The fifth step in the start-up phase of food council development is to secure the resources, financial and in-kind support that the council will need to thrive.
Why does this matter?
The amount of support a food council or network will need depends on the functions and structure of the council. For example, if the council’s key functions are restricted to information sharing, advocacy, and policy work, the resources it needs are less than a council that takes on programming or education. If the council has fiscal sponsors, it might not need to formally incorporate, reducing cost and the ongoing administrative burden.
What does the process look like?
The organizing group does not need to have every possible resource secured. The group begins by reflecting on the functions the council will perform. Given these functions, the group identifies the types of expenses the council might have and brainstorms all the ways in which the council might cover those expenses.
At a minimum, it should develop an understanding of the resources that the council will need (given its functions and relationship to government) and begin identifying groups that will contribute to the resource pool. Formal memorandums of understanding (MOUs) are appropriate to ensure ongoing support from institutions and organizations, although the actual drafting of these may occur in a later stage of council development.
Types of Resources
The group should think about what resources the members themselves may bring to the council, and incorporate those expectations into their member recruitment planning. The group should also target groups who might be interested in providing financial or in-kind support when they solicit feedback on the council charter.
What else should you consider?
For long-term sustainability, a council needs to keep its costs down without compromising its ability to perform its critical functions successfully and efficiently. It is also important to diversify support sources, as the work of the council could be seriously set back if its one source of support is removed.
Thinking in terms of a resource pool could be helpful, providing an opportunity for council members to buy-in by chipping in, while also keeping costs down. In some councils, ability to contribute to the resource pool is a consideration in new member selection.
The diversity of a council – the number of connections it has among its membership – is a vital part of its strength. Tasks that a typical non-profit might need to do, such as develop a blog following, might not need to be done by the food council. Instead, the council can provide content to its members for them to post on their blogs. This type of cost-cutting measure not only streamlines the council’s work, but it also amplifies the work of its members.
Distributing the responsibility for council support across multiple organizations gives the council more resiliency while also cultivating buy-in from the member groups, thus amassing social and political capital for the council.
Tools & Resources
The following tools and resources are helpful when identifying and securing resources for a council.
- Resource list – example
- Doing Food Policy Councils Right–A Guide to Development and Action – Sample Budget – p 40
- Creating Local Food Policy Councils–A Guide for Michigan’s Communities – Sample Budget – p 40-41
- Memorandum of Understanding Template
- Guide to MOU Negotiation and Development