Oh, The Places You’ll Go (Pt. 2)

We’ve all heard the phrase, “it takes a village to raise a child.” And yet, today, new articles and disturbing data about the best and worst places to grow up make me pause and wonder what has happened to my village? Not just my own personal network of friends, family members and neighbors – who I depend on for everything from picking up the kids, offering me sage financial advice or inspiring my son to read a book. But, how strong is the broader village that includes the grids of services and supports my immediate network can’t provide?

From NY Times

From NY Times

Living on the edge of a few counties, I am keenly aware of “grids.” Whose power grid am I connected to? Which cable or internet provider serves us? All basic functions of a “village.” I don’t consider these questions often, but when I wake up at 5 a.m., I want the light to come on when I flip the switch. Similarly, there are many critical social services that we don’t think about until we personally need them. Yet, stories like the one about the young woman from Johns Creek who died of a heroin overdose remind me that we need a strong grid of social and community services in every community for prevention, intervention and healing.

I choose to live in my neighborhood because it’s where I grew up and it’s where my mother lives. My neighborhood is not among the best places to raise a child. Lots of people reading this might suggest that we move. And many friends and former school mates have moved to “better” communities. And yes, that’s a good option for a lot of people and I don’t criticize anyone for having the means and opportunity to improve their situation and life opportunities for their children. But, isn’t it a shame if that is our only solution? I want this community to thrive and I want to make every neighborhood a good place to raise a child.

Check out this interactive map to find out how your community compares to “the best and worst places to grow up.”


United Way AtlantaGinneh Baugh is the senior director of measurement and knowledge development at United Way of Greater Atlanta. She can be reached at gbaugh@unitedwayatlanta.org.


 

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The Legacy of One Region Atlanta

By Brian C. Friedman, The Wellspring Group and board member of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Brian C. Friedman, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta board member

Brian C. Friedman, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta board member

I have been honored and blessed to serve on the Council of Advisors for One Region Atlanta, an 18-month initiative of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta dedicated to building a more inclusive and tolerant region by helping connect metro Atlanta residents of all faith and cultural backgrounds through civic engagement and community building opportunities. The initiative has been a great success. Since its inception, One Region Atlanta has sponsored arts and cultural events, helped initiate and promote public dialogue opportunities and assisted in developing or strengthening education and training programs, all dedicated to promoting understanding and relationships among our diverse community. In addition, almost $80,000 in grants were given to 19 different faith and cultural organizations, including capacity building and program support grants to several prominent regional interfaith organizations such as Interfaith Community Initiatives, Faith Alliance of Metro Atlanta, and the Neshama Interfaith Center.

One Region Atlanta was initially funded by a grant from One Nation, a national initiative established after 9/11 out of concern for the increased prejudicial treatment against Muslim Americans. Grants were given to a number of community foundations across the country to develop programs that promoted more inclusive and tolerant communities. One Region Atlanta was designed to sunset in 18 months, but its legacy will continue in our region for many years to come. The Community Foundation is working with Welcoming America, a national intercultural organization based in Atlanta, and the Atlanta Regional Commission, in hopes of establishing metro Atlanta as the country’s first designated “Welcoming Region.” The Foundation will also continue to work with a number of interfaith organizations to help build their capacity, strengthen their programs and expand their reach. In addition, much of the knowledge, information, and relationships gained by the initiative will be integrated into the Foundation’s ongoing grant programs and its work with donors and other regional stakeholders.

It has truly been rewarding to serve with such a diverse and dedicated group of individuals on such a worthwhile and important project. My involvement also introduced me to some amazing, life-changing experiences. I participated in an Interfaith Immersion Weekend sponsored by Interfaith Community Initiatives and even traveled to Turkey last October with 30 Muslim, Jewish and Christian community and business leaders on an interfaith pilgrimage sponsored by World Pilgrims. These experiences not only broadened my respect and knowledge for other faiths and cultures, but also strengthened my own Christian faith in the process. I was also able to develop deep friendships with some amazing individuals whose backgrounds are much different from my own. After having such a positive impact on my life, I am excited and dedicated to see the legacy of One Region Atlanta continue to benefit our region for many years to come.

The Community Foundation has developed a case statement to share the story and successes of this initiative, entitled One Region Atlanta: The Power of Partnerships to Strengthen Community. To view it, please click here.

