Philabundance’s Bill Clark: 3 Key Takeaways on Running Camp Out for Hunger
Every year after Thanksgiving, Preston Elliott and Steve Morrison, co-hosts of the popular WMMR radio show Preston & Steve, leave behind the comforts of home to camp out for a few days in a parking lot, all in the name of hunger relief.
For the past 14 years, the pair have partnered with Philabundance. Earlier this month, their collection effort, a logistical juggernaut called Camp Out for Hunger, totalled 313 tons of food — roughly the weight of five dozen elephants — and netted more than $100,000.
Camp Out for Hunger is Philabundance’s largest food drive and helps to stock the warehouses, pantries, and community food banks that feed 65,000 people every week.
To find out how they make it happen, we asked Bill Clark, the executive director of Philabundance, for the secrets behind Camp Out for Hunger’s success. The following are his top takeaways.
1. Make it fifty-fifty The long-term collaboration between WMMR and Philabundance is built on a foundation of mutual respect and understanding. It may seem obvious, but when it comes to partnerships, keeping it equal is a good rule of thumb.
“You have to go into this event, or any kind of partnership, as equals,” emphasized Clark. “You can’t be passive about your involvement. Bring every ounce of your expertise to the table.”
For a large-scale event like Camp Out for Hunger, the logistics are a huge piece of the puzzle and require “tons and tons” of planning. “People don’t realize just how complicated it is,” said Clark.
After more than a decade, Camp Out for Hunger runs smoothly, but it took some time to iron out the kinks. Staff from both organizations have before-and-after meetings, and significant resources, including a dozen Philabundance staff members, are devoted to the event.
“When you’re doing it for the first time, it’s like a disaster response,” acknowledged Clark. “If you don’t have staff that have experience doing [large] events, it would be well worth your while to hire someone to help.”
2. Leverage it One of the key benefits for Philabundance and WMMR is the chance to reach new audiences, so they make it count.
“Camp Out for Hunger happens for us at a really good time,” said Clark. “We’re cross-merchandising it on our websites, we’re doing email blasts to our supporters, and we’re doing social media.”
For the entire week, the Preston & Steve show is broadcast from an on-site tent. Philabundance keeps track of everyone who goes on-air, ensuring that donations are acknowledged and potential partners are cultivated.
This year, for example, after celebrity chef Robert Irvine pledged $10,000, Judd Apatow upped the ante by pledging $10,001.
“No one really expected Judd to make a contribution,” explained Clark. “I think he got swept up in the enthusiasm.”
That enthusiasm drives much of the five-day event, and at any given time, roughly 400 volunteers, fans, and onlookers are mulling around the makeshift campsite, which is also a suburban shopping center.
3. Have fun Camp Out for Hunger may be a lot of work, but it’s also a genuine, around-the-clock good time. While there are many reasons that the long-running event is a success, the fact that it’s fun can’t be underestimated.
“You want everyone to have a win-win-win and a great time. It has a real party atmosphere,” said Clark.
More than 30 performers, celebrities, and sports figures take to the tent during Camp Out for Hunger, and while hunger relief is a serious issue, solving it doesn’t have to be.
“Hunger is a community-wide problem,” added Clark. “There’s no zip code, no ethnic group not affected by it. The only way we’re going to deal with it is through a community-wide response.”