A little over 3 years ago, Second Harvest Food Bank created a Partner Agency Council.
The purpose of the Council was to have a key group of partner agencies meet monthly, and be able to think strategically about things happening in the food bank and related to the other partner agencies.
Early on, we consulted our partner agencies for advice on the design of our new facility and got such good ideas that we wanted to expand it to all aspects of our operations!
We started with a group of 12 agencies that represented all 6 counties that we serve, and currently have over 20 partner agencies from all 6 counties. Our agency members vary considerably – they are large and small, paid staff and volunteers. They include food pantries, soup kitchens, residential programs, and school pantries. We seek a variety of agencies so that they can represent the network as a whole.
Council members have to be willing to talk about other topics besides what may be pertinent in their own nonprofit and to think of the larger picture. The meeting agenda always includes an open forum where members can raise any issues they have with SHFB (good things too!!). Any topic is fair game – the only rule is if you identify a problem or concern you have to offer a proposed solution or action to the group!
By having these guidelines, we’ve found that there is more sense of ownership with the Council members, and they want to help fix problems that may be affecting the other partner agencies in the network.
Some things that we’ve worked on with the Council include improving the way the Agency Mart boxes are distributed, creating a Partner Network Website, reviewing and improving the annual Partner Agency Survey, designing the Agency Benefit Program, and helping to structure our first Partner Agency Conference. The Council is a wonderful resource that we can use any time we have questions on how things are being run, as we have a group that we know are willing to answer questions and help in a non-biased way.
Second Harvest staff and Board members also participate in the Council. Jim Schreiber, immediate past-Chairman of the SHFB Board of Directors, participates regularly and says “Working with the Council has given me a much deeper understanding of the challenges our partner agencies face and the ways in which SHFB can help to strengthen and grow their capabilities.” Our Chief Operating Officer, Bill Collins, is also a regular and says ““Face time with the Agencies is always fun and productive”
It has been a great pleasure working with the council for the past 3 years, and we look forward to more great things we can work to develop together!