As a not-for-profit service organization, Kin Canada is exposed to many stories of human compassion and service. We are lucky to be constant witness to stories of friendship and generosity that come from within our organization and from those we have the pleasure of partnering with or simply existing alongside.
And when the holiday season is approaching, food security is one of the issues that’s squarely on our minds.
We recently had the pleasure of welcoming the Executive Director of the Barrie Food Bank into our midst to talk about the overwhelming shift seen within the organization in the last few years. He shared with us inspiring stories of a food bank client turned millionaire donor and a complete turnaround in community engagement that has resulted in a 50 per cent boon to the organization’s donations.
So what can we learn from this growth? Here are five shared values that have driven much of what we do here at Kin Canada as well as helped the Barrie Food Bank become one of the most lauded and engaged with charities in its community.
Negative things happen every day, and this we cannot control. In fact, we are often, in some way, rooted in these negative things if what we do is born out of the need to counter them. But it’s a fine balance between trying to reconcile this negativity and not getting caught up in its implications. At the Barrie Food Bank, there reigns a notion of “possibility thinking”, where every effort is made to uplift in the face of daunting challenges and focus on what can be—to see the unique possibility in every person and to help them see it too. Positivity is a great motivator, and it is an incredibly active, often challenging thing to keep that at the centre of what you do.
Foster intentional creativity
The Barrie Food Bank has engaged in some incredibly creative fundraising and brand awareness events within the past few years, and all with a specific purpose. In 2013 they raised $20,000 at a 12 Ladies in a Tent fundraiser by having a group of 12 ladies pull a GO train more than 70 feet in one minute. The point? To empower a community of strong women (literal strength effectively symbolizing all kinds of strength) to band together against food insecurity.
Engage those whom you exist to serve
In order to evaluate the effectiveness of service work, you must strive to understand, as best you can, the challenges that necessitate it. This means having real and continued interactions with those whom your service is intended to support. At the Barrie Food Bank, the Executive Director personally greets clients and asks for their input on how the organization can better serve their needs. It’s important to make people part of the conversation and to make the issues surfaced within those conversations, individually and undoubtedly, the reason why you come to work every day.
Re-evaluate your resources
Resources can be so much more than the fiscal limitations we often feel bound by. Your community can be your most effective resource, and once you tap into it, it will likely keep on giving. Once the local news station decides to broadcast from your location, as it did with the Barrie Food Bank, people will, hopefully, better understand the need and come together accordingly. So foster connections tirelessly and take every opportunity to connect. Tell people what you are doing and set specific parameters for assistance. Find and engage the many people seeking to do good work, and they will feed your organization.
Find your Kin
Recognize that you don’t have to do it alone. When you exist to serve a need like food security, it becomes impossible to ignore the other needs bound up in that. In fact, the Barrie Food Bank recognizes four areas of need that are important to them and intrinsic to their efforts: food security, homelessness, youth homelessness and affordable housing. But, recognizing their strengths and limitations, they know it’s not possible, nor effective, for them to target all four. So their focus is 100 per cent on food security and they partner, in some way, with over 50 other organizations that are more equipped to tackle the additional areas. If the possibilities they see for someone require support they cannot provide, they will make every effort to connect that person with someone who can help.
By recognizing shared roots and motivations and partnering with people of likeminded compassion you can get a better, more holistic picture of where needs intersect and where you can most efficiently serve. And this can help alleviate the disheartening, and often distracting mentality that you need to do it all.
Many hands make light work, but many hands can make light(er) hearts, too.