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Doing Good When Doing Good

July 26, 2022
photo of Gary Oppenheimer in a garden Gary OppenheimerFollow on LinkedIn

Nonprofits by design have a mission to do good. It might be teaching children how to read, rescuing puppies, fighting climate change, or in the case of, simultaneously addressing both hunger/malnutrition and the waste of food. Indeed when a program incorporates as a nonprofit, they provide the IRS with a mission statement that spells out what that “good” is going to be.

When I came up with the idea of in the spring of 2009, I already knew one thing:  too many people were going to food pantries because their job had moved overseas.  After coming up with the concept, I was in need of web designers who could execute it.  Countless people pointed me to overseas design firms where the cost could be very low to us, but costly to America.

I was fortunate that two volunteers stepped up to build it for free (thank you Maureen and Josh so very much) but I was also determined that once the organization formed and we started raising money, we’d be seeking out whenever possible, to work with people in the US and to the extent possible, to buy American made products sold by American companies. We were not going to be the cause of people needing the very food pantries that we were trying to help.

In 2021, when Bonnie Plants funded the complete overhaul of’s infrastructure (especially the website), we were determined to hire a US-based, minority or woman-owned firm. We eventually selected Studio Simpatico for the work and the results speak for themselves.

We next had to clean up the COVID-created data havoc that resulted from many pantries temporarily (or permanently) closing. This would require a very manual process of verifying every pantry’s information, and then repeating it every six months going forward, to help assure that a gardener (or a hungry person) seeking a food pantry would have up-to-date information.

We selected a nonprofit called National Telecommuting Institute that hires people with severe disabilities for work-at-home jobs.  We created the scripts and the decision trees, they assembled the data collection software, found the people to do the actual pantry outreach, and then NTI and worked together to train them. The team assembled by NTI did an amazing job. We have since learned that because of this project, several of them now have permanent jobs, and we wish them all great success in them.

I’ve been adamant since day one about sticking to our mission, and have fought “mission creep” countless times. However, while remaining focused on our mission, has never lost sight of the greater good it could be doing as part of its day-to-day operational needs.

Being a small nonprofit does not mean that this extra “good” won’t make a difference, because it’s the example you set for others that will greatly magnify the ultimate impact.

I strongly encourage all nonprofits to make a best effort to find ways to do more good when doing the good they do.

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