Decoding Jargon: 6 essential Wholespire terms to know

by | Jun 13, 2024

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Have you ever left a meeting thinking, ‘I have no idea what they said’? Maybe you started working on your grant final report and don’t understand what’s being asked. That’s probably because of jargon—language used by people within a particular profession, culture, or social group.

When we work in complex fields, we revert to jargon because that’s what we know. We’ve trained our brains to use words associated with our work. At Wholespire, we understand that the people we are in contact with come from different backgrounds. We are continuously attempting to change the language we use. We want to explain some of them because, in addition to jargon, some of our words mean something different in other environments.

1. Technical Assistance

When the average person hears this word, they might think computer help, but that’s far from what we mean. Technical assistance (TA) is a non-financial form of help like connecting coalitions to funding sources, sharing information, providing training, consulting on projects and leadership coaching. Read more about technical assistance on our blog.

2. Community

We use this word in its traditional sense. A community is a group of people with a shared geographic location. It also means a feeling of fellowship with others as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals. When Wholespire talks about community, we often mean the town, city or county as a whole, but there are times when we are addressing other types of communities, like:

  • Schools,
  • Religious centers,
  • People with disabilities,
  • Early child care centers, and
  • Worksites.

3. Community Engagement, Youth Engagement

Community and youth engagement means involving community members and youth in the decision-making, planning, and evaluation of projects. It’s getting their input, perspectives and active participation to make sure that projects and policies are relevant, effective, and have long-term solutions. It often leads to an increased sense of community, empowerment, and inclusion.

4. Sustainable, Sustainability

When we provide technical assistance or open a grant application, we often ask if the project or idea is sustainable. We ask this because we want to invest in policy, systems and environmental change projects that are continual over a long time. It’s important to think about how the completed project will be maintained and who will be responsible for keeping it in safe, working order. Here are three examples of sustainability:

  • For a community garden, sustainability means creating a plan for who will pull weeds, harvest vegetables and prepare the beds for the next season.
  • For a park, sustainability could be what organization is responsible for keeping the grass mowed and the equipment safe to use.
  • For a trail, sustainability includes a plan for keeping the trail cleared of brush, fallen limbs and litter.

5. Leverage, Leveraging

Here’s another jargony word that can leave you guessing: leverage. In finance, it means something completely different. At Wholespire, leverage means using something you already have to achieve something new or better. On our grant final report, we ask, “How did you leverage this grant?” We want to know how you were able to make the project happen after you received funds from Wholespire.

We also ask this question to find out if the mini-grant had an impact that was above and beyond the initial project. Did a recipient of a grant, for instance, use donations to expand from one garden to three? Alternatively, it’s possible that the city noticed a park improvement and offered to update another park. There are many ways you can leverage your project:

  • In-kind donations are contributions of goods or services, other than money. This can be volunteers, employers lending employees on the clock, heavy equipment use, or dirt. Yes, dirt!  
  • Funding from other sources is a great way to supplement your budget. Apply for other grants, conduct a fundraiser, ask for donations or host a silent auction.
  • Leverage your existing partnerships. Leaning on partners is a great way to share information, learn from each other and accomplish goals together. Plus, partnerships can lead to additional funding opportunities.
  • Social media marketing can help raise awareness about your project, get the community involved, and collect donations. Social media also contributes to community or youth engagement because you’re reaching parts of the population that you may not have touched in newsletters and other forms of communication.

6. Implement, Implementation

Implementation is more than just completing the physical work of making your project happen. It’s the process of turning your project plan into a reality by following the action plan and making sure it’s successfully completed. Key components of implementation include:

  • Making sure the funding, personnel, equipment and materials are available,
  • Coordinating and organizing volunteers,
  • Monitoring and tracking progress,
  • Making adjustments to keep the project on schedule,
  • Communicating progress and challenges with the funder and partners,
  • Reviewing the process to identify lessons learned for future projects , and
  • Promoting the completed project to the community.

Leveraging the community for 20 tons of dirt

In 2021, Wholespire funded GoForth Recovery in Spartanburg for a basketball court project. Initially, the plan called for clearing enough land for the basketball court, but the vision soon grew to clear an entire lot to make room for future additions. The mini-grant only funded about half of the total project cost, so the executive director needed to secure full funding. News of the project reached various community members, businesses, partners, and associates. As the challenge was being faced, the old courthouse in Spartanburg was being demolished. Upon hearing about the need, officials donated the extra dirt. Project organizers estimated that 30 truckloads were delivered at no cost to them.