Atlanta’s giving – an indicator of civic health

By Kathy Palumbo, director, programs at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Kathy Palumbo, Director of Community Partnerships, The Community Foundation of

By Kathy Palumbo, Director of Community Partnerships, The Community Foundation of Greater Atlanta

Every other year, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, in partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship, develops a Civic Health Index for Metropolitan Atlanta. Much like the 2012 Metropolitan Atlanta Civic Health Index, this year’s report is an examination of key issues in community life and leadership throughout the metropolitan Atlanta area. Core civic health data reveals how communities engage in important civic activities such as voting, volunteering, and interacting with neighbors. PLACES (Partnerships for Leadership and Civic Engagement Solutions) is The Community Foundation’s strategy to generate more civic participation and a stronger sense of our individual and collective stake in community life. Among PLACES’s tactics are opportunities to research civic life and challenges, public discussion and debate, community organizing, promoting voter participation, advocating for particular issues, training and capacity-building activities for nonprofits and neighborhood groups and building collaborations that address issues of civic importance. The Civic Health Index offers a vehicle to measure civic behavior in our region over time as well as suggestions that will generate productive change.

One of the data sets reviewed for the Index is the number of persons making charitable gifts to nonprofits. Ask almost anyone in the metro region if they think we are a generous group and the answer will be “of course!” But only half of us actually are. Findings from the data show that 54% of Atlantans made charitable donations of $25 or more in 2013. We can celebrate that this is a four point increase from the 2011 data. If we continue to give at the same rate it will take more than a decade until most of us roll this type of civic dues into our understanding of community. Granted, the research does not reveal the total amount of funds donated during the same time period. But, honestly, what strikes me as the higher aim is the number of us who make any monetary gift to nonprofits, the sector that provides afterschool programming, meals for low-income seniors, scholarships for college students, adoption services, counseling, plants trees, enriches our lives with access to the arts – well, I could go on and on.

Given how competitive we are here, I would like to challenge each of us to consider our frequency and levels of charitable giving. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Atlanta could claim we are the most generous city in the nation?

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We Must Connect for Community Change

By Etha Henry, Executive Vice President Community Engagement, United Way of Greater Atlanta

By Etha Henry, Executive Vice President Community Engagement, United Way of Greater Atlanta

Whether you were born here or moved here, you know “What makes Greater Atlanta a great place is our commitment to community and service. ” One example of that commitment took place this past Friday. Hundreds of us gathered for United Way’s C3 Conference – Connecting for Community Change. Our goal – to ensure our children, families, neighbors and communities have the connections and support they need so everyone thrives.

We spoke to several people at the conference to find out what they’re doing to connect for community change. Here’s what they said.

We want to hear from you too! Let us know what you’re doing to connect for community change. Leave your responses in the comment section below.

Connect for Community Change



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My neighborhood, my home – an ode to East Atlanta

Erin Dreiling, marketing and communications manager at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Erin Dreiling, marketing and communications manager at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Erin Dreiling, marketing and communications manager at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Human beings need several basic things to survive – food, water and shelter. But I believe that we also need community and connection to others. As a staff member of a philanthropic organization that connects people with their passion, I know that philanthropy can mean many things to different people. Our values dictate where we give our time, talent and treasure. For me, it’s important to contribute to the place I live and that is where much of my own personal philanthropy falls.

I live in East Atlanta, a dynamic and diverse neighborhood that is wildly interesting. On our streets, families push strollers at community events hosted and sponsored by businesses that feature some of the best nightlife in Atlanta. We have a variety of events focused on everything from civil war history to music.

Recently, East Atlanta’s many whimsical and exceptional qualities were recognized by Redfin Corporation’s Hottest Neighborhoods report, which named East Atlanta as the third hottest neighborhood in the country. This report drew media attention and increased buzz, but I think it just confirmed what those of use that live here know – East Atlanta is a great place to live. It’s my home and I think it’s important to take care of your home and the people that live in it. That sense of community takes work and it must be fostered. That is why I attend the local East Atlanta Village Farmers Market every week. That is why I support our local community association, which runs several safety programs, as well as a program called Neighbor in Need that helps members of our community make emergency repairs to their homes. To me, that is the essence of community – neighbors helping other neighbors and keeping an eye out for each other. If we don’t do it, who will? It’s an investment in our neighborhoods – our extended homes.

What does philanthropy mean to you? Where does your heart lie?

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Be Greater Atlanta’s Valentine

Crayons are red.
Baby blankets are blue.
When you love your community, you give back too!
Thanks for the love.
Happy Valentine’s Day to everyone in the communities we love and serve!

Atlanta Valentine

Special thanks to, where we found the beautiful skyline photo by Andre Richardson.

