The Community Foundation has hired an outside consultant, Pittsburgh-based Fourth Economy, to measure the funding’s impact – as well as inroads made by the projects that funding has served, CFA Executive Director Mike Kane said.
Kane said the foundation is urging local residents to weigh in through a short survey he described as “critical” to measuring that impact.
“The whole purpose of our Community Initiatives Fund is to create change,” he said. “This is a good way for us to see how we’re doing – and how the community is doing.”
The Foundation has directed funding into neighborhood improvements, downtown revitalization and efforts to train area residents for well-paying local jobs – among other areas – in recent years. The CFA also supports ever-evolving community improvement efforts such as Lift Johnstown and Vision2025 that have taken broad approaches to enhancing the region.
Over the past five years, Community Initiatives funding has been used to help entice the Center for Metal Arts to Johnstown, blaze a path for new hiking and biking trails, and carry a list of Cambria City projects toward fruition – including the BottleWorks rooftop garden.
It also enabled JARI to launch a no-cost welder training initiative, he added. And in April, approximately $150,000 was awarded to the Johnstown Redevelopment Authority to level a dozen blighted West End structures
The Community Foundation for the Alleghenies wants to know if residents are noticing improvements in those areas compared to five years ago – how much they are benefiting from them – and where more work needs to be done, Kane said
“We’re well aware there’s plenty to work on – it’s not like every issue is solved,” Kane said. “But the good news is, that through grant-making and other entities we work with, we’re working on it. The question is, are these the kind of efforts people recognize ... and want to see more of.”
In many ways, the survey is a follow-up to a survey conducted by The Tribune-Democrat in 2014.
More than 1,150 people responded at the time, with most suggesting more needed to be done to address blight, jobs, drugs and business development.
High marks were given to efforts involving arts, heritage and cultural tourism, as well as senior-focused programs.
The community foundation’s survey asks area residents and business leaders for their thoughts on those categories and more, asking survey-takers to mark the top three areas where they’d like to focus investments.
It also asks about community perception, compared to five years ago, progress and local involvement, among other topics.
In cities hit by poverty, population loss and other problems sparked by the loss of American industries decades ago – it can be easy for a community’s residents to have a “hopeless” outlook, Fourth Economy’s Jerry Paytas said.
And this region – like so many others – still has hurdles to that need to be addressed, he said.
One goal of the Community Foundation’s survey is to explore whether a list of recent achievements is starting to make residents believe that “change is possible” and that their involvement can make a difference, Paytas said, noting that many of the projects that have received support have been grassroots and volunteer-driven.
Paytas serves as vice president of research and analytics at Fourth Economy and is a longtime adjunct faculty member for the public policy-focused Heinz College.
And he said it’s uncommon for entities similar to the Community Foundation to take this kind of “outside the box” survey approach to evaluate their grant-allocating efforts.
“Usually, if a foundation somewhere does something like this, they evaluate themselves in-house,” Paytas said. “But I think it’s great they are doing this. I’m a firm believer in evaluation, because it helps you figure out what you’re doing right – and what you aren’t.”
Take the survey
You can take help shape the future of the Johnstown region by completing the Community Foundation for the Alleghenies' Community Initiatives Fund survey.
There are two ways to get involved, and you can do both:
• Fill out the paper survey on Page A7 of The Tribune-Democrat from Sunday, Oct. 6, and mail it to the Community Foundation. That paper survey is attached here as a PDF, which can be printed and completed.
Paper surveys should be mailed by Oct. 12 to: Community Foundation for the Alleghenies, 216 Franklin Street, Suite 400, Johnstown, PA 15901.
• Go online to: https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/5218669/CFA-Community-Perception
The online survey should take about 10 minutes to complete. The deadline to completed the online survey is Oct. 14.