"The reason we picked this time period is because we know that, routinely, September is a slower time of year for restaurants because kids are going back-to-school," Bennett said.
Last year, Joe's Crab Shack restaurants handed out bounce back coupons to its customers who made in-store donations, which resulted in a 24 percent redemption rate. Customers who donated $1 to $4 received a coupon for a free order of Key Lime Pie, and those that donated $5 received a coupon for a free order of Crab Nachos.
Corner Bakery Café, with 118 locations across the U.S. and one of Share Our Strength's leading partners, has participated in the dine out for three consecutive years. This will be its fourth year participating.
"This is such an integral part of our culture, and we do the Dine Out during the entire month of September. Last year, we raised $250,000. It blew away our expectations. We did a bounce back coupon book for guests that donated $5 that had over a $30 value," said Diana Hovey, senior vice president of marketing for Corner Bakery Café. "The redemption rate for the bounce back coupons was 49 percent. We believe the momentum created by the Dine Out definitely contributed to a very strong fourth quarter."
Hovey said the response from customers, franchisees and employees has been overwhelmingly positive, and the goal for this year is $300,000.
"We do employee surveys, and before the Dine Out, one of the things we heard was 'We wish we could be more involved in a cause in our community,'" Hovey said. "After we participated, the pride our employees expressed was such a tangible thing. They really felt a sense of pride."
Impacting child hunger
Brother and sister Billy and Debbie Shore founded Share Our Strength in 1984 in response to the famine in Ethiopia. Since then, the organization has raised more than $300 million and supported more than 1,000 anti-hunger groups around the world.
In 2010, the organization reached more than 11,000 families through its "Cooking Matters" program, increased the number of "No Kid Hungry" city and state partnerships from five to 10 and advocated for the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.
Other fundraising platforms within the Share Our Strength organization include "Taste of the Nation," "A Tasteful Pursuit" and the "Great American Bake Sale."
Registration for the 2011 Dine Out for No Kid Hungry is open to all restaurants in every segment. Restaurants can register at www.DineOutforNoKidHungry.org.