Arts and Advocacy – Here are the Facts

By Lisa Cremin, director at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Lisa Cremin, director at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Lisa Cremin, director at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

I believe that you should advocate for issues and ideas that you feel are important. This is an essential tenet of our democracy. I’ve learned that art has proven to be an effective and transformative way to reach deep into the minds and hearts of people and to stimulate action and advance change. Through much of my career, the fine arts themselves have been my personal and professional advocacy tool. Early in my career, I did this through museum exhibitions that revealed the intimate and gut-wrenching plight of the homeless, and later, the lonely and terrifying advent of AIDS, which marked the lives of so many people in the creative community over the past three decades.

Now, I’ve learned to use facts to advocate for the arts. Last week I was in Washington D.C., and with colleagues from Georgia and all over the country, I made personal visits to our elected officials. Clarity and brevity and facts were the tools. I was armed with powerful new data: arts and culture production contributed $697 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2012, equivalent to 4.5% of the nation’s economy. Arts is a major industry, more than transportation and warehousing (2.9% of GDP), travel and tourism (2.6%), or agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (2.15%). The arts and cultural sector supported 4.7M U.S. jobs in 2012 with a total compensation of $334.9B. Did you know that in 2012, total attendees at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art exceeded the total attendees of all the New York professional sports teams combined?

Fact after fact underscores that the arts and creative economies are good for our towns, cities, states and our nation. And for education. And aging communities. When governments reduce their support for the arts, they are not cutting frills. They are undercutting an industry that is a cornerstone of tourism, economic development and community revitalization.

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Let’s Bridge the Income Gap in Greater Atlanta

income inequality

Most of the time, when your city is number one for something, it’s worth bragging about. In this case, it’s not. According to a Brookings Institute study, Atlanta households in the 20th percentile earn, on average, about $15,000 per year, while those in the 95th percentile earn 19 times as much at $288,000. Compare that to the national average where the top earners make just nine times what their lower income counterparts get paid.

Copy of City Inequality 2013 Figures Tables and Appendix (Edited

In an effort to bridge that gap, many cities are increasing minimum wage, creating more affordable housing and expanding public transit to give people access to higher paying jobs.

At United Way of Greater Atlanta, we collaborate with other nonprofits, government agencies, businesses and experts to find solutions and fulfill our mission to ensure our community is a place where everyone thrives. From our Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program to our Financial Capability Network and partnership with Atlanta CareerRise, we provide education, job training and resources so individuals and families can qualify for higher paying jobs, track spending and plan for the future. However, we recognize that we don’t have all the answers. So we want to hear from you. What do you think needs to be done to bridge the income inequality gap in Greater Atlanta? Let us know in the comment section below.

By Diane McCants, Senior Director of Income at United Way of Greater Atlanta


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Connecting Operations to Impact – Mission Related Investing

By Christie Brown, vice president of finance and operations at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

By Christie Brown, vice president of finance and operations at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

By Christie Brown, vice president of finance and operations at the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

If you are in a finance or operations role, you understand how difficult it can be to continuously feel connected to the mission of the organization you serve.  In order to maintain that sense of connection, you really have to love finance and operations work – so much so that you are willing to dedicate your career to enabling others to do the direct mission work.  My responsibilities at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta do not put me in the field where I can see a direct connection between the work I do and the evolution of community change.  In fact, I often mentor burned out accountants who think they want to move to the nonprofit sector because they think it will be less complex and less demanding than for-profit work, and more connected to feel good community work.  I hope that all of you are laughing right now.  My advice is always the same -you have to love finance and operations with such passion that you see the complexity and demands of the sector as endless opportunities, and that the flame of your passion must continue to burn brightly even when you are half way through the annual audit and 990 reporting process and have eaten lunch at your desk for weeks.

While I will always believe in and stand by the advice above, I have recently found an opportunity to have a direct impact in my finance and operations role. I have recently joined the first Community Foundation Circle Mission Related Investment roundtable group, which is being hosted by two national organizations – the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) and RSF Social Finance.  This is an 18 month program in which I regularly get together with mission related investment industry leaders as well as 12 of my community foundation colleagues. At our first meeting BALLE Executive Director Michelle Long said that your investments and work has an impact no matter what.  The question is: are you driving what the impact will be?  This simple statement changed my view of my job.

At the end of the first session, we were challenged not only to explore new ways to implement mission related investment opportunities but also to increase our personal effectiveness as a change agent across the nonprofit field, local community and within our organizations.  I now understand that I cannot implement an effective mission related investment program at the Foundation without partnering with other interested organizations to implement a program across the region. I also understand now that my job is not just to make sure the finance and operations team constantly strives to lead industry best practices, but rather to think about how we are impacting one another as individuals, our Foundation and the community at large.

I have a long way to go before I implement all of the idealistic stuff that I learned.  I am not one to sing Kum Ba Ya at the end of a business meeting because I have always seen it as being more important to make things happen.  But I think I might need a few Kum Ba Ya kinds of experiences to make sure that the way in which things happen has as much impact as the fact that they happen at all.

Now everyone stop reading this and get back to work.  We have deadlines to meet.

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3 Lessons from a Nonprofit that Embraced #TheDress

About a week ago, the Internet was abuzz about a dress, specifically the colors of a dress. Was it white and gold? Black and blue? It appeared everyone was weighing in. There were more than 2 million mentions about #TheDress on Twitter alone!

The Salvation Army in South Africa didn’t just notice the conversation. It also joined in and created these brilliant ads to promote awareness of domestic violence.

Salvation Army #TheDress

Salvation Army Domestic Violence Ad

One ad shows a woman wearing a white and gold dress, with bruises on her face and legs. The headline questions, “Why is it so hard to see black and blue?” Underneath the question is a statement that reads: “The only illusion is if you think it was her choice. One in 6 women are victims of abuse. Stop abuse against women.” The image has now gone viral, being retweeted more than 3,100 times and favorited more than 1,200 times.

Another image shows a woman applying makeup to cover up the black and blue bruises on her face. The text reads, ” [The] majority of women who are abused never report it,” along with a number to call for help.

The visual advertisements didn’t just get attention on social media, media outlets from ABC News and The Washington Post to Mashable and BuzzFeed picked up the story.

So what did The Salvation Army do right and what can other nonprofits learn from them?Here are three key takeaways.

  1. Don’t Compete with Viral Conversations. Join Them.
    What did most nonprofits do when #TheDress captured the attention of millions of people around the world? They continued to post their usual information on Facebook, Twitter and other external communications channels. They created and sent out content that competed with a major conversation their volunteers, donors and prospective supporters were having. The Salvation Army took another approach and joined the conversation. Guess which content reached the most people and got the most engagement?
  2. Be Nimble
    The agency behind the image created and published the ad within a day. If our nonprofit organizations are going to take full advantage of social media’s captive audiences, we have to pivot and move quickly to join in trending conversations before the conversation shifts.
  3. Take Risks
    Joining what could be perceived a frivolous conversation to call attention to such an important subject took courage. Their strategy could have easily backfired, but The Salvation Army was willing to take the risk and it paid off. If we are going to reach more people and spread awareness about the issues we are working to solve, we must be willing to take the gamble and try new things.

These three tips are not exclusive to online conversations and communications. Pay attention to what your volunteers, advocates and donors are saying. Listen to what the communities you serve are talking about. Then join the conversations, even if it means you have to be nimble and change your plans to do so. And always be willing to take risks. The rewards are always greater for organizations that do so.

Rae's HeadshotRae Oglesby is the Senior Content Writer at United Way of Greater Atlanta. She can be reached at


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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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