Accelerating a Philanthropist’s Impact


April 2020. The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated Maine’s food insecurity crisis. Restaurants were closing. People were losing jobs. Others were going hungry. Ellie Linen Low, philanthropist and social justice activist, had a desire to help them all. She started by enlisting a few other volunteers, emailing 50 families, close friends and neighbors, explaining her idea to pay restaurants to produce meals and distribute them to people in need. She raised $50,000 in short order, enabling her and a small team to launch Cooking for Community with two restaurants and three social service agencies as initial partners. But she wanted to do so much more.


To realize her vision, Ellie enlisted Randi Hogan to work with her to create and expand the scope and reach of Cooking for Community. Working quickly in the midst of a growing crisis, Randi outlined a strategic fundraising approach to match Ellie’s goals, mapping out an organizational growth plan with proposed expansion phases to meet those goals. She initiated and managed relationships with leading foundations and businesses, many of which were not previously open to new grantees and connected the team with influential leaders. Despite rapidly evolving internal and external environments, Randi ensured that the working team was bolstered with core operational capacity, including cost-effective investments in data management and communications, financial management, and governance best practices.


Ellie’s initial fundraising from friends and neighbors was leveraged ten-fold. In eight months, Cooking for Community raised over $900,000, partnered with 17 restaurants and 16 social service agencies across multiple regions in Maine, and delivered 75,000 hearty, nutritious meals, meeting and exceeding everyone’s goals.

Created just months prior, the organization was heralded as an innovative model for addressing food insecurity, showcased for its positive economic impact in the state, featured by multiple media outlets, and profiled by leading philanthropies including John T. Gorman Foundation and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation.

“Randi immediately won my trust with her nimble, skillful action that propelled us forward. Cooking for Community could not have achieved such an incredible impact without Randi’s strategic guidance, expert advice and direct work from day one. She laid out a clear philanthropic plan in support of our vision and bolstered our confidence in our ability to succeed, all of which catapulted our initial ideas to the next level.”

— Ellie Linen Low, Cooking for Community founder and organizer


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