CFF’s October Partner Convening at the Dalcy

Great thanks to the more than 50 grantee representatives who were able to join Christopher Family Foundation staff at our October 3 partner convening. The three-hour event provided an opportunity to meet some new colleagues, connect with CFF staff, and eat a meal without having to simultaneously respond to a bunch of urgent emails.

The Dalcy team provided us a savory meal in their beautiful venue. The true stars, however, were the guests themselves. Upon check-in, each selected an icebreaker question card to facilitate good conversations. From the buzz in the room, it was clear that people were ready to be back together in person, eager to see familiar colleagues again, and to meet new ones.

The Foundation Executive Director, Clare Butterfield, shared some highlights from the strategic planning process that the Christopher Family Foundation has been engaged in this year. The family is clear that our commitment to the Austin neighborhood and the West Side will remain a central emphasis of our funding going forward, and that we may be narrowing the focus of some of our funding areas in order to amplify effectiveness.

Our guests included leadership, program staff, and development staff from among our grantees. Grouped by programmatic focus at each table, they were able to share with each other some of the challenges and successes over the past year, through guided questions.

Many of the attendees acknowledged that they’ve been experiencing additional stress with waning American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding, leading to difficult choices regarding staffing and programming. As a result, some organizations have enhanced their individual giving campaign strategies or focused on boosting revenue from their social enterprise.

The impacts of COVID linger on. Grantees shared that COVID amplified inequities and the need for additional and faster funding, but the emergency relief may have created expectations around the speed with which funds can be raised that will not be met now that the acute phase of the pandemic has passed. With reduced funds, some organizations are struggling to maintain their new hires, and hiring generally has been difficult. On the positive side, grantees appreciated streamlined grant application processes, expedited funding, and abbreviated reporting, adopted by many funders during the shutdown, and continued by some (including, we hope, this one).

Despite the challenges, the attendees have been energized by the new projects that they’re implementing. They were eager to share about new contracts in workforce development, a new mental health center in Austin, relocations to bigger facilities, and so much more.

We were so glad to be able to provide a little sustenance and a chance to reflect to our partners, who have done extraordinary things these last few years under trying circumstances. We are grateful for the positive feedback that followed and we look forward to hosting another informal convening next year.

Contributed by Monica Thorns, Grants Manager, and Carla Land, Program Associate