Decoding Jargon: 6 essential Wholespire terms to know

Decoding Jargon: 6 essential Wholespire terms to know

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.

Community engagement is core to Knights Hill community success

Community engagement is core to Knights Hill community success

Historically, many Black communities have faced disparities in access to recreational facilities and resources. In Camden, South Carolina, the Knights Hill Historic Preservation Board is doing something about that with the help of their community and funders like Wholespire.

In 1900, Knights Hill Park was deeded to a group of community organizers in the Knights Hill community, a residential area with their own unique character and community dynamics. The park became a centralized location for community events, celebrations, family gatherings, and outdoor recreation. It was a time when families and neighbors cherished fellowship by gathering outdoors to enjoy each other, share stories, exchange ideas, escape their problems, laugh, and play outside.

Over the years, Knights Hill Park was in disarray due to a lack of maintenance and a misunderstanding about who was responsible for the upkeep of the park. The Knights Hill community wanted something to be done about their neighborhood retreat. They wanted a safe place for seniors and youth to engage in physical activity and fellowship but couldn’t understand why their requests for maintenance were not being heard by the county.

Returning to where it all began

Bill Robinson, executive director of Knights Hill Historic Preservation Board
Bill Robinson, executive director of Knights Hill Historic Preservation Board, and his canine companion at the park. (Photo: Chronicle-Independent)

Bill Robinson is a descendant of the Knights Hill community who has the skills and knowledge to help get the park revitalization project going. His parents were born and raised there, and he visited Knights Hill on many occasions during his childhood. Bill eventually returned to Camden to help his sister make improvements to his father’s house following his death.   

“People noticed that I was in the community and because my parents are both originally from this community, they knew me from years of coming down from Long Island where I grew up. They asked me to attend a meeting last year, which happened to be a board meeting, and raise some funds to do some upgrades to the park,” said Robinson.

The group explained to Robinson that they had been asking Kershaw County Parks and Recreation for some upgrades for years, and they were wondering why there was no response. Because he has experience as a fundraising and non-profit consultant, Robinson did some research and uncovered a couple of things. First, the original group lost its standing with the state as a non-profit due to some administrative errors. Most importantly, there was an agreement with the Parks and Recreation Department to list the park as part of the county park service and they would do what they could to help, but the agreement did not include maintenance of the park.

Robinson devoted time to correcting the non-profit status and the group renamed themselves to Knights Hill Historic Preservation Board. He also needed to start the process of renegotiating the agreement with the county, but the Board had one more request. They asked him to be their executive director, but they couldn’t pay him.

“They proposed for any funds that I raise to include an administrator fee for me, and I said sure. It was important to me because for me it was full circle. This was a part of the legacy of my family on both sides who grew up in this community, went to school in this community and were active in this park in this community. So, for me, it was like this is the least I could do. And now that both my parents are gone, I could provide this service and keep this legacy going. That’s how it all began,” said Robinson.

Building credibility through awareness and relationships

cleaning up debris
Kershaw County Parks and Recreation helps clear debris.

While waiting for their non-profit application to be approved, Robinson continued doing more groundwork to get the organization and their park improvement project positioned for success. He connected with some key partners like Kershaw County Parks and Recreation to reintroduce them to Knights Hill Park and revisit the initial agreement.

“We engaged in a two-pronged approach. One, to get outside funding to prove to the county that we could raise the funds and fix the park up whether they’re involved or not and use that as leverage for their part of the agreement. This is a 50-year agreement and I think we’re in year 30 of this agreement. So, I was happy to find out literally about six months ago that we were actually owners of the park. So that just opened up a whole new thing,” said Robinson.

Robinson says the relationship with parks and recreation has “been a great partnership ever since late last year and we’re continuing to build on that now.” The Wholespire HEAL Mini-grant proved to parks and recreation that they were serious about revitalizing the park. They’ve been able to rely on the department for help with maintaining the grass, tree and debris removal and other high-maintenance requests.