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The Places You’ll Go

Do you remember Dr. Seuss’ book “Oh the Places You’ll Go?” The one about exploring the world, finding oneself, facing challenges and moving mountains? If you’re anything like me, it’s on your top ten list of graduation gifts – kindergarten, high school, MBA. No matter what stage of life you are in, it’s a great reminder of opportunity and possibility.
In the first couple of pages, Dr. Seuss says, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” It’s an inspiring message for graduates that is full of encouragement and signals that no place or destination is off limits.

From www.seussville.com

Recent articles and research have made me consider not only the places or opportunity before new graduates, but also the places where they come from. The recent report on life expectancy from the Virginia Commonwealth University highlights that the place where you’re from can determine how long or how far you will go.

The map raised for me that this is not an issue of one graduate and his or her individual choice of path in life. Even Dr. Seuss recognized that “you can get all hung up in a prickle-ly perch. And your gang will fly on. You’ll be left in a lurch.” If people living just a few miles apart – relative neighbors in a region that spans over 4,000 square miles – can have vastly different life expectancies, then there are far too many who are being “left in a lurch.” This is a much larger issue that we need to understand. That our road can be cut short not because of our own choices, but because of where we grow up, is obviously unfair. An injustice. But why do children born in some places go on to live 8, 9, or 10 years longer than others?

Research shows gaps in health across neighborhoods stem from multiple factors such as:
• Unsafe or unhealthy housing which exposes residents to allergens and other hazards like overcrowding
• Stores and restaurants selling unhealthy food may outnumber markets with fresh produce or restaurants with nutritious food
• Limited opportunities for residents to exercise, walk or play outside
• Limited access to primary care doctors and good hospitals
• Unreliable or expensive public transit can isolate residents from good jobs, health care, child care and social services

“But on you will go though the weather be foul…on and on you will hike. And I know you’ll hike far.” Plus Dr. Seuss already told us, “And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed!…[we’ll] move mountains.”

So, though this seems like a big complex challenge, I do believe there are many of us out there who care about our future leaders – not only about the places they’ll go, but the places they’ll come from. So what can we do collectively to improve the places we go and we come from?


United Way AtlantaGinneh Baugh is the senior director of measurement and knowledge development at United Way of Greater Atlanta. She can be reached at gbaugh@unitedwayatlanta.org.

 


 

 

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What’s Your Compassion Rating?

Staci Lynch, Philanthropic Advisor at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Staci Lynch, Philanthropic Advisor at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Staci Lynch, Philanthropic Advisor at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Not too long ago I was introduced to the concept of a “compassion barometer.” I was attending a homeless briefing sponsored by The Community Foundation and the speaker began by posing a question: what’s your compassion rating? She continued by asking additional questions for everyone in the audience to consider, walking us through a self-reflection process on how to arrive at our rating (presumably on a scale of 1 to 10). Her first question was: when was the last time you wept for someone other than yourself?

Each day during my morning commute as I drive through the “Grady tunnel” – I observe the dozens of homeless men and women stationed underneath the bridge. On dry mornings, there are usually a half a dozen or so but on rainy days the count jumps to twenty or more. While I see them and I feel my heart tug every time, do I weep? Sure I get blurry-eyed when I read or hear about natural disasters like the earthquakes in Nepal or the recent floods in Texas. But do I actually weep when I learn of these tragedies?

How often do I stop and take a moment (or two) and really feel what other people are feeling? It’s pretty easy to acknowledge another’s pain, but compassion and empathy mean something more. They mean really bearing someone else’s experience or burden, one human being in exchange for another. I think that was the point the speaker was trying to make –she was challenging the audience to think more deeply about how we see one another and feel for one another.

As the parent of two young children, ages 5 and 3, my husband and I find ourselves constantly reminding our kids of the golden rule – treat others the way you want to be treated. In fact, the question, “How would you feel, if someone did that to you?” is a fairly regular response in our home. Perhaps that’s our own attempt to strengthen our children’s compassion for others.

To bring this full circle, if I had to rate myself along the compassion barometer (on a scale from 1 to 10, 10 being the highest), I’m clearly not at 10; however, my daily actions and life are guided by a very basic foundation of gratitude and helping others. So, maybe that gets me somewhere right of the middle at a 6 or 7? But if I accept that compassion is an important value, I still have some growth and work to do. And to talk about those values that are important, my husband and I still have more work to do for our next generation.

