Volunteer grant review makes a comeback in BCF’s Neighborhood Grants Program

January 11, 2018

What makes a Baltimore neighborhood great? If you live one of Baltimore’s many diverse and vibrant neighborhoods, you’ll have your own answer to that question. At BCF, we’ve been working with neighborhoods for years, and through our grantmaking  and conversations with residents, we have found a common thread that connects all Baltimoreans’ love for their neighborhoods. It’s their neighbors – and the passion they share for their communities – that makes this city a unique and great place to live. 

That passion was on display in BCF’s offices in late September when a group of BCF donors, staffers, professional advisors and nonprofit leaders met to review grant applications for the most recent round of Neighborhood Grants Program (NGP) applications. It was the first time in several years that volunteers participated in the NGP review process. 

BCF’s Neighborhood Grants Program funds projects such as creating community gardens, youth leadership training and community festivals. Though they reflect various interests and causes, each grant helps neighbors invest in their communities as they mobilize to complete a neighborhood project, or build or strengthen neighborhood leadership.

Volunteers each read 8-10 grant applications, then met in small groups at BCF to go over their individual comments, match up their scoring and make recommendations. They weighed project costs, adherence to BCF’s guidelines for NGP and whether or not the projects would serve to mobilize residents throughout the neighborhood. 

 “Volunteer grant readers help bring a new perspective to BCF’s neighborhood work and provide helpful feedback,” says Maya Smith, BCF’s Program Officer for neighborhoods. “This is a great way for donors to get an inside look at how we make grants, and get a better idea of the many projects going on in the community.”

Most of the donors who attended the grant review meeting were doing so for the first time. Experiences like this are what set community foundations apart from national gift funds which cannot provide rich local programing to their donors.   

“The grant reading process is BCF at its very best.  Donors love meeting community leaders and are universally blown away by the work being done to strengthen Baltimore, block by block,” says Tom Wilcox, BCF president & CEO. “Community leaders enjoy meeting our donors and establish new and important relationships that cross traditional boundaries of race and class.

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