October 24, 2011

"What If" Spices Up The Gifford Foundation's Work in Syracuse

Travels took me to upstate New York last week, presenting at the New York State Funders Conference in Ithaca at the invitation of the Grantmakers Forum of New York, and then trekking over to Syracuse to spend a day with the amazing big thinkers at the Rosamond Gifford Foundation.  Sheena Solomon, the Gifford Foundation's Director of Neighborhood Initiatives, was my partner for the NYS Funders Conference, bringing my presentation on grassroots grantmaking to life with her remarks on how grassroots grantmaking is showing up in Syracuse and what she has learned about the difference between a small grants as a funding transaction and small grants as a vehicle for powerful resident engagement.

Of all the great things I could share about the Gifford Foundation's work in Syracuse, it's "What If" that's on my mind.  Gifford introduced their "What If" mini-grant program earlier this year after working very deeply in two Syracuse neighborhoods for over six years.  Resident-led groups from all Syracuse neighborhoods can tap into What if mini-grants of $5,000 or less.

Here's what I love about The Gifford Foundation's What If mini-grant program:
  • Rolling application deadlines, a simple application, and a solid pre-application workshop, all contributing to a program that is more about inviting community groups in than using the grant application period to screen applicants out.
  • A clear statement about who the Gifford Foundation had in mind for What If mini-grants - groups, associations, and neighbors with not one mention of non-profit organizations.
  • Just as much clarity about the type of capacity building projects that What If mini-grants are designed to fund, with almost no funder jargon sprinkled in. Check out what they have to say and you'll see what I mean.
  • The link that has already been established, even in the first year of the mini-grant program, with the Community Foundation for Central York's Leadership Classroom to connect some big thinking What If grantees with additional capacity building opportunities.
  • The What If Film Series - a fun way to use documentaries that share stories of  people coming to together to make a difference in their communities to spark ideas and inspire action.
  • And of course I love this.....that the networking that Sheena did with Grassroots Grantmakers planted the seed and provided the fertilizer for the What If mini-grant program.
 Way to go, Gifford Foundation. Keep asking "what if" and spicing it up in Syracuse!

1 comment:

  1. This is awesome news. I remember when Sheena was just conceiving this idea. I love the "What If" documentary component.