WARREN, OHIO—April 7, 2023—Continuing its commitment to the success of under-resourced communities in Warren and Youngstown, The Raymond John Wean Foundation is adjusting a long-time program to be a better partner to neighborhood groups and resident-led efforts.
The changes come as the Wean Foundation releases a new report, Making Philanthropy Better, a recounting of how it and other funders came together to support the Mahoning Valley during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report illustrates what is possible when foundations work differently and calls on leaders to build on four key practices: a deeper commitment to racial equity; more intentional community engagement; courageous experimentation and learning; and sustained collaboration.
“In the spirit of making philanthropy better, we are creating new opportunities to bolster grassroots organizations,” said Jennifer Roller, president of the Wean Foundation. “These changes are the direct outgrowth of lessons we’ve learned over the last few years. We want to make this less about working within the confines of a particular ‘grant program’ and more about ensuring our value of resident engagement is embedded in all we do.”
Fifteen years ago, the Wean Foundation created Neighborhood SUCCESS to amplify the efforts of grassroots organizations—groups of residents working together to address challenges in their communities. The Wean Foundation knew funding opportunities for these smaller and less established nonprofits and groups—many operating without any paid staff—were limited. And yet, the demand for their services was great. Since 2008, more than 250 unique grassroots organizations have received over $1.9 million in funding to activate and sustain critical neighborhood supports and solutions.
Going forward, grassroots organizations seeking funding will first connect with staff through workshops intended to build thoughtful strategy, strong leadership and sound operations. Engaging with Wean Foundation staff, in this way, takes the place of a lengthy application process and allows for relationship building that ultimately adds value long-term, beyond the life of a grant award. Grants to grassroots organizations and groups will now be known as Resident Engagement grants.
“Over time, we’ve seen organizations and groups come to us with questions about creating a plan, budgeting and financial sustainability,” Roller said. “Leading with capacity building allows us to broaden our own and the community’s idea of what it looks like to serve as a resource.”
As the Wean Foundation wrote in Making Philanthropy Better, if the Mahoning Valley is to become stronger, more equitable and more prosperous, leaders must have the courage to address old problems in new ways. Together with residents, the Foundation believes it can disrupt long-held assumptions, redistribute decision-making power and challenge the systemic lack of equitable access to resources, knowledge and opportunity.
“We believe resident engagement is a key driver of neighborhood success and we seek to work in partnership with residents,” said Tara Walker-Pollock, program officer, capacity building. “Ultimately, we are striving to walk the talk.”
Eligibility to apply for a Resident Engagement Grant includes attending a workshop in each of the three categories of Leadership, Strategy and Impact. Workshop dates and times are as follows: Tuesday, May 2, 5:30-7:30 p.m. (Leadership); Tuesday, May 9, 5:30-7:30 p.m. (Leadership); Wednesday, May 10, 5:30-7:30 p.m. (Strategy); Thursday, May 11, 5:30-7:30 p.m. (Impact) and Saturday, May 13, 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. (Strategy and Impact combined). The combined workshop can be taken in place of the two individual workshops. Registration for the May 2 workshops will be accepted through April 27, all others accepted through May 4. To register, leave a message at 330.394.3213 or contact Tara Walker-Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To download a copy of Making Philanthropy Better, click here or visit weanfoundation.org/resource-library.