Hungry to Help: Every Great Relationship Has A Prequel, and Here Is Ours

October 26, 2015

Kori Reed, Vice President, Cause & ConAgra Foods Foundation

Each week my “housemates” remind me why collaboration is so hard. Whether we are negotiating where to eat or who will pick up after the dogs, my husband and I listen as our four teenage children persuade, negotiate and often battle over whose idea is better, who did it last time or why his or her restaurant choice is the superior one. Knowing that people living under the same roof often can’t agree is why I am amazed when people and groups come together, set their differences aside and unite for the greater good – and even more so when it is a societal good. This is exactly how I describe what I’d call the “prequel” to www.HungerVolunteerConnection.org, the project that led to the largest searchable feed of volunteer listings for hunger-related projects in the U.S., a suite of tools to help organizations engage volunteers in activities that do even more good, and a pilot test of live training sessions in five cities. The premise is that volunteers can be a powerful force to help organizations and nonprofits accomplish even more, grow and nurture solutions and drive substantive change. The goal is to add 500,000 volunteer hours among organizations that want to impact hunger by September 2018, with half of those hours categorized as strategic and resulting in greater impact. After two decades of investing in hunger solutions, ConAgra Foods has learned a lot, including these two things:

  • It takes a village to affect an issue that impacts millions of people; therefore we need to collaborate with others to make a difference.
  • When people become aware of hunger, they want to get involved, but often don’t know where to start.

Working on both fronts, we started talking with those who have an expertise in hunger, those who have an expertise in volunteering and those skilled at civic engagement. Each partner had clear strengths, and we saw the potential of combining the assets of multiple partners to connect volunteers with opportunities and organizations with tools to engage more volunteers. After a year of studying, exploring and planning, we got the partners together and asked the question: Will you each bring your skill sets to the table, and collaborate with us to bring Hunger Volunteer Connection to life? To our good fortune, Points of Light, Taproot Foundation, VolunteerMatch, Cities of Service, Alliance to End Hunger and New York City Coalition Against Hunger all said “Yes!” Just like a family, there was plenty of negotiating and working through differences, and we can proudly say we are all still virtual “housemates” in this collaboration. Our seven teams linked to a higher sense of purpose, making a difference for those who are “food insecure,” or in laymen’s terms, hungry. Collaboration is hard, but when aligned to a common goal, the collective impact outweighs the challenge. So, who’s up for dinner? Alliance to End Hunger and ConAgra have recently collaborated on an Advocacy Playbook to help engage more advocates on issues of hunger in the U.S. For more information, please visit: http://alliancetoendhunger.org/advocacy-playbook/.