What about you – where would you rate yourself along the compassion barometer? Can you think of the last time you wept for someone other than yourself? How often do you stop and considered what it feels like to walk in someone else’s shoes – before passing judgment? If you have young children, do you talk with them about the values that you hold dear? Just a few things to ponder as the temperature rises this summer.

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Live United: The Collective Concept

What do a hungry child in Gwinnett, a homeless veteran in Henry County and an unemployed, married, pregnant mother in Fulton County, have in common? They are all our neighbors with problems that need our collective help.

How will we connect our neighbors with the right resources, create the change our community needs and serve as a catalyst to move the needle on important community problems? I believe, it’s a daily walk of life, vested in the well-being of all people. It’s a motivated passion, a lifestyle, which wakes me up daily. Together, we keep a collective eye on our community issues and commit to building it daily. Sure, we all watch the news. Indeed, we know what’s happening in our world. We also know we have the power, the passion and the commitment to change.

That change begins with identifying and marshaling the right resources to address complex community issues in the most effective way. It’s important to collaborate with many stakeholders: non-profit staff, volunteers, donors, partner agencies, local government and more. All of these community stakeholders must come together to create innovative solutions that contribute to our community’s success. Our charge, as concerned citizens, is to collectively invest our time, talent and treasures to enhance the quality of life for all of us. It’s more than one problem with one solution. It’s an all-inclusive process in an effort to build a thriving community. Together, we can create communities where all people, children and families succeed. I am excited to invest more in the solutions. Indeed knowledge is power and each one of us has a story, one that illustrates our work.

There are many people, companies and organizations invested in the total immersion in an effort to architect the greatest solutions. My dear community builders, I know you are busy creating change but I would love to steal a moment of your time. In that moment, I want to learn more about you and your community work. It’s like magic to see how your time, treasure and talent becomes a community building investment. Finding other world changers is like finding a long-lost relative. When we live united, we ARE one! Will you join me in sharing? Comment below – What’s your story?


United Way AtlantaAllison Todd is the interim regional marketing manager at United Way of Greater Atlanta. She can be reached at atodd@unitedwayatlanta.org.


 

 

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Ideas Challenge – How Innovative Ideas Can Spark Change

By Alicia Clay, program associate at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Alicia Clay, program associate at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Alicia Clay, program associate at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

How would you use $10,000 to improve education in YOUR community? The Ideas Challenge asked this question on Facebook earlier this year, asking for 150 words for an idea that improved education. That’s it. Just an idea. No budget, no board list, no timeline. Just an idea, a thought.

The goal of the Ideas Challenge is to inspire residents of greater Atlanta to create innovative solutions to critical community-based issues. This was the second year of this social-media based program of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. In 2015, three top winners will receive a cash prize up to $1,000 and a partnership with a local nonprofit to implement their idea with a grant award up to $10,000.

The Ideas Challenge has been such a refreshing project to work on for a couple reasons. Why do I love this program? The Ideas Challenge is innovative, collaborative and an inspiration. Our goal is to inspire Atlantans to become grassroots leaders. To think, talk, and take action in their communities. It’s a reminder that communities are built, improved and strengthened by the people who live in them.

Today we announce top 16 ideas of the 2015 Ideas Challenge. We received 200 entries from across the 23-county region addressing issues in education through nutrition, eco-education, entrepreneurism and even mobile education (think a classroom on wheels). These ideas stood out for their creativity, reach and potential impact. Congratulations to the following semi-finalists:

  • ABCs vs APPs, Kathryn Rice
  • Camp Success, Tonya Gibson
  • Community Champion, Tammy Greer
  • Creating Bilingual Communities with Dual Language Classrooms, DeShea Ware Brooks
  • S.T.E.A.M. Summer Camp/After School Program, Vanessa Johnson
  • Knowledge is Freedom, Tami Boyd
  • Nutrition and Food Literacy, YaQutullah Ibraheem Muhammad
  • Our Town, Diane Dierks
  • Recycling For DREAMS!, Debra Clark
  • Shop Class as Soul Craft, Elise Blasingame
  • STE(A)M Truck, Jason Martin
  • The Babysitter’s Club, Aneta Lee
  • The Shared History Project, David Burt
  • We STEM for Adams Park, Debra Robinson
  • Yoga and Meditation for Pre-K and Kindergartners, Robert Douglas
  • Youth Unifying Youth, Susanna Spiccia

 

These semi-finalists will attend a workshop on June 6 where they will fine tune their ideas and pitch to a judges panel. Six finalists will be chosen to create a short video explaining their idea and a public vote will determine the winners.

