Philanthropy – A Great Way to Bond with Your Children

Alicia Philipp, president of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Alicia Philipp, president of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

This summer we’re running some of the ‘best of’ our Philanthropy Blogs from the past year. Enjoy this week’s blog from Alicia Philipp, originally published on May 5, 2014.

As parents, we have a natural instinct to want to share with our children – our wisdom, our contacts and our resources – to name a few things!  Sometimes, sharing what we do philanthropically doesn’t come as easily. What often holds parents back is philanthropy gets tied up in people’s minds with money and what parents feel will be the inevitable question of “if we are so philanthropic, how much money do we really have?”

While I do believe the money discussion should not be so scary and infrequent, philanthropy is not inevitably tied to money. Philanthropy can be a wonderful parent/child bond.  Focus on what you value – why do you want to spend the time you do helping the museum or the mission or fill-in-the-blank? What did your parents, your children’s grandparents, do for the community?  What are your shared memories with them?  Are you creating shared memories with your children?  Do you listen to what interests your child (pets are almost always a passion at certain ages!)? Do you find time to share volunteer experiences around those interests? At The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, we define philanthropy as the giving of your time, talent and treasure. Teach your child about philanthropy and decide together how you are going to give as a family of your time, talent and treasure based on your family’s passions. Philanthropy is a journey and like all journeys, it starts with a conversation and a first step. Don’t wait!

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Embracing the 96

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

This summer we’re running some of the “best of” our Philanthropy Blogs from the past year. Enjoy this week’s blog from the Lesley Grady, originally published on September 3, 2013.

A recent study, dubbed by the New York Times as “the most detailed portrait yet of income mobility in the United States”, reveals that a child born in poverty in Atlanta has only a 4 percent chance of moving into a middle income bracket.  Put simply: 96 of every 100 poor kids in Atlanta today will be poor the rest of their lives.

The study shares some key causes: school quality; social networks; economic and racial segregation. School Quality? Check.  Georgia ranks 48 percent nationally for high school graduation.  Social Capital? Check.  Only 13 percent of the region’s residents exchange favors with their neighbors. Economic and racial segregation? Check.  According to the Pew Institute, both income and residential inequality is on the rise nationally and remains prevalent in much of the region.

Atlanta boasts a continuum of communities from those that are thriving to others that remain under-resourced and marginalized from opportunity. Yet while residents from all these communities walk the same streets, cheer for the same teams, patronize the same businesses, and dart through the same crazy rainstorms, there is a horrific distinction. For those who are poor, we have 96 reasons to conclude that their children will be poor too.

How do we grow our capacity to love and support 96 percent of children for whom achievement has never been a given? Whose lives have been designed for limitation? It will require fierce honesty and unwavering compassion and commitment across all sectors of the region to change the trajectory for these kids.

Committing fully and boldly is scary because it involves tough conversations about place and race and equity and compassion for others’ reality. Yet I believe that if we are willing to try, we may recognize that our greatest fear is the revelation of our neglect.

Just like your kids and mine, children living in poverty are often sad…angry…hurting. This makes perfect sense given the odds against them.  And something tells me they knew it long before someone did a study and documented it for the rest of us.

Over the next few months, The Community Foundation and other organizations committed to children will be involved in conversations about the quality of our education in the region. Keep your ear to the ground and please get involved however possible.

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Five Lessons on How Philanthropy Has Strengthened My Family

By the Honorable Ronit Walker, Judge, Office of State Administrative Hearings

By the Honorable Ronit Walker, Judge, Office of State Administrative Hearings

This summer we’re running some of the “best of” our Philanthropy Blogs from the past year. Enjoy this week’s blog originally posted on May 12, 2014 by the Honorable Ronit Walker.

When my daughter was very young, we visited my grandmother on Fridays. After my grandmother passed away, Fridays felt lonely to us so we spent time delivering meals on wheels to residents of a senior living facility. The residents beamed when my daughter would toddle to their front doors, clutching a meal in her tiny hands. But I soon realized that as much as the residents delighted in visiting with a toddler each week, it was my daughter who was really having a good time. She loved the attention she received and her feeling of accomplishment after we completed our route.

