Donor Relations in Kitsap County

Kitsap County is a sprawling community seated in the shadow of Seattle. Because of this it can be difficult to retain a unique identity and to find local resources. Small-scale farms compete with the growing market trends on and off the peninsula. But Kitsap farms have held on to their rustic character that only time can encapsulate. Because of these sometimes hidden attributes, emphasis is put on forming sustainable relationships. Gleaning programs rely on donors and funders to make their work impressionable and feasible. It’s a good idea to meet with donors and stakeholders regularly to ensure the scope of work aligns with the project. This is why Kitsap Harvest facilitates stakeholder meetings with the focus to stay on track. Donor relations are about outreach, communication, engagement, and appreciation. This multi-faceted approach is key for a healthy and lasting relationship.

When it comes to outreach, the first things to consider are best resources and who’s most likely to respond. This is why it’s important to get involved in the community and start making friends. Farmer’s markets are an excellent place to begin and market managers will have a good idea of which farmers to approach first. There may be other gleaning groups or non-profit gardens in the area with which to connect or bounce ideas. Ask for a tour of a garden or food bank in order to properly learn their system and become a familiar face. It’s also recommended to volunteer your own time at these places; you never know who you’ll run into and what you’ll learn. Master Gardeners are another useful resource as their program is built on volunteers eager to provide information or lend a helping hand. Visit your local Extension Office for more information.

Engaging the right audience comes down to identifying who is doing similar work. Reinventing the wheel won’t help the community nearly as much as strengthening an already established program or concentrating on clarifying what your area needs most. Below are the key aspects of donor relations.

  • Face time is better than a phone call
  • Create an elevator speech to appear confident and prepared
  • Learn from the other happenings around you
  • Ask people who have lived in the area a long time
  • Keep your eyes open for local events and commit to introducing yourself to a couple people you meet there
  • Cold calls can’t hurt and you’ll always learn something new
  • Think outside the box with the idea of connecting groups
  • Research why gleaning groups around the country are successful
  • Support the donors’ programs
  • Keep your public information updated and accessible
  • Anticipate a donor’s questions and concern.

Donor communication is similar to volunteer communication in that identifying your audience goes a long way. Donors appreciate a clear understanding that you’re working together for the same cause. It’s also important for clear understanding when gleaning from a private residency. Even though the food is donated, the best selection is ideal and this gets tricky when the source is unknown. A good model is to elect a scout to survey the produce first. If the produce isn’t up to food bank quality, a local farmer may be interested for his/her animals instead. Lastly, be appreciative and give credit where credit is due.

Kitsap Public Health District in conjunction with Rotary First Harvest is hosting an AmeriCorps VISTA to coordinate the food recovery efforts throughout Kitsap County. The mission is to create a sustainable, community-based system of broadening food security and alleviating food waste. The objective is achieved by recovering unsalable produce while increasing the amount of fresh and local produce in the eight food banks in the area. The work is done through two farmer’s markets, residential donations, outreach in the community, food banks, and in Kitsap Public Health’s new community garden.

April 2016 launched the program with the arrival of the first AmeriCorps VISTA. Overall the aim is to develop a county-wide gleaning program with the purpose of becoming a permanent volunteer based entity after the three year allotment with AmeriCorps. Identifying and strengthening relationships with local growers, food banks, farmer’s markets, volunteers and the community at large is at the heart of the program. Lastly, the coordination of volunteer based gleaning activities. Kitsap Harvest has the support of the Bremerton Farmer’s Market and WSU Extension. A recent partnership with the non-profit Seeds of Grace resulted in Kitsap Harvest supporting a community garden in which produce will be delivered straight to food banks and will engage the community of all ages.

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