Be sure to vote for your favorite ideas June 25 – July 9 on the Ideas Challenge Facebook page! www.facebook.com/ideaschallenge.

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3 Reasons Nonprofits Should Host ‘Shark Tank’ Competitions

SHARK_TANKThe popularity of the hit show Shark Tank and the success for-profit companies have had with pitch competitions are leading many nonprofits to question whether they should embrace similar contests. My perspective is, absolutely!

Earlier this year at our Connecting for Community Change Conference (C3), United Way of Greater Atlanta hosted our own pitch-style grant competition called Spark Prize. It was one of the most uplifting and exciting events we’ve ever undertaken – full of passion and energy!

Here are three reasons why your nonprofit might want to consider hosting a pitch competition too.

1. It Provides Innovative Solutions – We all have talented, smart professionals in our organizations. But what would happen if you could double or triple that brainpower? Pitch competitions do just that, providing dozens of fresh ideas and solutions to help us create stronger organizations and stronger communities.

2. It Opens the Door for Future Collaboration – Each person or organization that enters a submission for your contest is demonstrating an interest in your mission and showing a desire to partner with you. It begins a relationship with (and creates a database of) potential partners to collaborate with in the future to help your nonprofit make a greater mission impact.

3. It Re-energizes Donors – When we initially launched our Spark Prize contest, we had $20,000 available for the winner. By the day of the live contest, that amount had tripled to $60,000, thanks to generous donors who were re-energized by the innovative ideas and the fun ways they were presented. In addition to the funds, donors also participated as judges, giving them a unique way to volunteer and contribute to our mission.

I understand the reservation some nonprofit leaders may have about these contests. After all, it is vital to always be good stewards of the money our supporters have entrusted to us. However, I want to encourage you to give them a try. You may find these competitions are a perfect way to complement and energize your work, mission and vision, and thus, help to ensure our entire community thrives.


headshot_donnaBuchananDonna Buchanan is the chief operating officer at United Way of Greater Atlanta.


 

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2015 Greater Good Award

By Rob Smulian, vice president, philanthropic services

By Rob Smulian, vice president of Philanthropic Services for The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

By Rob Smulian, vice president of Philanthropic Services for The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Atlanta’s and Georgia’s legacy of planned giving is long and distinguished, and the Georgia Planned Giving Council (GPGC) exists to build on that history and grow the impact of planned giving across the region and the state. Each year, through a rigorous process, GPGC selects a professional advisor who exemplifies the best in incorporating a charitable focus on planned giving in his/her professional practice, as well as in his/her personal life, to receive the annual Greater Good Award.

Greater Good Award recipients focus their respective practices on advising charitable individuals in order to increase the quantity and quality of planned gifts to charities in Georgia. Additionally, the professional advisor should incorporate that thinking and action in his/her personal involvement in the community, volunteering with and supporting nonprofit organizations who can benefit from wise counsel, time and resources.

This year’s Greater Good Award winner, Bertram L. Levy, fits the bill perfectly. Bert is a partner in the Atlanta based law firm of Arnall Golden Gregory LLC, where he heads the firm’s Private Wealth Group. In his work, he encourages his clients to incorporate philanthropy and planned giving into their financial planning, as he leads by example. The impact of his work benefits the nonprofit organizations doing the good work in our community, delivering services, addressing critical needs and enlivening our culture. Bert and his wife, Barbara, are deeply involved with, and have supported, many nonprofit organizations in the region over the years. Currently servicing as the Chairman of the Piedmont Healthcare Foundation, he also serves on the governing boards of the High Museum of Art, the Woodruff Arts Center and the Fernbank Museum of Natural History, along with a number of other advisory boards.

Bert Levy personifies our region’s philanthropic legacy. What a great lesson to follow!

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Religion, Nonprofits and Mental Health: They Go Together

By Rabbi Judith Beiner, community chaplain at Jewish & Family Career Services

By Rabbi Judith Beiner, community chaplain at Jewish & Family Career Services

Despite all of our differences, there are still many things that all people have in common. One of them is the need to maintain good overall health and well-being, and to be connected to support systems, be they family, friends, co-workers or fellow believers. Mental health is a vital part of our overall health, and challenges to good mental health exist among people of all socioeconomic statuses, ethnicities and religions. And yet, many of our neighbors don’t seek the treatment they need, or even know treatment and support are available.