Now I have two more children, and my toddler is on the verge of obtaining a driver’s license. As my children have grown, I recognize that many of our most memorable experiences have been the times we have spent volunteering in our community. Our commitment to engaging in philanthropy, whether through service or charitable donations, has strengthened us as a family. I would like to share five lessons I have learned:

  1. Volunteering has helped me to know and understand my children better. My daughter loves to be with younger kids. If volunteering involves entertaining a roomful of preschoolers, she can’t wait to participate. Another one of my children is shy around large groups of people. Packaging food at Project Open Hand, and being able to see the meals that he has helped to prepare stacked and ready for delivery, provides him with a tangible way to measure his achievement.
  2. Volunteering creates rituals and traditions for our family. We have committed to providing birthday cakes for homeless children on certain months of the year, and preparing and serving food at shelters on designated Sundays. Although the holidays can be a wonderful time to volunteer in the community, we know that we have dates throughout the year that we will spend time working together as a family – and away from the screens that can isolate us from one another.
  3. Being philanthropic generates important and passionate discussions. During the holiday season, we decide as a family that we will pool and donate a portion of our holiday gifts to charity. Each child gets to advocate for a charity that they feel is most in need of the donation. At the end of the discussion, we vote on the winner. Not everyone is always satisfied with the result, but learning that sometimes one has to make difficult choices with limited resources is also a valuable lesson.
  4. Volunteering gives my children a perspective on how much they already have. My daughter has been working at a summer program for homeless children for the past three years. Last summer, she was so excited when some of the children remembered her and gave her big hugs – until she realized that this meant that their families had not secured permanent housing. She is reminded how fortunate she is to have a home to return to at the end of the day.
  5. Volunteering doesn’t have to be formal. Opportunities to perform even small acts of kindness, such as helping an elderly person with their groceries, donating to a local charity, or visiting a sick friend, are available to our families almost every day.   Moreover, it gives us the opportunity to gently remind our children not only of how much others may need, but that they have the ability to make things better.
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Supporting a thriving nonprofit sector

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Lita Pardi, senior program officer, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

This summer we’re running some of the “best of” our Philanthropy Blogs from the past year. Enjoy this week’s blog from Lita Pardi on supporting a thriving nonprofit sector, originally published on July 22, 2013.

These days, funders and donors are increasingly more focused on the return on their investment in nonprofit organizations. They not only want to know that lives have been changed by the work of organizations, but also that nonprofits are making strategic business decisions to maximize and leverage their contributions and gifts.

Several years ago The Community Foundation decided to put in writing what we believe to be the best practices associated with well-managed nonprofit organizations. These best practices give organizational leadership (board and staff) a clear sense of what it takes to be effective. Though these practices are not one size fits all, they do represent key factors that drive an organization’s success.

A few of these practices include:

  • A written and periodically updated strategic plan
  • A board of directors with the skills needed to guide the organization
  • Regular employee feedback and communication
  • A closely monitored and adjusted organizational budget
  • Cooperative, collaborative partnerships
  • Strong programmatic outcomes and indicators

Metro Atlanta has hundreds of strong, effective nonprofit organizations. How do you determine which organizations to support? There are resources like GuideStar and Charity Navigator that can help you assess nonprofits. You can also visit The Community Foundation’s website to learn more about the characteristics of strong nonprofits. For donors who have funds at The Community Foundation, we provide guidance and resources to support their giving. As you consider where to give, I encourage you to look for and invest in organizations that approach community needs with innovative and strategic solutions.

When you connect with nonprofits, ask them how they know they are effective in their operations, not just their programs. Doing so will help metro Atlanta foster a thriving, sustainable nonprofit sector.

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Harnessing data to strengthen communities

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Tahmida Shamsuddin, Director of Neighborhood Nexus

This summer we’re running some of the “best of” our Philanthropy Blogs from the past year. Enjoy this week’s blog originally posted on November 11, 2013 by Tahmida Shamsuddin, Director of Neighborhood Nexus.

Robbie Hunter is a resident and advocate for Oakland City, an in-town community located in Southwest Atlanta. Robbie and fellow residents involved with the local neighborhood association have been searching for solutions to respond to the increased number of vacant homes in their community. In September, she attended The Community Foundation’s Neighborhood Summit to network with other community leaders, share and learn best practices. But she also received so much more.

