SAFSF has helped convene or been an advisor to many regional food funder networks over the years and been some prosper while others struggled to find their footing. This five-part series on Building Effective Regional Food Funder Networks will provide a venue for learning, sharing best practices, and discussing new resources that can help ensure your food funder network makes a difference in your region and, as part of a network of regional groups, contributes to systemic change on a national level as well. Register for the whole series for $100 or individual sessions for $25 each.
As every region and network is different, there is no one way or best practice that is going to apply to everyone.
Rather than have so-called “experts” speak during these workshops, we will kick off each conversation with a brief sharing from a funder or network with an instructive perspective on the topic at hand as a starting point for conversation. Our goal is to facilitate a semi-structured opportunity for all participants to share their experiences and, as a group, look for opportunities to develop shared resources and “workshop” approaches that increase the effectiveness of individual networks, while strengthening connections between regional networks for greater impact across the nation.
August 11: Part 1 – Network Structure and Purpose
A clear understanding of the scope of work and the goals funders have for coming together is critical in order to measure progress and determine if your network’s efforts are successful. In this session, we’ll discuss different ways to structure and staff regional food funder networks, what kinds of gaps and needs networks often seek to address, and look at various outcomes achieved by regional groups. Conversation kick-off: Virginia Clarke, executive director of SAFSF.
September 22: Part 2 – Network Partnerships (note date change)
A regional food funder network is just one element of any regional food system. In this session, we’ll look at co-programming with regional associations of grantmakers, councils of governments and state/regional agencies to engage new funders and open new paths for leveraging philanthropic dollars. We’ll also look at strengthening regional cooperation through connections with food policy councils, food system networks, sustainable agriculture coalitions and others. Conversation kick-off: Carol Pickering, Dietel & Partners, co-chair of the Food and Agriculture Systems Working Group of the Appalachia Funders Network.
October 21: Part 3 – Meaningful Meetings (note date change)
Meetings are important venues for building relationships. Meetings should also help move funders in a regional group toward their overall goals for collaboration. In this session, we’ll talk about identifying relevant and timely topics, balancing internal and external speakers and ensuring valuable takeaways from meetings. We’ll also talk about meeting frequency and how to engage participants to keep energy and enthusiasm high. Conversation kick-off: Adam Liebowitz, North Star Fund, director of Community Food Funders in New York.
November 10: Part 4 – Regional-National Policy Connections
Food funders often find themselves stepping into the breach between federal policies and funding, and the capacity to implement those policies or distribute that funding at the local and regional level. In this session, we will address the roles regionally organized funders can play in helping to align regional and federal policy priorities so philanthropic dollars can be more effectively and equitably leveraged in communities. Conversation kick-off: Andrew McElwaine, Heinz Endowments, co-convener of Pennsylvania funder group organizing for 2023 Farm Bill advocacy.
December 14: Part 5 – Network Outreach
Let other funders know what you are doing and invite them to engage with your network through strategic outreach. In this session, we’ll examine how to use meetings and programs as outreach tools, how to keep those in the network informed and in touch with each other, ways to share your food system learnings with others in philanthropy, and how to interact with media to bring wider attention to critical regional food issues. Conservation kick-off: Karen Lehman, director of Fresh Taste in Chicago.