Community Fundraising Tips with Gem's Wholesome Kitchen

Community Fundraising Tips with Gem's Wholesome Kitchen

This year, across Black Friday weekend, we wanted to turn the spotlight on to some amazing causes and people who are making waves in their communities – with a particular focus on education, nutrition, and empowerment, via the Lucy and Yak School Run.

In the past we’ve been lucky enough to work with the incredible Gemma Ogston of Gem’s Wholesome Kitchen, whose work promotes empowerment through nutrition, particularly for those living on limited incomes.

We’re beyond delighted to once again welcome Gem’s expertise, this time on her amazing community fundraising work over at Plant Stories Kitchen. We invited Gemma to share her experience, along with her top tips for anyone wanting to get started on their next grassroots passion project.

Over to you Gem!

Gemma working away in the Plant Stories kitchen; her hair in beautiful braids, and wearing a vibrant floral apron in oranges, reds, pinks, and greens. She is preparing a huge tray of delicious self-serve food. In front of her sit two (equally huge) metal trays of bean stew, ready and waiting to be eaten!

In October this year I felt driven to start a campaign to raise money to feed families who were faced with food poverty and struggling financially. This was driven by the Marcus Rashford campaign and my own personal experiences with food poverty.

Aye Mya OO (my partner at and I got together to discuss what was needed in our community. It didn't take long for us to decide that we should take some time out and cook some free hot lunches for those who needed food, and using social media, shared our idea. We set up a Just Giving Page to go alongside this and in 24 hours raised over £5k. We hoped to raise £500, so this was beyond amazing!

At this point we realised we needed to have a strategy in place and make sure we had a plan. We suddenly went from producing a few hot meals to running a campaign in the matter of days. It was crazy, and a whirlwind, but we remained calm and communicated with our community every step of the way.

Overall, we fed over 150 families! The response to the campaign was mind blowing, it really was the most humbling experience. We knew this was all we could manage in our time frame and kitchen, so since then we have decided to keep this fund going.

Pans of delicious plant-based stews bubble away in Gemma's kitchen. The steam rising from the pots makes you feel like you can almost smell the amazing brews as they reduce to perfection.

Over the past few months, we have planned our Christmas Food Packages in much more detail. We are using the money we raised in October to pay for this campaign and have worked closely with 4 primary schools, Oasis Project (the local women’s drug and alcohol support service), the vulnerable team at the local council, and The Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, who work with many other, similar projects.

We are offering a £20 ALDI voucher that can be redeemed against essential groceries, along with a detailed shopping list on how to make this money go as far as possible to feed a family for a week. We have created wholesome and low-cost recipes for the families to create at home, being mindful that some of these families may only have a microwave to cook with and we will be cooking meals for them to heat at home.

We will be reaching over 200 vulnerable families and have a set plan for deliveries, timings and workload. We can’t wait!

A member of the Plant Stories Kitchen team mans the industrial stove-tops as huge metal pots of delicious, plant-based foods are cooking away. She gazes off to the left, at something out of shot (our money's on a runaway falafel), her jet-black hair neatly swept behind her left ear. There is an enviable selection of spices and ingredients on the countertop to the left of the hobs -- perfect for those little tweaks to heat and flavour.

We have now set up our project as a social enterprise and will be developing this in the new year, continuing to offer food and education to vulnerable families and those on a low income. It’s so important that we continue not only to provide free food parcels, but to also reach out with tips, recipes and budgeting information to help educate in a non-judgmental way.

Like I said, I have lived through this. I grew up in a large family with little money and have first-hand experience of cooking and learning how to budget to feed a family with very little money. I also faced this when my own children were babies. I think it’s incredibly important to be sensitive when running a campaign like this, and to be mindful that families may feel ashamed and embarrassed of circumstances that are beyond their control.

We know that many others in our fabulous Brighton community are also doing similar work across the city, and so we connected with all these other projects to find out where they were sending their food and what their plans were. This is very important, as you don’t want to be sending the same thing to the same people!

We learnt so much while establishing Plant Stories Kitchen, so I want to share a few tips with those of you who might be thinking of setting up your own community fundraiser:

Have a plan.
What exactly do you want to do and why?

If you are going to raise money through a platform such as Just Giving, be mindful that you won’t be able to access the funds for up to a month. If you need money for your project immediately, it’s important to bear this in mind.

Communicate with other projects, especially those that do this sort thing daily.

This is so important!

Reach out and let them know what you are thinking of doing and ask their advice if you need to. Remember they do this day in and day out so will be able to offer great advice to you.

I got in touch with local head teachers, project managers of women’s projects, the local council, and The Brighton & Hove Food Partnership. I first spoke to them personally and then later emailed to follow up on plans and confirm our agreed delivery of service.

Where will the food/money/donations go to?

Make sure you have a detailed plan and have permission to give donations. Things like this can be more complicated with COVID-19, so organise timings and a plan to suit both you and wherever your donation is going.

People are often very generous so may want to donate lots – maybe even more than you are expecting – but you need to have a plan as to where it’s going to go.

Get in touch with any governing bodies you may need to, to seek permission for certain things.

For example, I have written permission from the local Food Safet team to cook and transport my food parcels. This can take time but is essential!

Accept help from friends that want to donate their time, but plan when people will come in.

We literally had so many requests of help that it would have been mayhem if I had said yes to them all! I accepted help from just a few to make sure our working conditions remained safe, calm and most useful and thanked the others for offering.

Raise as much buzz and profile around your project as you can!

Update people who have donated and blog your story somehow, it’s great for people to see what you’ve done with the money you’ve raised!

Be proud of yourself and remember to remain calm and take a break when needed.

Campaigns can really blow up quickly so staying calm and focussed is important, and of course, taking care of yourself is very important too. Our campaign was hugely emotional and there were lots of tears along the way!

Check your local government website for the most recent regulations regarding COVID-19.

Make sure that your campaign is compliant with social distancing guidelines and any limits on numbers for gatherings. These rules can differ from place to place, so if you’re planning anything public-facing, be sure to seek out official advice provided by the governing body of wherever you’re planning your event or donation drive.

And most of all, not that you need it: GOOD LUCK! You’re fabulous.

Please continue to watch our journey over at and if you’d like to donate then please head over to our Just Giving page.

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