Lift Every Voice: St. Luke’s Foundation launches platform to measure impact, give residents power

St. Luke’s Foundation provides millions of dollars in grants each year to organizations that serve the Woodhill, Buckeye-Shaker, and Mount Pleasant neighborhoods, and throughout Cuyahoga County, that are working to achieve health equity by addressing social determinants of health.

In 2020, St. Luke’s made 105 grants to nearly 80 organizations, totaling roughly $6.5million; and so far in 2021 the foundation has paid out more than $3.5 million through 43 grants to 38 organizations.

But assessing whether those funds were allocated effectively is a tough call sometimes. After grants are distributed, the best way to assess the effectiveness of the funds—and the programs—is often to gather reports and data from the organization, says St. Luke’s president and CEO Tim Tramble.

But this method is not always indicative of determining what the community residents need and want from the organizations that serve them.

“The traditional way of evaluating for foundations [like ours] is, we provide resources to nonprofit organizations; we get interim and final reports from those nonprofit organizations; and then we determine whether they're successful based on what we pulled from their reports,” Tramble says.  “And, of course, we hear things, and we see things. But we have to recognize that we're at the 10,000-foot level of what we see and what we hear. What we don't see and don't hear all the time is what goes on at the ground level.”

Tramble says they want to know what’s going on at the ground level. So, St. Luke’s Foundation is about to release a community engagement platform, Lift Every Voice 216 (#lev216) to give community members a way to directly share their needs and wants from the agencies that serve them.

The Lift Every Voice platform is intended to close the health and social inequities gaps in the St. Luke’s neighborhoods and Cuyahoga County by creating a way for residents to be heard and influence where future grant dollars will be invested.

“The reason we're doing this is because we really want to know the pulse of the community,” Tramble says. “We want to be not just reflective of those that provide services, but also those that receive the servicesand we want to be responsive to those that are directly impacted by the services. We want to scale up our effort in bridging the health equity gap. We want to we want to support innovative work that yields the greatest rate of return on investment.”

With the Lift Every Voice platform, Tramble says he hopes to implement change at the resident level—to scale up neighborhood transformation by giving the residents the decision-making power.

“We do believe that residents have a knowledge and awareness that no one else has,” he explains. “And we want to shift power to the community.”

St. Luke’s has been working on Lift Every Voice since January, says Kristen Summers, St. Luke’s Foundation grants manager, and the site will go live this Monday, July 19. Users can sign up through the website or use a landline or mobile phone to participate in surveys and provide feedback.

“We are just really excited to launch this. We hope it's very fun and engaging,” says Summers. “We want to make sure that it's not just us serving and taking from the community—it's going to be a two-way, engaging, interactive experience where we can provide resources.”

The #lev216 platform offers a way to give neighborhood residents a voice in the issues, services, and concerns they have—in everything from COVID-19 to the assets and resources needed in the community, to input on neighborhood projects and endeavors.

The input will help St. Luke’s staff determine the best way to invest grant money in area nonprofit organizations and programs—helping them determine what’s working and what still needs attention—and help area nonprofit organizations determine where their efforts should be focused.

Some of the grant recipients in the St. Luke’s neighborhood footprint include Burten, Bell, Carr, Development Inc., East End Neighborhood House, Boys & Girls Clubs of Northeast Ohio, Greater Cleveland Habitat for Humanity, Neighborhood Connections, and Thea Bowman Center.

“This platform gives the community the opportunity to connect directly with the foundation,” Tramble says, “to give us their perspective on what services best serve their needs and where there are voids within service delivery.”

Summers says Lift Every Voice is a great way to benchmark where the grant money is being used effectively and will show where the service gaps are.

“We will share the results of what we've learned from [residents], and how we're using the feedback in our work,” she says. “Eventually, we hope to have blogs or articles, observations written by the staff at St. Luke's, and different events in the community—just lots of different ways that they can share their lived experience, and how we can also serve them on this site.”

Tramble says the Lift Every Voice platform will also enable organizations, and St. Luke’s, to elicit specific feedback on topics while also offing directed information and resources to residents. He says the hope is that everyone—St. Luke’s, community members, and the service organizations—will ultimately benefit.

“It starts out as a survey,” he explains. “The survey feeds into a database that we use to analyze what people see as the most viable services within the community and where they see the gaps. We can then communicate to those who have engaged with the platform how we are responding, what we are learning from the collective information they provided, and what we are doing with the collective information that they've provided.”

Additionally, Summers says she hopes other organizations and foundations will use Lift Every Voice as a springboard for their own community engagement efforts. “We hope that our work doing this inspires our foundation counterparts to also do something like this in their communities that they serve,” she says. “If this works for us, we hope that other foundations will follow our lead and do similar things.”

While Lift Every Voice officially launches on Monday, July 19, residents can sign up for email or texts. St. Luke’s will be hosting weekly random drawing for prizes to those who text “winner” to 512-580-8850. Click here to take the initial survey, and follow lev216 on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and use the hashtag #lev216.

Additionally, St. Luke’s will host a Back Yard Barbeque Launch Party with free food, games, and live entertainment on Saturday, July 31 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Britt Oval, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive.  

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.