by Dawn Neighbors
It starts out innocently enough. First one flower company email appears in my inbox, usually on the coldest, grayest day of winter. I think, “I’ll just click on this one peony picture, and…” I should know better; peonies are the gateway flower to all gardening addictions. Then those glossy gardening magazines start arriving in the mailbox and faster than kudzu in July, I find myself changing my driving routes just so I can stalk the home improvement stores to see if the garden centers are stocking up. “Surely that was the last frost of the year,” I say quasi-convincingly to myself on March 1 as I stand in the checkout line with a four-pack of innocent, unsuspecting cucumber plants. It wasn’t. They died.
It has taken several years of this process, and although I am still learning, my gardening patience and planning are improving. The shortages of summer color last year were addressed during fall plantings or prunings and began growing abundantly this spring. My dear “boxwood and pine mulch” husband has been won over to “enabler,” post-hole digger and tomato entrepreneur extraordinaire. I don’t freak out when the black swallowtail caterpillars devour my flat leaf parsley overnight anymore because I know that will mean more butterflies in our garden! Soil can be improved and overcrowded plants can be thinned to supplement other less vibrant areas. It takes an honest assessment, a critical eye, partners, patience and a plan.
Affiliate boards across our state have begun working in their “grantmaking gardens” this year too. While giving away money is a positive and exciting experience, it is also a challenging one. These boards have worked diligently to nurture and grow their grantmaking funds with the help of community support. Their primary goal is to honor this effort and trust by awarding meaningful, impactful grants with a long-term benefit to the community. Achieving these desired results requires a lot of partnership, planning and patience. As Rudyard Kipling once said, “Gardens are not made by singing ‘Oh how beautiful’ and sitting in the shade.”
One of the “grant-gardening” tools we have provided to our boards again this year is the Community Assessment Resource Report. A compilation of data from a wide variety of respected organizations, these county-specific reports serve as a source of reliable information to help board members determine which issues in their communities are most quantifiably in need. In other words, which part of their garden needs some attention? Census data, county health assessment priorities, youth success indicators and economic health and growth information are just a few of the resources contained in these reports to aid affiliate board members in their work. Many boards are also sharing this information with community nonprofit organizations in an effort to effectively collaborate and effect the most positive change.
Several departments at the North Carolina Community Foundation worked together to fashion this tool, and our regional directors are out “sowing the seeds” of information with affiliate board members. I may be a little bit biased, but I believe we are going to have a gorgeous grant-garden and an abundant harvest across our state this year…and with continued patience and planning, we will have an even better one next year!
Thank you to all the “gardeners” who roll up their sleeves and labor with us across North Carolina.
“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” - Audrey Hepburn