There at the Summit, Robbie was able to participate in a one-on-one consulting session where she received an in-depth profile of her neighborhood. Like many of us, Robbie wanted to make a difference in her community but lacked the information necessary to understand the issues and how best to tackle them. Using Neighborhood Nexus, Robbie was able to pinpoint the number of vacant housing units, what percentage of the total housing units are vacant, and how many were foreclosed in her community.

A partnership between The Community Foundation, Atlanta Regional Commission, Emory University, Georgia State University and the Civic League for Regional Atlanta, Neighborhood Nexus is a comprehensive information resource that empowers community leaders to enhance the quality-of-life in the Atlanta region. Neighborhood Nexus was created to help bring better data to community leaders, residents and decision makers, allowing them to analyze community needs, envision solutions and make strategic decisions about priorities and resources.

By visiting www.neighborhoodnexus.org, you can access a variety of critical community data – from educational attainment, jobs and income to the environment, health, parks and fast food restaurants. The website serves as a free hub for gathering facts, acquiring insights as well as providing residents with tools and information to tell their stories.

After her one-on-one consulting session at the Neighborhood Summit, Robbie left that day armed with hundreds of data variables specific to her community. A few weeks later, she presented the information at a community meeting to key leaders and stakeholders. Together, they are working to develop a data-driven approach to respond to the neighborhood’s housing challenge and better strengthen the community overall.

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Local living, local giving

This summer we’re running some of the “best of” our Philanthropy Blogs from the past year. Enjoy this week’s blog originally posted on September 30, 2013 by Megan Swett, Director of Operational Strategy at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

Metro Atlanta has a growing culture of community members supporting local business people, farmers, artisans and craftsmen. We shop at independent retailers, buy locally-farmed food, eat in locally-owned restaurants, and support hometown art, music and other cultural events. The push to keep things local is a trend taking place in cities across the U.S. But metro Atlanta has the added character of being southern – a trait that means we can do down-home with particular finesse.

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Megan Swett, director of operational strategy, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

However, 

giving locally is something many of us do in our everyday lives but may not think much about. From buying tickets to charitable events to volunteering for service days to making an annual donation, there are many ways we can support the organizations that touch the issues that matter to us. But imagine how much more engagement and investment we could see if we raised charitable giving to the front of the conversation about supporting the local economy?

Local nonprofits are local businesses. They add to the local economy by employing our neighbors and they address the issues the people in our communities face. They often have intimate knowledge and historical context of those issues and long-term relationships with the people invested in changing things for the better. And they tend to be oriented toward deep impact rather than broad scale. Giving locally to the nonprofits working in our communities is the epitome of supporting that which is local.

Let’s start looking at local giving with the same fervor that drives us to stand in lines snaking around our neighborhood gourmet donut shops or that leads us to seek out our favored organic peach farmer, no matter which market they’re at on a given weekend. For those local organizations that depend on community support, consider tapping into the desires of those who wish to support local businesses by fostering a sense of investment and ownership in your work. If giving becomes a standard component of the litany of “local,” our communities will be the better for it.

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The Power of Family and Philanthropy

By Audrey Jacobs, director, Center for Family Philanthropy at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

By Audrey Jacobs, director, Center for Family Philanthropy at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

This summer we’re running some of the “best of” our Philanthropy Blogs from the past year. Enjoy this week’s blog originally posted on June 2, 2014 by Audrey Jacobs, Director for Family Philanthropy at the Community Foundation.

A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to think about what makes family philanthropy so special. I attended the National Center for Family Philanthropy’s Family Forum and came away with a deeper understanding of the importance of family and philanthropy.

I understood more than ever that family philanthropy is about people who share a common bond who come together to look outside of themselves. In the process of doing this, they strengthen the bonds between each family member. All of this is done out of love – love for themselves and others.

I can think of many examples of how special family philanthropy is.

There is:

  • a mom who wants her twenty-something boys to remain close and remember the values she taught them.
  • the parents who became very successful financially, who want their children to serve others and not just themselves.
  • the divorced dad, who wants to teach his girls about money, and in so doing, allows them to find their voice and power.
  • a mother transferring leadership of her family’s philanthropy to her daughter, understanding that her daughter will hold the family’s values close.

