One of the keystones of the “What If…” mini grant program is community involvement – and we decided to walk the walk as well. In 2013 we invited previous recipients of these small, grassroots grants to review, advise and play a role in recommending grants for new grantseekers. The 15 grants awarded in 2013, totaling $59,350 with an average grant size of $3,957, were all reviewed and approved by the What If… Resident Review Committee, a group of seven who volunteered their time at monthly meetings to study proposals and discuss the pro and cons of each request. Their recommendations are forwarded to the Foundation program committee who provide the formal approval.
The “What If…” mini grant program started in 2011 as an outgrowth of the Foundation’s longtime initiatives working on the grassroots level in city neighborhoods. What If……is a grant program designed to be a resource in fostering growth in neighborhoods, and strengthening the capacity of community residents in the city of Syracuse who are focused on making positive changes in their neighborhood and increasing community participation, awareness and partnerships. Projects must be neighborhood/community based, initiated or implemented by residents, grassroots organizations or neighborhood stakeholders. Guidelines and orientation session information can be found here.
Each year new residents who are former What if… grantees are invited to submit a short application on why they would be an asset on the Resident Review Committee. This year’s Resident Review Committee of nine members have been busy – thus far eight What If… mini grants have been awarded for projects ranging from family literacy and Zumba classes to refugee tutoring and local walking tours of sustainable communities. Grant sizes have ranged from a low of $1500 to the full $5,000 maximum. Grant awards are announced here.
Lou Vinciguerra, whose neighborhood organization’s soccer program on the Northside received funding in 2012, enjoys how the diverse mix of people on the Resident Review Committee all offer differing opinions while working well together. He has been particularly impressed by the variety of projects they review. “I’m amazed by the different approaches people have to projects, and that Gifford is willing to listen to different viewpoints,” says Lou. “This has been an amazing experience for me.”