Each day, I meet with families and individuals who are affected by mental illness. For believers, God’s presence and the quest for transcendence can bring hope and inspiration. The routines of observing holy days and festivals provide needed periods of rest as well as celebrations, all of which are necessary for good mental health!

Still, there are times when more support is necessary.

That is why we at Jewish Family & Career Services partnered with United Way of Greater Atlanta and other nonprofit organizations for an awareness campaign called “I Am More Than…” The campaign aims to increase awareness of the importance of good mental health and combat stigma associated with seeking help for a mental illness. United Way has played the role of convener for a group of nonprofits that are seeking to end the stigma. The nonprofits involved have utilized their collective knowledge and experience to begin a dialogue on stigma with the philanthropic community, the criminal justice community and the education community. In addition, United Way will be hosting a forum on Thursday, June 18 at The Carter Center which will be open to other nonprofits and community leaders to learn more about mental health.

Leaders of faith communities can play a vital role in supporting the mental health of their members. Clergy who preach and teach openly about mental health issues dispel myths and create safe spaces for those who seek support from their faith. In addition, synagogues, churches and mosques signal to their communities that institutions of faith can be places for healing and reconnecting by providing meeting space for support and therapy groups. I urge my fellow faith and religious-based leaders to have frank conversations with their peers and congregations about mental conditions, such as depression and bipolar disorder, to help remove social stigma and enable those afflicted to feel welcome in their faith communities and hopefully, seek help.

Watch our video and learn more about the importance of mental health and combating related stigmas.

If you or someone you care about needs mental health support, please contact United Way of Greater Atlanta’s 2-1-1 Contact Center or the Georgia Crisis & Access Line at 800.715.4225. For more information about the symposium, please email Kezzie Joseph at kjoseph@unitedwayatlanta.org.

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Managing for Excellence: Nonprofits are businesses, too

By Kristina Morris, program officer at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Kristina Morris, program officer at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Kristina Morris, program officer at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Whenever I’m at networking events or in a new group of people, I find that after a few minutes of small talk, the conversation inevitably turns to work. Having spent my entire career in the nonprofit sector, I have often heard the following statements when people find out about my profession: “Oh! How fun! You must find that really rewarding!” [Yes, I do!] or “So you volunteer with them full time? [No, really, this is my full-time job. I get paid to do this.]

The reactions, while positive, tend to focus on the “warm and fuzzy” aspects and tend to assume a focus on altruism above all else. Even within the sector, the idea that nonprofits need to operate more like a business appears frequently. But, I argue, they already ARE businesses. Like for profits, nonprofits offer necessary services, have clients and have to manage revenue and expenses. The main difference (but certainly not the only one) is a tax designation.

Likewise, a well-managed nonprofit must employ certain characteristics to ensure success. Such organizations should be fiscally sound, have thoughtful board and staff engagement, focus on continuous improvement and have a clear, mission-driven vision and plan. The Community Foundation has long focused on promoting and celebrating best practices in nonprofit management in each of these areas, most notably through its Managing for Excellence Award program.

Since 1984, Managing for Excellence has played an important role in the Foundation’s efforts to strengthen the region’s nonprofits by highlighting organizations adhering to nonprofit best practices. The program, sponsored by Boston Consulting Group, selects the most accomplished organizations among competitors by focusing on management expertise, not programmatic success. Nonprofit organizations are ranked against a criteria of over 80 characteristics and undergo a rigorous application and site visit process to win the award. A review committee selects a winner in each of two budget categories – under $2 million and over $2 million.

Dad’s Garage Theatre, 2015 winner in the under $2 million category, is a mid-sized theatre that engages, cultivates and inspires artists and audiences alike by producing innovative, scripted and improvised works that are recognized locally, nationally and internationally for being undeniably awesome. Families First, this year’s winner in the over $2 million category, works to ensure the success of children in jeopardy by empowering families.

This year’s winners are vastly different in their missions and programming, but they both exemplify well-managed nonprofits and contribute greatly to the fabric of the nonprofit sector in metro Atlanta. It is our hope that through these winners, and through the awards program, that we will continue to lift up best practices in nonprofit management, strengthening nonprofits and ultimately improving our region.

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