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Combating the February doldrums with action

By Barrett Krise, Senior Philanthropic Advisor at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

By Barrett Krise, Senior Philanthropic Advisor at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

By Barrett Krise, senior philanthropic advisor at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

I have never much liked the month of February. There’s something about the shortest month that always seems to drag to me; the dreary weather, the downtime after holiday celebrations, the long stretch until Atlanta blooms into spring.  It brings to my mind the Doldrums from one of my favorite books, The Phantom Tollbooth: “The Doldrums, my young friend, are where nothing ever happens and nothing ever changes. People who don’t pay attention often get stuck in the Doldrums.” 1

I was meeting with a donor recently and she asked me what was new and exciting in Atlanta. As I started to answer her—the Atlanta Beltline, Krog Street Market, Wonderroot’s new Center for Arts and Social Change, Ponce City Market, Atlanta Habitat for Humanity’s new Family Support Center and ReStore—we both remarked on how exciting it was in Atlanta right now. There is such an energy and vibrancy happening in Atlanta and the metro region that it’s palpable. What to do about that though? As we head into February why don’t we fight those doldrums? Let’s push ourselves to pay attention, to do something. Why not reach out to that organization you’ve supported for years and see if you can volunteer with them? Maybe do a philanthropic audit and take a look back through the gifts you made last year and see how you can more deeply engage with some of those organizations? Now that the holidays are over and Super Bowl is done, perhaps now is a good time to return your attention to the community around you and give it your energy. The best way to combat those doldrums is to join in and be a part of something bigger.

1 The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

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Nonprofits Should Focus on Connections, Not Charity

By Shana Word Davis, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, United Way of Greater Atlanta

“People are struggling and need our help.” “We must help the less fortunate.” “Support our nonprofit…”

By Shana Word Davis, Senior Director of Marketing  and Communications, United Way of Greater Atlanta

By Shana Word Davis, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications, United Way of Greater Atlanta

How many times have you heard, seen or even spoken words like that in an effort to tell your nonprofit’s story and get support from donors, advocates and volunteers? I know I’ve done it a time or two. But if we as a philanthropic community are going to make a larger impact, we must start focusing our narratives on connections, not charity.

Charity gives the appearance of divisiveness – the haves and the have nots – us and them. The reality is, we are all interconnected. Nonprofits don’t just feed the hungry, tutor children or house the homeless. Nonprofits create a stronger community by ensuring its most valuable assets – people – have the food, education, housing and other resources necessary to progress in society today and to build a stronger community and change the future.

If we are going to truly engage people and spur them into action, the stories we tell must be the stories of “us” – stories of “we.” Our fates are connected. We rise or fall together. Think of it as a game of Jenga. All the pieces support each other, and if one piece is out of place, the whole tower can come crashing down.

It is our role as nonprofits and community advocates to help our neighbors understand this. Clearly articulating this connection is one way to generate the understanding needed to inspire everyone in our community to work together. By working together, we will be change agents, building a stronger community and changing the future.

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What do we expect of our students?

By Lesley Grady, senior vice president of Community Partnerships for The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

By Lesley Grady, senior vice president of Community Partnerships for The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

I’m in Dallas at a national gathering sponsored by the Lumina Foundation for communities working to increase college graduation for students. The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta was invited as a result of our 18-month partnership with the Joseph B. Whitehead Foundation to launch “Achieve Atlanta,” a comprehensive college access and completion initiative focused on students in Atlanta’s city schools. Achieve Atlanta is a bold idea that brings together the philanthropic, nonprofit, public, educational and business sectors to help youth plan for and attain educational and career goals – starting with the students in high school and sticking with them through college completion. It’s exciting and important work and we invite you to learn more and get involved by clicking on The Route to and Through College.

We’re being exposed to a fascinating mix of expertise – from superintendents, college presidents, foundation executives and directors of nonprofits. We are also being inundated with important data to help to ground this important work. The data point that struck me most was the huge, growing gap in supply and demand for post-secondary achievement. According to the Institute for Higher Education Policy, between 2004-09, less than 50% of all students who entered postsecondary institutions earned a degree or credential within 6 years – yet by 2020 65% of all job openings will require post-secondary preparation.

The students who will fill this gap are those who are not experiencing academic success today. These are students for whom educational achievement is not a given. These students come from family and friends who haven’t attended college. They hail from disconnected communities and distressed environments. For some of these students English is not their native language. These students stand out for all that they don’t bring to the classroom and they require a greater level of thoughtfulness, time and resources if they are to attain postsecondary credentials. This mirrors what the experts are reminding us: that education and youth development is complicated work and requires consistent use of data, strong content knowledge, continuous learning, thoughtful and creative strategy, multi-sector and diverse relationships and smart use of technology and tracking tools.

Yet, for me, the most revealing expertise emerged from the young people themselves, current and former students, who shared their experiences of struggle and triumph. Unanimously they have all said that the first step on their journey to success was basic yet profound: it was the moment that they understood what they could achieve – and even more that someone else believed and expected that they would.

What would we do differently if we truly expected every child to succeed in life? Consider that most of us hold high expectations for the significant children in our lives and how this expectation serves as a beacon and guide for their paths. In our professional and civic lives, we’ve likely sympathized, contributed, prayed, hoped, volunteered and worked on behalf of youth in many ways, believing in our hearts that it is possible for them to succeed. But do we fundamentally expect them to? What if we let students who are struggling in their path know that their community not only expects them to achieve, but needs them to achieve for our collective success?

