Navigating the Rankings

by Larry Herman
Midwest Food Bank

In 2015, Midwest Food Bank ranked among the 10 highest performing charities in the country. How?

Midwest Food Bank was started in 2003 by three brothers on the Keiser family farm in McLean County to gather food and give it away to nonprofit agencies “free of charge.” The purpose: to help feed people suffering hardship and support agencies doing meaningful work. The passion: willingly serve them. The path: act with pure intent and efficiency. These building blocks of pure intent, purpose, passion and service laid Midwest Food Bank’s strong foundation. Since 2003, the reach of the organization has grown, yet those foundational blocks remain constant.

Mission-Minded Service
Operating six divisions in the U.S. (with another underway) and one international division in Kenya, Africa, Midwest Food Bank processed more than $100 million in food support for over 1,100 nonprofit organizations in 2015. In doing so, it feeds more than 800,000 people struggling with hunger each month.

Uniquely, Midwest Food Bank’s top executives work full-time for free—including the CEO. Each year, more than 11,000 volunteers gift over 132,000 hours to assist with the day-to-day operations of managing more than 1,500 semi-loads of food. Talented, professional, mission-minded employees are fulfilled with the meaningful work, rather than the wage they deserve. They joyfully lead to help those in need. Adherence to this model results in administrative costs of 0.05 percent and fundraising costs of 0.01 percent, which allows Midwest Food Bank to devote 99 percent of its support to programs and services.

As an organization, Midwest Food Bank recognizes the blessings of each person’s abilities, and seizes every moment to capture their sphere of influence. Retired or employed. All ages. All ranks. All faiths. All abilities. Anyone who shares in the joy of serving is valued. God values all. So do we.

Navigating the Charities
Charity Navigator is a national service dedicated to helping individual givers navigate a crowded marketplace by evaluating more than 4,000 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organizations. This includes charities of all types, in all regions of the country, whose work impacts all corners of the globe. The nonprofit organizations evaluated by Charity Navigator depend on public support, not government support.

According to Charity Navigator, Midwest Food Bank excels in its three metrics: financial, accountability and transparency, and results—earning the highest four-star rating for financial health (99.4%) and accountability and transparency (100%). This is achieved by adhering to good governance and other best practices that minimize the chance of unethical activities, and executing its mission of alleviating hunger and poverty in a fiscally responsible way. Midwest Food Bank received an overall combined score of 99.94 percent and a No. 2 ranking among the listed “top 10 top-notch charities” and “highly-rated charities” in the nation.

Being among the highest-rated privately-funded nonprofits in the country was never the goal—it was an unexpected blessing. Apple CEO Tim Cook was recently asked, “How did Apple stores reach the highest retail sales per square foot in the U.S.A.?” He responded, “This was not the goal, but simply a fruit or byproduct of how we looked at the customer and their experience. It had to be the best.” Likewise, Midwest Food Bank was shocked at the ranking, which we attribute to the fruit of our passion and efforts to serve in uninhibited fashion.

Everyday Servants
Midwest Food Bank faces many challenges ahead as food insecurity in America increases. The organization continually juggles to balance three key resources: volunteers, food donations and financial contributions. In business, these would be managed for corporate profit. By contrast, Midwest Food Bank maximizes every investment with efficiency, allowing able hearts to support, serve and pray to transfer the “profit” to the communities we serve.

On my desk rest five mottos or thoughts of simple leadership: Give God the Glory. Bet on Leadership. Act as One. Win the Hearts. Excel at Execution. Our servant leadership, servant staff and servant volunteers carry these out every day. Midwest Food Bank will continue to honor and value the weak in society and alleviate their circumstances as they strive and hope for a better tomorrow.

Thank you for reading about the goodness in our community. Midwest Food Bank is never surprised by what God can do. We don’t touch the glory—it is all His. His ranking of our work, intent and spirit are the pinnacle of our values. Come visit us for lunch—taste and see what is playing in Peoria! iBi

Larry Herman is Vice President of Midwest Food Bank. He can be reached at lherman@midwestfoodbank.org or by calling (309) 208-1333. For more information, visit peoria.midwestfoodbank.org.

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