Whole Cities is committed to offering responsive support, and we try our best to listen to our partners’ challenges and goals and provide resources, information, and grant programs that meet these priorities.
Since 2017, we have been honored to work with organizations across Newark who are expanding their communities’ access to fresh, healthy food and nutrition education. In preparation of our latest 3-year, $780,000 commitment to continue this work, we asked community members to give feedback on what they would like our next chapter to look like. We also reflected on ways our team could streamline the process and improve the service we offer.
We asked the questions, “What do you want to make sure we DO change?” and “What do you want to make sure we DON’T change?” We heard from Newarkers through calls, emails, surveys, grant reports, and a community meeting. Based on their feedback, we identified ways we will change to improve our service, and equally important, what’s working well that we will continue.
What We Won’t Change
There are many things Newarkers want to make sure we continue. Here are some things we won’t change:
- Simple Process: The feedback was clear. Newarkers want us to keep our uncomplicated application and reporting process.
- Unrestricted Funding: We place no restrictions on how much of our grant funding can be used for overhead, ongoing expenses, and infrastructure such as purchasing land, salaries, and stipends. Community leaders know best how to allocate funds for their organizations.
- Community Determination: Since the beginning, our grant partners have been selected in collaboration with the Newark Community Advisory Council, a group of 8-10 Newarkers who review and score applications. Want to be considered for the council? Submit your interest by Feb 23.
- Support: In 2019, we heard loud and clear that many of our Newark partners were looking for strategic support on issues that were specific to their organization. In response, we launched “Garden Hours,” a program for our grant partners to receive one-on-one or group support from amazing community leaders. Each partner receives 16 hours per grant.
- Feedback: Any applicant can request a call with our team to go over feedback on their application, from before they submit to after the final determination has been made.
What We Will Change
We listened carefully to the feedback community members shared and reflected on opportunities we saw to better support our grant partners. These are the changes that rose to the top:
- Connection: The most common request we received was for more opportunities to connect with other organizations and learn new skills. With this in mind, we planned a summit for our grant partners in October 2023. The day will be shaped by grant partners’ feedback but may include professional development workshops, networking, and information on how to take advantage of existing opportunities, such as the Newark Community Food System and Garden Hours.
- Grant Size: Our partners are experiencing the same inflationary challenges as the rest of the country, and so we will increase our maximum grant size from $15,000 to $20,000 per year.
- Reporting: We want to minimize paperwork when possible so that our grant partners can focus on their impactful work. While we will still require a final report, we will make status reports optional. Partners can choose to submit a status report, schedule a call with our team, or skip it.