Expectation, distinct from hope, shifts the focus of responsibility in relationships. Students won’t ever care how much they can one day contribute until they first believe that their community cares and expects that contribution.  With expectation as a foundation, we can make a subtle yet powerful shift in our perspective. Ultimately, we can make a shift in how effectively we employ all of the expertise and tools that are available to generate educational success.

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What Martin Luther King, Jr. Can Teach Us About Serving Others

As people across Greater Atlanta – and the world – prepare to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King with a day of service, I am reminded of one of his most famous quotes:  “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is ‘what are you doing for others?’”

By Milton J. Little, Jr.

By Milton J. Little, Jr. President & CEO, United Way of Greater Atlanta

As I was pondering the question recently, and thinking about Dr. King’s many accomplishments, I came up with five takeaways from his life that can help us all live a life of service and create change for a stronger community.

1. He nurtured his gift: One reason Dr. King was so successful was because he was a great communicator. But he didn’t just wake up one day delivering riveting speeches, with all the inflections on all the right words. It’s a skill he had been nurturing since he was a child. Whatever your natural gifts and talents may be, continue to cultivate them and find ways to use them to help others.

2. He was courageous: Webster defines courage as: mental or moral strength to venture, persevere, and withstand danger, fear or difficulty. It’s what gave Dr. King the ability to fight for causes he believed in, knowing it could cost him his life. Creating change never comes easy, so to become a true change agent, you must have courage to see it through.

3. He gave selflessly: Dr. King paid the ultimate price in his service to others, but it was just his final act in a life of selflessness and sacrifice to ensure equality for all. He gave his time, traveling around the world, often leaving his wife and young children at home. He gave his talents – the gift of communication and leadership – and he gave his treasure, even donating his Nobel Prize Award money to the Civil Rights movement. You must be willing to serve others without receiving anything in return.

4. He collaborated with others: Dr. King was part of the Civil Rights Movement – a collaboration with many other people and organizations. Together, they were able to accomplish what no individual or group would have been able to do alone. There is truly power in numbers.

5. He had faith: I’m not talking about faith in the religious or spiritual sense, but I mean a sincere, unshakable belief that what he was doing would work. That faith was on full display during his last speech when he said:  “…I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know…we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.” Believe that the change you are fighting and working tirelessly for will come…and it will.

How has Dr. King inspired you? What lessons from his life do you want to share with others? Let me know in the comment section below. MLK_MILTON_BLOG

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2015 Wishes for Atlanta

Alicia Philipp, president of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Alicia Philipp, president of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

My mother gave me a wonderful gift-optimism. Yes, I do have rose colored glasses sometimes but optimism also makes it possible for me to believe that seemingly intractable issues can be resolved.

As we start 2015, my optimistic fervor is making these wishes for Atlanta:

-we will each embark on a personal learning journey about the implications of race in our community today

-we will each commit to, in words and deeds, being a welcoming community to immigrants and refugees

-no matter our age, or if we do have children in school, we will find a way to engage in our public school system

-we will be civil in all our discussions and debates

-and, we will up our game in sharing our time, talent and treasure.

Happy New Year!

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Three Philanthropy Lessons We Can Learn From Santa

By Katerina Taylor, Chair, United Way of Greater Atlanta's Johnetta B. Cole Women's Society and President & CEO, DeKalb Chamber of Commerce

By Katerina Taylor, Chair, United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Johnetta B. Cole Women’s Society and President & CEO, DeKalb Chamber of Commerce

Happy Holidays! That’s something I love saying because it’s my favorite time of year. The city is alive with good cheer and the spirit of the holidays. This is actually the favorite time of the year for kids of all ages because the most well-known and beloved philanthropist of all time comes to town. Some call him Chris Kringle, or Jolly old St Nick, but for most, we call him Santa Claus. And whether you believe in him or not, there are several lessons about giving we can learn from him. Here are my top three.

1. Be selfless – Think about it. Has Santa ever given anyone his holiday list? Has he ever told a child he would give them gifts only if they gave him something too? Of course not! He is generous and expects nothing in return. His joy comes from knowing he’s making a difference, and that alone is more than enough for him.

2. Listen before giving – Before he decides which child gets a doll, toy truck, tablet or even clothes & shoes, Santa listens to find out what the needs (and wants) are. We can give in many ways – by donating our time, talent and treasure – but to be true change agents, our giving must help satisfy our community’s greatest needs. The only way to know what those needs are is to listen – by talking directly to our neighbors who need assistance or by engaging with organizations, like United Way, that have intimate knowledge of what the needs are.

3. Work with others to make a bigger impact – It would be impossible for Santa to make enough toys to deliver to children across the globe by himself. So what did he do? He teamed up with a group of elves. The same is true for us. Alone, we can help an individual, a family and maybe a neighborhood. But together, we can create change to build a stronger community for everyone in Greater Atlanta.

The holiday season will be over before you know it, but you can apply these philanthropic lessons from Santa throughout 2015 and every year that follows. Happy Holidays to all.

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