By Kathy Palumbo, director, programs at The Community Foundation for 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?