August has been a tremendously busy month! The Boarding Axe Kitchen, Inc. was officially incorporated on the 1st as a Vermont Domestic Non-Profit organization. That was certainly a scary but necessary first step. Has it been an overwhelming month? Sure, but one that I am proud of. I still like to look at our Articles of Incorporation and say “Wow, we did that, that’s us!” with the same reverence a college diploma might muster. I even added a picture of it below so everyone else can be just as excited as I am.
What was once a directionless and half assed food blog has officially made the jump to becoming a real life non-profit, now with an actual mission that we are legally bound to labor towards.
Non-Profit Mission: To combat, offset and heal the effects of hunger and food insecurity
That is our mission in short. In long, we function as a food shelf adjunct to support the operations of food shelves, pantries and soup kitchens that serve Vermont. We plan on doing that through fundraising and focused donations of goods and supplies to food distribution centers in order to help them meet the needs of the communities that they serve. The most immediate way we can work towards our mission is to support access to food. Our long term goals also include a multi-pronged approach to address some of the socioeconomic factors that contribute to hunger, poverty and food insecurity.
Eventually it would be nice to establish a scholarship fund to assist with secondary and trade education, as well as conducting job skills training workshops. But those are dreams for the future, and I don’t want us to get ahead of ourselves.
That is the ‘what‘ we are, but not the ‘why‘ we are. The name and the attitude come from a deep seated frustration from hearing many, many complaints of what is wrong with the world and what the problem with today’s society is. Social media certainly feels like it is full of more people that just want to point a finger at a problem than people who actually want to help fix a problem. The Boarding Axe Project is where we are ‘putting our money where our mouth is‘ both figuratively and literally. The MAP THE GAP survey conducted by Feeding America found that 1 in 11 Vermonters experience hunger and food insecurity, and that number is 1 in 10 specifically for children.
Sure, there are alot of other worthy causes and issues. We still have our share of problems with inequality, homelessness, substance abuse, mental health, healthcare in general, poverty, and whatever else that I am forgetting. Addressing all of that is a monumental and enigmatic task that is multifaceted and frankly, I am just not smart enough to do it. However, I love cooking. I am enthralled by the ‘art’ of the culinary arts. Food is one of my few remaining joys in this life. So, if there were an issue that I could passionately and whole heartedly try to ease the suffering of, then I just might be able to make a difference in fighting hunger and food insecurity.
So, the Boarding Axe Project is the mission of the non-profit. The non-profit is a big, throbbing, veiny, middle finger to the verbal pugilism of all of the proselytizer’s pontification that ends just shy of actually helping. Why fix a problem when you can feel just as good bitching about it? Should I hit the lottery, we will be taking this show on the road with a food truck and run a mobile soup kitchen bringing food straight to where it is most in need. A punk, counter culter, soup kitchen with attitude.
I would scream at the top of my lungs if I thought it would help. Unfortunately, no one would listen anyway. I can be prone to hyperfixations and tangents anyway, so the structure of a non-profit works out in the end. I am the Executive Director, I work with a Board of Directors and that creates a system of checks and balances that will hopefully keep my from going mad with power. Enough rambling, back on track now.
What we did in August-
- File Articles of Incorporation with the State of Vermont
- Recieved Federal EIN number
- Created the initial draft bylaws
- Placed a deposit to reserve our seat for a fundraiser in September
- Established and reincarnated too many social media and email accounts
- Recruited additional board members
- Began volunteer orientation
- Scheduled our first board meeting
- Set-up brokerage and point-of-sale system accounts
- Drafted a battle plan for the rest of 2023 to keep us focused on working towards our mission
That was alot. It was a real struggle for everyone to balance volunteering our time and still keeping up with our bill paying jobs. On top of all of that, there is still alot of work left to do. See, we are incorporated as a non-profit in the state of Vermont. We still need to file for 501(c)3 status federally and go through that six month application process. We have 27 months to do that in, but grants are pretty much off limits until we have been awarded 501(c)3 status. Functionally it doesn’t matter because Vermont holds us to that standard but for grant applications, and tax designations it is important.
2023 Battle Plan
We got a late start in the year. August flew by and we still haven’t even had our first fundraising event yet. Currently we are scheduled to have on at the end of September where we will have a booth at a Fall festival, and another one for the same organization that also hosts a December Winter festival. Which is fine because we are limited in the amount of food service we can provide without a commisary kitchen and catering license. Non-profits have very limited exemptions that will allow us to have an occaisional bake sale, which is what we have planned.
Fingers crossed those two fundraisers will give us enough funds to start working towards our actual mission objectives. I would consider it a success if we were able to have at least three distributions for the 2023 calendar year. One, we plan on supplementing a local giving tree charity with food cards to the local grocery store. This is run by a different non-profit that identifies needy families and children for holiday gift donations. Being able to include at least four $25 gift cards to sponsored families would be considered a success. This would be planned distribution number one for December.
