How to Get Local Agencies to Donate Food for a Food Pantry

Donations are vital to the success of any charity, and for an organization like a food pantry, having a constant supply of food and goods to distribute to people in need is key to its operation. By soliciting as many local businesses and groups as possible, and including the key benefits to them of a food pantry donation, you should be able to generate significant donations. However, remember that the businesses you approach are already busy and likely to forget your request, so it is your job to be memorable and persistent enough to obtain the donation.

Write a general letter that can be mailed or emailed to all the local businesses and agencies in your area. Include key information like how many people the food pantry serves, how many people in your community are underfed, and how long the food pantry has been operating. Emphasize the fact that the pantry is also a local fixture, and that donating to it will generate positive public relations for the business among members of the community. Offer to display a thank you to the business for its generous donation that can be seen by volunteers and visitors to the food shelf.

Minimize the work that the business has to do. Include pre-formulated plans that each business or group can follow to generate sizeable donations with little to no work from the leading business officers. Mention that your food pantry will deliver marked bins to the business for an employee food drive, and that the pantry will pick up the goods at the end of the drive. Not only does this require very little work from the business, it is also free of cost to their overhead. Most employees are very willing to participate in a food drive, and most businesses are also willing to facilitate the event when they see the public relations benefits they can receive at such a low cost. If your organization has nonprofit status and donations are tax deductible, be sure to include this information in your initial letter.

Target the right audience. Focus on businesses with local clientele, and send your letter to the individual in charge of charity programs and public relations. Call the agency before you send your letters to find out which name to put on the envelope. Getting your letter into the appropriate hands is a key step in the process. Send as many letters as possible; the cost of postage is relatively low or nonexistent for email, and the more information you send out, the more likely you are to get a positive response. Browse your local phone book for addresses and phone numbers of local businesses, or use the business's website to find contact information. Your local chamber of commerce will usually have a business directory on its website to use as another potential resource.

Follow up your letters with a phone call or a personal visit. If you do not receive a response from the business, call or visit within two weeks of sending your initial letter. Be friendly and cordial, even if the business is uninterested, and stress that you appreciate their time and look forward to working with them in the future. If you encounter a receptive audience, go over your main selling points: the minimal effort from the business and the positive public relations within the community. Include figures about how many people visit the food shelf each year to emphasize the impact their donation could have.

Once the business agrees to donate food or hold a food drive, give its designated staff person a pre-written flyer about what kinds of items the food pantry needs the most, and what items cannot be accepted. Offer to send them a digital copy of the flyer so they can email it to their employees, and promptly set up the dates and times for delivering and picking up the bins and donations.


  • It may also be useful to offer an option for donating a lump sum to the food pantry. Some businesses will prefer to donate money rather than dealing with actual food, so it is in your best interest to include this option in your original mailing. Let the agency know how many families they could feed with a monetary donation of a certain amount.

    Sometimes it is more effective to set up an initial appointment before you ask for donations. Consider sending out your blanket letter or email with a request to set up a meeting or telephone conference to discuss how your organizations can work together. In this follow-up meeting or phone call you can discuss donation options.

    Make your organization seem as professional as possible by using appropriate email addresses and wearing business attire for any meetings. Obtain an email address that includes the name of your food pantry so companies can see that you are a legitimate organization.