The Continued Success of Our Markets Depends on Customers like You
Dear Market Customers,
We are the eight volunteer board members of Neighborhood Roots, the organization that runs the Fulton, Kingfield, and Nokomis Farmers’ Markets in South Minneapolis. Like everyone else, the COVID-19 pandemic has touched our lives in small and profound ways. Our hearts go out to people who have become ill or lost loved ones to this disease, as well as those who have lost jobs, income, or entire businesses in the last several months. As we figure out how to operate our markets safely in this new landscape, we have also been grappling with how to ensure that our markets remain financially solvent. We are writing to you, our customers, at this extraordinary time because without your financial support, our markets may not be able to survive beyond this season.
You may be wondering why the stall fees we charge vendors are not sufficient to fund our market operations. The answer is simple: we take our commitment to farmers and other vendors seriously, and we know that raising stall fees significantly above what we currently charge would price out many of the vendors our customers have come to know and love. As a result, vendor stall fees make up only about half of our operating expenses. In addition, we will be reducing the number of vendors at our summer markets in order follow social distancing requirements and keep everyone safe, which will reduce the amount of our stall fee revenue even further.
You may also be wondering why we don’t simply reduce our expenses. The reality is that we have a shoestring budget given our reach and impact. Neighborhood Roots operates a total of 68 unique markets each year, rain or shine, from May to October, three days a week, in three different locations on an annual budget of just $120,000, but which generates over $2 million annually in financial transactions. Operating markets at this frequency and quality is not only labor intensive; it is highly skilled work that volunteers alone would not be able to perform.
While it may seem that vendors just show up and sell their goods, the reality is that our markets could not function without our two outstanding full-time staff, Emily Lund and Sarah Woutat. Emily, our Executive Director, oversees our budget and finances, marketing, community partnerships and strategic planning with other markets and government agencies that regulate our markets. Sarah, our market manager, oversees day-to-day operations at markets in addition to recruiting, selecting, and supporting our vendors year-round. As COVID-19 hit Minnesota, Emily and Sarah worked quickly and creatively to prepare our markets for our new reality, transforming our last winter market into pre-order only and supporting numerous vendors in setting up online ordering systems for the first time. A donation to Neighborhood Roots is an investment in our ability to retain Emily and Sarah and to provide them the compensation they deserve.
Finally, you may be wondering why business sponsorships can’t close our funding gap. Although our organization does not profit from market sales, we don’t qualify as a 501c3 non-profit because we are classified as a social welfare organization. As a result, we are a 501c4, and many large businesses do not consider us for their charitable giving programs because their donations to us may not be tax deductible. In addition, our scaled back markets and a struggling economy have put some of our expected sponsorships in jeopardy, so individual donations from customers like you are essential to helping us make up the difference.
Customers like you know the value our markets create for everyone involved, and we are counting on you to help us get through what is likely to be the most challenging year in our existence. We are asking our staff and vendors to adapt and innovate like never before, and we are asking you, our customers, to do your part as well. Our goal is to close our funding gap by raising $15,000 in individual donations by July 1. To donate, please visit www.neighborhoodroots.org/donate or talk to one of the staff or volunteers at the market. You can make a one-time contribution or a monthly recurring contribution, which gives us a stable, year-round funding source.
We hope that you will continue supporting our markets in this challenging time, not only as a customer, but as a recurring contributor. This pandemic has helped all of us refocus on what is truly important in our lives, and we hope that you will recognize the importance of the Fulton, Kingfield, or Nokomis markets, our vendors, and our staff in your life by making a contribution today.
Neighborhood Roots Board of Directors