Something wonderful happens when families come together around giving.

And, truly, all families can find a way. For example:

  • Plan a family meeting. (It can take place around a family holiday or on a weekend.)
  • Write or record your unique family story. (Allow each family member to have a voice and a role.)
  • Make your family tree.
  • Have children interview their grandparents.
  • Ask each family member to share what matters most to them. (What values are most important and what issues do they care about?)
  • Involve the youngest and the oldest members of your family.
  • Find at least one area of shared interest and learn about it together.
  • Give of your time and talent and volunteer as a family.
  • Give of your treasure and decide as a family where to make a financial gift.

If you know one family, you know one family. No two families are exactly the same. Families come in different shapes and sizes—small, large, nuclear, extended, blended—and everything in between. Just imagine what our community would look like if family philanthropy was something that all families did?

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A passion and a profession

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Rachel Zieleniec, Program Associate, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

This summer we’re running some of the “best of” our Philanthropy Blogs from the past year. Enjoy this week’s blog from Rachel Zieleniec, originally published on August 12, 2013.

As a young adult who entered the field of philanthropy just two years ago, a certain question comes to mind.

Why didn’t I know about philanthropy as a  profession sooner?

The value of ‘repairing the world’ was instilled in me by my parents at a very early age. As I grew older, I remember questioning the specific reasons why we give and to whom we give. Over time, I slowly realized that my thoughts were never fully answered. So I decided to explore them for myself.

As it came to be, it took me immersing myself for one year in a community so different than my own, to really learn my personal reasons for giving. Following a return to the U.S., I landed my first job in philanthropy when my passion, the cause and the opportunity all fell into place. Then I fell, head over heels, for the field. As I look back to my days in college, I wish there had been more courses to learn and engage in thoughtful discussions on the importance of logical, critical and effective giving strategies; to learn the why and how behind philanthropy and decision making.

The face of philanthropy is ever changing, and soon the next generation of professionals will be standing on the shoulders of those who came before them. I believe we, as a community of givers and professionals, have a unique opportunity to teach our peers, children and friends that this is a viable career path for those who are excited about promoting a culture of giving – for those who are passionate about actively growing and supporting both sides of the sector.

What I believe makes this sector so distinct is how and for what reasons we all arrived here. If we can continue to inspire individuals from all educational backgrounds and interests to join the nonprofit sector, we will be that much better equipped to respond to the changing needs in our communities. The possibilities to create change will continue to be endless.

And isn’t that what this field is all about?

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A summer of service

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

This summer we’re running some of the “best of” our Philanthropy Blogs from the past year. Enjoy this week’s blog from Barrett Krise, originally published on July 8, 2013.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This past Father’s Day, I was at my in-laws’ house to celebrate the day. The family was gathered outside by the grill, the younger kids were swimming in the pool and my 17 year old niece was sitting inside at the kitchen table, computer in front of her, typing away. She was taking an online course for her senior year, which is coming up this fall. As she worked, she’d take a few small breaks to eat something or talk with her dad or granddad. But she was clearly focused on her work and determined to get it done. As the afternoon wrapped up, she got up, scooped up her little sister and said, “Vacation Bible School starts tomorrow! I’m so excited!”

What struck me in that moment was her energy and enthusiasm as she talked about leading a class of children for the week. I’d been with her for several hours that day but this was the first real excitement I’d seen from her – and it was all connected to this opportunity to giving back.

It got me thinking about the importance of volunteerism, particularly during these summer months, and especially for our young people. I see my nieces and nephews with these incredibly hectic schedules – and the summer months are no exception. It seems like one responsibility follows another and it’s easy to feel disconnected and overwhelmed. Then to think of adding volunteering on top of everything else, it can seem like too much. However, perhaps we’re thinking of that wrong.

What my niece reminded me of is how the work of helping others can work to transform us. We all need that opportunity to rest and recharge, but what if what helps us recharge is helping someone else? What if instead of having a summer break, we had a summer of service? Would we feel more ready to take on the world come the fall? Would our kids learn something invaluable that would empower them the rest of the year, for the rest of their lives?

I think so. 

