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Around the Table: A Conversation on Food Security




The Ostara Group has been privileged to work in partnership with several food banks throughout Washington state. At Ostara we believe in the power of bringing community together to face problems shoulder to shoulder with our clients and the sector as a whole. Last month, our team had the opportunity to spend the evening with leaders from six of our food bank clients where we discussed crucial issues faced by our regional food security nonprofits. 

 

Representing a variety of communities in the Puget Sound region, the group honed in on two challenges that were impacting each of them:


  • The inability of local community food banks to compete with the widely publicized narrative that larger, regional organizations in the food security sector are better positioned to utilize donor dollars in a more efficient and impactful way.

  • Food banks continue to struggle to meet the need for services as inflation has outpaced the donation of food and dollars. Food banks work tirelessly to meet the increasing demand for food assistance while trying to navigate the increasing costs of operations and soliciting the necessary funding to ensure their customers have not only nutritious foods, but food that is culturally significant to the diverse populations they serve. 

 

Two countermeasures evolved through our discussion – the impact of consistent messaging to build community and donor awareness, and the importance of having transparent conversations with major funders, private and public, about organizational challenges. 

 

Awareness leads to informed donors. 

Effective marketing campaigns generate awareness among audiences, both new and existing, who have yet to fully understand the breadth of an organization’s work. Creating this level of awareness rquires a coordinated marathon of activities to build interest over time which in turn generates greater engagement. When designing awareness campaigns, ensure that the campaign supports upcoming milestones and leads to new types and levels of participation. Start with coordinated informational posts that educate donors about your mission, pieces that work to build engagement and interest, then culminate with an ask to take action – such as volunteering, formal and/or informal advocacy, and supporting the organization through a donation. 

 

It is a continuous cycle that builds engagement over time. Focus on fostering a deeper understanding of your organization’s mission, initiatives, and the societal issues you are aiming to address and work to cultivate a sense of community and engagement with your audience that encourages active participation.

 

Harness the collective power.

When operating within a sector that has competing narratives, join forces with organizations that share your mission to regain control of the messaging you want your community to hear. There is strength in numbers. By collaborating with other likeminded organizations, you can amplify your message and shape the narrative that best serves your organization and the community.

 

The power of transparency.

Your organization plays an important role in shaping and enhancing the community you serve. The ability and willingness to have transparent conversations with your major funders will enable you to establish a foundation of trust, foster strong relationships with stakeholders, and demonstrate your commitment to making a positive impact. In the nonprofit space, public trust is of utmost importance and transparency is the key to ensuring continued success and support. Be upfront about challenges your organization is facing and invite your funders to join you as a thought partner as you work towards creating the solution. 

 

Our team is grateful to our community of clients and the incredible work they dedicate their time to in service of the communities we live and work in. 

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