Hunger Hike is a unique fundraiser with a history stretching back almost 30 years. On its face, it seems normal enough – an event based around a 3K walk that relies on a combination of corporate sponsorships, teams of walkers, and peer-to-peer fundraising to bring in donor dollars. But what sets Hunger Hike apart is the fact that it’s actually a cooperative fundraiser in which three Lafayette area nonprofits come together to share both the costs and the dollars raised.
The three agencies are Food Finders Food Bank, Lafayette Urban Ministry, and the Haiti Mission at St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church. They split the cost of hiring a part-time staffer to organize the event, and each agency contributes volunteers to a joint task force that helps to coordinate planning and oversee fundraising efforts. Volunteers from St. Thomas Aquinas spearhead outreach for corporate sponsorships, staff from Food Finders write grants to corporate foundations, and Lafayette Urban Ministry volunteers encourage participation among local churches.
The proceeds from the event are divided evenly among the three agencies and go to fund:
- Food Finders Food Bank’s Fresh Market Food Pantry
- The Lafayette Urban Ministry Protein Pantry, Emergency Shelter, and After School Program
- The St. Thomas Aquinas Haiti Ministry at the parish of Baudin, which include the purchase of high yield seeds, clean water collection, a community store, and goat husbandry
Collectively, Hunger Hike has raised more than $2 million since its inception. But despite that long history, 2020 was a challenge. The centerpiece of the event is normally an afternoon festival with speeches from local dignitaries, clowns, hot dogs, and a huge Zumba dance party followed by a 3k walk. Because of COVID-19, none of that was possible, and Hunger Hike had to be re-tooled into a virtual event. The organizers set up a challenge week – where supporters were encouraged to either make personal pledges, like walking 100 miles or running a mini marathon, or to create challenges for their fundraising teams. Throughout the week, Hunger Hike staff sent out daily motivational messages and videos. It was all capped by a livestream event featuring an MC, recorded speeches, and entertainment from Zumba dancers, a magician, and a local improv comedy troupe.
The result was amazing. Despite initial fears, Hunger Hike 2020 proved to be the most successful in the event’s 30 year history, bringing in $123,000 from more than 800 individual donors and two dozen corporate sponsors. That success, even in challenging economic times, is a mark of both the faith that people place in these three agencies and the value of cooperation.