Building Healthy Communities

Grantee Name


Funding Area

Building Healthy Communities

Publication Date

October 2020

Grant Amount

Phase 1: $160,000; Phase 2: $126,000; Phase 3: $160,000

Community engagement unlocks the knowledge contained within residents to solve local problems.

When residents implement their own solutions, they build community participation, neighborhood cohesion, and long-term stewardship. Policymakers, for example, may not fully realize that a dangerous intersection discourages walking or that students are motivated to transform a vacant lot next to a school into a teaching garden. However, ideas from resident leaders have traditionally been an underfunded, overlooked source of fast, inexpensive solutions to many interconnected challenges of building healthy communities.

In 2016, NYHealth awarded a grant to In Our Backyards (ioby) to provide the resources for resident leaders to tackle some of their most pressing community health concerns. In 2017, NYHealth awarded ioby a second grant in support of a matching funds campaign to advance innovative, cost-effective ideas for building healthy communities. In 2019, NYHealth awarded ioby a third grant to continue the campaign to support projects that improve access to nutrition education, create opportunities for physical activity, and foster community engagement in NYHealth’s Healthy Neighborhoods Fund communities.

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

Outcomes and Lessons Learned

  • Recruited project leaders through strategic community outreach and trained them on crowdfunding best practices.
  • Launched Healthy Neighborhoods Challenges, a 1:1 matching campaign for resident leaders to plan and carry out community projects. For each of the three grants, NYHealth’s investment was used to leverage an additional $100,000 in matched dollars for funds raised. At the end of the three phases, matching funds raised by residents exceeded $420,000.
  • In Phase 1:
    • Supported 44 resident leaders through two Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge campaigns to fundraise $128,522 (matched with $100,000 of NYHealth funds) for a total of $228,522.
  • In Phase 2:
    • Supported 55 resident leaders in their efforts to fundraise $122,819 (matched with $100,000 of NYHealth funds) for a total of $222,819 invested in 22 local healthy neighborhood projects (several projects had more than one project leader).
    • Created a mechanism to collect socioeconomic and demographic information about project leaders, their neighborhoods, and their social networks.
  • In Phase 3:
    • Supported 47 project leaders in their efforts to fundraise $169,897 (matched with $100,000 of NYHealth funds) for a total of $269,897 invested in 19 local healthy neighborhood projects.
    • Provided one-on-one campaign coaching for each neighborhood project.
    • Organized and hosted 5 webinars and 8 in-person training workshops attended by more than 150 people living or working in the six Healthy Neighborhoods Fund These workshops helped resident leaders build their skills in fundraising, community organizing, and online communications.
  • Created and launched a free Healthy Communities Toolkit for residents who want to improve health in their communities through participation in the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge and beyond. The toolkit focuses on the experiences and lessons from five community leaders who have organized projects through the lens of social and racial justice.

Resident leaders spearheaded a wide range of projects aimed at improving the health of their neighborhoods. In East Harlem, Uptown Grand Central trained formerly incarcerated youth in driving food justice change. In Brownsville, a dynamic exercise and wellness group, We Run Brownsville, led programs and community events to improve health outcomes for women. And in Niagara Falls, Project Green Space converted a vacant lot into a community garden.

ioby’s data show that repeat leaders improved on skills they learned during previous campaigns and, as a result, were more successful and raised more funds during subsequent campaigns. For example, 40% of project leaders in Phase 3 had participated in a previous phase of the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge. These project leaders consistently rated themselves higher on fundraising experience, confidence in asking their community for support, and confidence in planning a campaign than they had before.

COVID-19 emerged as an unexpected challenge during Phase 3. However, ioby quickly responded, and revised its coaching to support resident leaders to fundraise during a crisis. NYHealth awarded ioby another grant in 2020 to expand the eligibility of the matching funds to include COVID-19 community response and recovery projects. Under this new grant phase, four COVID-19 response projects are being supported, one of which is by Movimiento, an immigrant-focused grassroots organization in East Harlem. The two project leaders behind Movimiento quickly raised more than $62,000 to help provide food and essential supplies to their immigrant neighbors currently unemployed because of COVID-19, many of whom were previously low-wage workers in the domestic and food service industries or employed as street vendors.

Co-funding and Additional Funds Leveraged:

Phase 1: $128,522 fundraised by resident leaders (through 1:1 match); The Kansas Health Foundation awarded ioby a $157,409 grant, which included a $100,000 matching fund for the Healthy Neighborhoods Challenge.

Phase 2: $122,819 fundraised by resident leaders (through 1:1 match)

Phase 3: $169,897 fundraised by resident leaders (through 1:1 match)