Growing the Nature Connection Capacity of Nonprofit Partners

    February 22, 2019
    by Sarah Milligan-Toffler

    In May of 2016, Dr. Danette Glassy attended the Children & Nature Network (C&NN) International Conference in St. Paul, MN. As a pediatrician, she knew that time spent in nature was good for children’s health–and good for their parents, too. But she wasn’t sure how to incorporate it into her practice. At the C&NN conference, she was able to connect with other physicians, public health professionals, researchers and funders who helped her refine her ideas. She left St. Paul not only inspired, but with new connections and resources that helped her launch Project Nature in 2018 as part of the Seattle-based “Best Start Washington.” Project Nature now enables physicians and community organizations across Washington to increase family access to nature through well-child visits, e-resources, and social media engagement.

    We all know the value of networking–sharing ideas and being connected to people who can help our dreams become a reality. But too often, peer learning and professional development opportunities are out of reach for nonprofit organizations.

    That is why we are partnering with several Bay Area funders to provide opportunities for their grantees to deepen their professional knowledge and expand their peer networks at our biennial Children & Nature Network International Conference, May 16-18, in Oakland, CA.

    Two of these foundations, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation and the Sand Hill Foundation, are well known for helping grantees access capacity-building professional development opportunities. We are thrilled to partner with the Packard and Sand Hill Foundations to make sure that Bay Area nonprofits who might not otherwise be able to attend our conference can convene with nature connection peers from around the world this May. Because of the support of these two foundations, 14 nonprofit organizations will send key staff to our international conference.

    The C&NN International Conference is the largest gathering of children and nature advocates in the world. This year’s conference will attract 1,000 leaders from more than 20 countries. Attendees will include nature-based program providers, educators, planners, grassroots leaders, elected officials, health professionals, and researchers, representing the diverse points of view and many disciplines of the children and nature movement.

    Ash McNeely, Executive Director of Sand Hill Foundation, shared her perspective recently on the importance of networking and professional growth: “Nonprofit leaders must be given time to step away from the day to day work and have a chance to think strategically. In forums like these, our grantees can contribute to building the environmental field and gain energy to improve their work back home. This all nets to better outdoor experiences for youth, which we feel certain will promote a lifetime love of nature.” We couldn’t agree more.

    Jessica Mancini, Program Officer for The David & Lucile Packard Foundation’s Local Grantmaking Program, said that she often hears from grantees that it can be difficult to make time to reflect and participate in trainings that will enhance organizational knowledge and capacity. “We believe that organizations must continually learn and evolve in order to address emerging challenges and opportunities,” said Ms. Mancini. “We are particularly excited to work with C&NN to assist our partners as they continue to build skills to increase equitable access to nature for children, families, and communities.”

    We are excited to welcome grantees of the Packard and Sand Hill Foundations to our three-day conference, which is built on core values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We are confident that grantees will benefit from participating in this incredible networking opportunity and increase their knowledge through seven conference tracks, ranging from Creating Nature Filled Cities to Improving Educational Outcomes through Nature-Based Learning to Addressing Health Equity through Nature Connection. And we look forward to providing a platform for grantees to share their achievements and successes.

    The David & Lucile Packard Foundation and Sand Hill Foundation set the bar when it comes to investing in the capacity of their grantees. We are honored to partner with them. If you are interested in exploring ways to provide this professional development opportunity to your grantees, please contact Paxton Barnes. We would be thrilled to help you inspire and strengthen the work of your nonprofit partners.

    Sarah Milligan-Toffler is executive director of the Children & Nature Network, a nonprofit leading the global movement to increase equitable access to nature so that children–and natural places–can thrive.


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