Food Innovation Network Discusses Shared Administrative Services

Our Food Innovation Network met on April 7th to discuss the possibility of using shared administrative services, asking questions such as: how might businesses save money through shared human resources, accounting or other administrative services? What options are out there and what issues need to be considered? Is this a need in our community of food innovators?

The conversation was led by Cicely Garrett of the Atlanta Community Food Bank, who started off the evening by talking through the various resources that could be pooled, like social media, fundraising, HR, bookkeeping, and other administrative tasks.

The group quickly and unanimously decided that grantwriting was the most pressing concern, and the majority of the rest of the night's conversation explored how sharing grantwriting services might work. Questions raised and topics discussed included:

  • The grantwriter's job description: would a shared grant writer also be a subject matter expert? Some thought a grant writer should understand the content of the grant application whereas others felt a writer should just bring the writing expertise and get the content from the organizations they are writing for.
  • The importance of having a clear understanding of the precise requirements of a grant application since participants said a lot of time and energy is spent on trying to understand basics like company financials.
  • Having a database that details organizational profiles so that every organization from the shared pool knows exactly who gets what proportion of the grants and who is applying. This database will also facilitate easy groupings of organizations based on grants requirements, knowledge of when grants are due, reporting requirements, etc.
  • One major concern was that of transparency. A few participants expressed that there was often a lot of fear in sharing information with others about grant applications, because of experiences in the past.
  • How should participation work? The group discussed the need for 100% participation from all organizations who are sharing resources: people  should attend meetings and do their part of the work on time by maintaining a schedule, committing to stay in the group for an agreed period (maybe 12-18 months) after a grant application, etc

Thanks to everyone who came out and made our excellent discussion possbile!