I challenge you to find time this summer to get involved in our community, to step outside of yourself. You might be amazed by the difference you make – and the difference you feel.

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Philanthropy – A network of caring and culture

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Kathy Palumbo, director of Community Partnerships at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

This summer we’re running some of the “best of” our Philanthropy blogs from this past year. Enjoy this week’s blog.

When I was young, my grandfather, who was a small town pastor, took me with him when he made his visits to the members of his church. We always took something with us – vegetables from his garden, homemade jam – and when my grandmother had time – the occasional cake.  I watched him listen carefully and take notes.  Once we got back home, he would take out his notebook and begin to network people. The man whose wife had just died was connected with several persons who had time to babysit. The oldest woman in town was secured visitors. The children who needed new shoes were invited to the local store to pick out a pair. These were my first lessons in philanthropy; my first understanding of charity.  Needs to fill, gifts to share, joyfully.

Nonprofits and how they are supported has been a part of our culture and constitution since this nation began. John Winthrop, the founder of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, penned a treatise during the early days of the colony titled, “Model of Christian Charity.” In it, he exempted from local taxation “relief for the aged, schools of learning, sick and maimed soldiers, the poor, repairs to bridges, roads and churches, orphans, houses of correction and marriage for poor maids and aid to young tradesmen.”

Communities established voluntary organizations such as churches, hospitals, fire departments and orphanages.  By the time Alexis de Tocqueville came to visit the United States in 1831, he noted: “Americans group together to hold fetes, found seminaries, construct churches, distribute books…They establish prisons, schools by the same method…I have frequently admired…the inhabitants to set a common aim to the efforts of a great number of men and to persuade them to pursue it voluntarily.”

Today, in our region, we have an extraordinary range of nonprofits – Children’s Health Care of Atlanta and Good Shepherd Free Clinic in Jonesboro; Morehouse College and the Atlanta Children’s Shelter; Woodruff Arts Center and Arts Clayton; the Cathedral of St. Phillip and Georgia Avenue Community Ministries, among so many others.

Nonprofit businesses provide 12 percent of all the jobs in metropolitan Atlanta.  They are mission bound, forbidden to acquire and share profits and rely on a mixture of private philanthropy, revenue generating services, volunteers and public funds.  The people of these not-for-profit businesses – the clients, the audiences, the patients, the employees, the volunteers, the financial supporters – form a network of caring and culture that no great city can do without.

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Together, nothing is impossible

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Lita Pardi, senior program officer, The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

This summer we’re running some of the “best of” our Philanthropy Blogs from the past year. Enjoy this week’s blog originally posted on October 28, 2013 by Lita Pardi, Senior Program Officer at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta.

Like any smart business, effective nonprofits evaluate their operations and programming on a regular basis to ensure they are making the greatest impact. These days, nonprofits are focusing more and more on partnering with others to leverage resources and achieve greater efficiencies. While many organizations see the value of strategic partnerships, they have lacked the time and often financial resources to pursue these collaborations.

For the past four years, The Community Foundation has provided resources and support to help Atlanta nonprofits explore this important area. And as a result, we have seen organizations execute a joint fundraising campaign, explore establishing a shared-services organization, determine the viability of sharing administrative services, and assess the feasibility of and implement mergers.

Let’s be clear… this is not easy work. Partnerships and restructuring is complex: there are unknown risks, which require a high level of trust among leadership; internal dynamics and varying personalities among the key players; and organizations with differing levels of capacity and expectations. In order for a partnership to be successful – whether in business or in our own personal lives – we know that it must be the “right fit.”

One successful partnership was announced just recently with the merger of Refugee Family Services and Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta. Last year, The Community Foundation awarded these organizations a grant to assess the strength and likelihood of a merger in order to better serve the refugee community in metro Atlanta. To accomplish this, both organizations knew they had to re-imagine themselves and challenge the status quo. And they did. Our community will be stronger because of that.

Winston Churchill once said, “If we are together, nothing is impossible. If we are divided, all will fail.” When you connect with nonprofits as a donor, volunteer or board member, ask their leaders about their partnerships. Encourage and support them in working differently and in collaboration with others. Partnerships have become an integral part of strategic thinking and are a key element to deeper community impact.

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