Learning to Ask for More

Roadrunner Food Bank—Albuquerque, New Mexico

From its inception, Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque, New Mexico, wasn't instilled with the knowledge of how to ask for help.  

Roadrunner Food Bank in Albuquerque, New Mexico.When food banks began forming in the 1980s, the collective assumption was that they would be entirely supported by the minimal fees paid by partner agencies, and wouldn't need to fundraise.

That belief has long since been dispelled, and Roadrunner Food Bank, among others, must work to support itself.

As the largest food bank in the state of New Mexico, Roadrunner supplies over twenty-six million pounds of food every year to hundreds of agencies throughout the state, including food pantries, soup kitchens, and low-income senior housing sites, and provides programs like their Backpack Program, which supplies food for children who would otherwise go hungry on weekends and holidays, when they don't have access to school-provided meals. Through Roadrunner's network of agencies and programs, the food bank helps to serve 40,000 people every week.

Stephanie Miller, development director, says Roadrunner Food Bank was limited by their yearly budget of only $2 million. Concerned that they wouldn't be able to grow, the Roadrunner team adopted the Benevon Model. Since then, Miller and her team have been learning how to ask for the support they need.

The team's first challenge was to work up the courage to ask people to attend their Points of Entry and Ask Event, which Miller says felt daunting at the time.

Yet the team did learn how to ask people to attend their events. They have held eight consecutive Ask Events, which have grown from 240 people to 400 people, and have raised a collective $2 million.

Their asking efforts are also evident in the 200 people who joined their Multiple-Year Giving Society. But Miller and her team quickly realized that having so many committed donors posed another challenge.

"We had so many people but we didn't know anything about them. The only time of year they heard from us was when we asked them to host a table and we asked them to make their next pledge payment. We learned that we needed to be doing more cultivation. We needed to find out what their hot buttons were, and what inspired them. A lot of these people have amazing stories that explain why they care so much about our work," she says.

Although the Roadrunner team had been making asks, Miller realized they weren't posing enough questions to their donors. She knew that those donors would not move up to higher levels of the Giving Society without additional cultivation. To that end, she has started asking them some questions of her own.

"Can we meet for coffee?" Miller says she is now regularly calling donors to ask.  "I'd like to thank you in person to let you know the impact of your giving."

Miller has also begun to ask more from board members of Roadrunner Food Bank.

"Who do you know on our Multiple-Year Giving Society donor list?" Miller is now asking. "Is there someone you would make an appointment with? Are you comfortable going on a solicitation? Making a solicitation?" 

Board members are responding by helping to actively identify and cultivate donors. One board member attended a Benevon workshop with the Roadrunner team. Miller says he was so inspired that he helped bring Roadrunner to a new level of attendees and money raised at their Ask Event. He was instrumental in growing the event and raising $260,000 from Multiple-Year Giving Society donors.

One of the largest contributions Roadrunner has received came when an individual from a foundation visited the food bank for a Point of Entry tour. The team planned on asking for the $100,000 that foundation had been donating yearly. Miller says their CEO, who was giving the tour, worked up the courage to ask for more.

"All her experience with Benevon helped her get to that point where she heard a voice inside her head say, 'Ask for a million.' So she did," Miller says. "Benevon has given us the confidence to ask for those multiple-year pledges. Relying on the power of individual giving is a much more rewarding, satisfying way to fundraise."


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