Media advocacy and community engagement are two essential components of public awareness campaigns. Each plays a crucial role in shaping public opinion, influencing policy, and mobilizing support. Robinson understood this and went straight to The Chronicle-Independent newspaper.

“I invited the editor of the paper out to the park to show him what we intended to do. I literally walked the park with him, opened up the shelter building, let him know that this is who we were and what we planned to do. He did a beautiful 2-page article about the park, the history and our goals for the park.”

Awareness in the form of media coverage helped ramp up Robinson’s ability to advocate for their park improvement efforts and prove that Knights Hill Historic Preservation Board is a valid and credible organization. Introducing himself and the organization at council meetings and to individuals after the meetings became easier, allowing for better conversation and even funding opportunities.

Identifying the first project with community feedback

Knights Hill Park basketball court before the renovations.
Knights Hill Park basketball court before renovations.

Knights Hill community members of all ages have been involved in the park’s revitalizing efforts from the beginning. They were included in meetings and asked to provide feedback on their wants and needs. The seniors and youth set the phases of the overall project.

“Usually, our meetings were held outside underneath the shelter building, so as people were coming to the park – there’s a swing area, the playground area, as well as the basketball court and then a baseball field in between all of that — they would watch us meet once a month and depending on what was happening, we just pulled the kids over and said ‘Look you know this is what we’re doing. What do you all want to see first?’ We thought as adults that that would be a great way to engage young people. Offer them something and then we can engage them in future plans down the road.”

“So, they were with us every step of the way, designing the court, picking out the colors for the court and they just could not wait as we were going through the process. The court was in progress and the kids were still playing on it. So, there were times when we had to literally work around the kids. ‘Look, kids, please play on this side of the court so we can get the work done on this’ and the other side that we wanted to do for any particular day.”

Measuring the success of a basketball court

Knights Hill basketball court during renovations.
Youth playing basketball on an unfinished court.

It’s easy for Robinson to see the benefits of revitalizing the basketball court and it puts a smile on his face. He says that not a day goes by that he doesn’t see people playing basketball. There’s a new respect for the court – litter is decreasing. And during a recent May Day community event, the court was particularly exciting.

“We hadn’t finished painting the court, but the kids didn’t care. They’re playing three-on-three. Then it was five-on-five. Then the teens were waiting to play. The girls had the courts for a while, and they were doing their thing and it was just…it was beautiful to watch.”

Another successful indicator is when young people from outside of the Knights Hill and Camden communities find out about a great basketball court.

“During college spring break earlier this year, I was out doing something on the court and there were all kinds of kids here. And the interesting thing is, there were more white kids there than I had seen in a long time. So, I just let them play, and I was doing my thing on the other side of the court. When I got finished, I asked them, ‘Where are you guys from?’ Three of them were Clemson students, one was from Coastal Carolina and another one was from USC. They had gotten together and driven from Lugoff because they had heard about the Knights Hill basketball court. They said, ‘Man, this is gonna be a cool court when you get finished. We can’t wait to come back after the school year is over.’ We saw some of those people during the summer come back and play basketball.”

Looking forward to a healthier future

Knights Hill Park basketball court after picture.
Knights Hill Park basketball court was brought back to life.

The stars aligned for the Knights Hill Historic Preservation Board. Starting from scratch is no easy task for a large project like revitalizing an entire park. The organization has found that when you engage with community members and value youth feedback and participation, the chances of getting things done and being successful on many levels can be achieved.

But they’re not done yet. The seniors want a walking trail for safe physical activity. Then, there’s the baseball diamond, lights, shelter improvements, a potential community center, and yes, a youth employment program.

The Knights Hill community values its cultural heritage and has a huge sense of pride. They want their roots to grow deeper and stronger. “And that’s more than anything for me. That’s what I want to happen… something to be proud of…to see young people and elderly folks come to this park and just enjoy the stories that they bring.”

Visit the Knights Hill Historic Preservation Board Facebook page to keep with up with their progress.