We plan on sending a survey to several of the closest food pantrys to see if we can determine which ones have the greatest number of individuals served with dietary restrictions. The survey results would help guide the purchase and delivery of food items that meet the special dietary and allergy needs of that specific food shelf at that specific time. After a discussion with the board, we felt that due to the likely limited amount of funds we may have, and how little time is left in the year that we would have the greatest impact for the least amount of money by targeting special dietary and allergy needs. Success here would be at least two distributions of survey driven allergy friendly food items to meet the specific needs of the individual pantry.
Those are the bare minimum goals. We feel that they are achievable and we would be humbled and overjoyed to be able to contribute at least that. We can probably make that happen if our bake sales could make a little over $300.00 combined. If we raise more funds then we need to consider setting aside funds for the next event opportunity and establishing a pool of operating funds. We have angel contributors that will fund these initial bake sales so making enough money to pay for future fundraising activites will be an important step to our independance and sustainability. We also wish to begin investing. None of us would dare gamble with trying to ‘play’ the stock market with non-profit funds, but it would be a blessing if portfolio dividends could fund operating costs and quarterly or monthly food and supply distributions.
On top of that we are blessed with some amazing volunteers. We would love the opportunity to fairly compensate them for their labor and time as well. So each fundraiser will in theory;
- Pay for itself
- Fund mission specific activities (most important)
- Contribute to operating funds
- Contribute to investing (least important)
Why so small?
I understand that these goals are small. I would like to think of them more as minimums. The more distributions and food cards we can get into the hands of those that need it, the better. Also, we are just rushed and are excitedly trying to get something on the table that shows we are in fact working towards our mission. We got a late start in the year and even though everyone involved is passionate and driven towards our success, things take time. This article for example took multiple hours to put together. I spent about about 90 minutes on just pounding out a rough draft until about 2:30AM, then revisited it at Noon again the next day and because I was really rambling at some points I had to come back a third time to proof read and address SEO stuff with internal and external links. Then I finally hit publish.
Our wheels have only just started to turn and we haven’t really found traction just yet. I want to keep our goals achievable and realistic. They will expand as we gain experience with time. Looking forward into September also tells me that we really need to be planning out our battle plan for the first quarter of 2024 now. We jumped in with both feet on August 1st and 2024 really begins the time period of operations where we will have had time to develop and execute a thought out strategy. 2023 is our trial by error, seat of our pants period.
Also, the elephant in the room is the federal 501(c)3 status. We have some more work fine tuning and tailoring our bylaws and we still want to expand our board without growing too cumbersome. Corporate compliance and policy development takes longer than I ever thought humanly possible. It is my goal to submit our 501(c)3 application during the 2023 calendar year. Right now we are discussing things like ‘are we a private foundation or public charity’. ‘1023 or 1023EZ’, ‘how to handle our first tax year knowing that we won’t have a 501 designation yet’? It just takes time.
It is such a weird place to be, because we are a Vermont non-profit, but federally we aren’t considered a non-profit just yet.
Even though we are all super pumped about what we are doing, we also know that some of these things we can’t rush. So as the wheel slowly but surely turns, all I can promise is transparency. I promise not to infodump and ramble on too much even though there is soo much that I want to share!
Looking Ahead to September
September brings us to our first fundraiser on the 23rd! Our scheduled appearances are on our calendar HERE. We hope that Poultney’s Fall Fest is a great success for everyone. It will be a great opportunity for us to talk to some people and show the public what our mission is and what we do.
We also plan on;
- Exploring payroll and accounting options
- Establish a business checking account
- Expanding social media greatly. I want a rough schedule of what content we are producing and on what platforms.
- Feeding America’s 30 miles in 30 days
- We have more work to do on Patreon. It exists, but we haven’t pushed it out yet because it isn’t ready. We really want to have our idea of community supported giving polished before we start. It will allow us to give contributors a voice and help drive our direction. We intend to be a statewide adjunct and not just the small area closest to us.
- Consistency in content production will allow us to consider options such as ad placement on our website. We hope to someday qualify for programs like YouTube partnership, or the TikTok creators fund that would allow us to raise money through content production without soliciting donations. I know achieving this in September isn’t realistic but we can be working towards those end goals.
- Once we have concluded our bake sale at the Fall Fest we will be able to plan the October Food Shelf Surveys and allergen safe food donations. If the bake sale is a success we also might get distributions going into November.
WCAX article “Food Banks Look to Expand Options for those with Allergies”
The above article is the inspiration for our targeting distributions because of the identified need. The article listens to a non-proft food shelf in Essex where almost a quarter of those served had special dietary and medical needs.
This was a lot. A barely contained info dump of our hectic first month. The plan is to continue with our website in the following manner;
- Captains Logs- monthly updates that explicitly address the previous month’s achievements and look at the next month’s goals.
- Recipes- We started as a half-assed food blog and I hope that never goes away. We share recipes just to share, so enjoy them, make them, tweak them, it does not matter. Just love the food and love those around you.
- Blog- The blog will be more focused on more in-depth content regarding our activities. It will often tie in our calendar to show our appearances as well.
In the mean time, watch our socials and grow with us!