Columbus, Trick or Treats and National Philanthropy Day!

By Kristin Dunstan, vice president of Marketing & Communications for The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

By Kristin Dunstan, vice president of Marketing & Communications for The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

This October, many metro Atlantans have already celebrated one and will be celebrating another major American holiday:

  • First, there was the Columbus Day government holiday on the 13th.
  • Second, there is Halloween on the 31st.

And in between these holidays is another day of celebration that’s not quite as well-known – Atlanta’s celebration of National Philanthropy Day on the 28th.

Yes – on October 28th, 1,000 of metro Atlanta’s philanthropic leaders will gather at the Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP’s) Greater Atlanta Chapter’s annual luncheon to celebrate National Philanthropy Day. There is a great synergy between The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and AFP’s Greater Atlanta Chapter. In fact, it’s pretty cool that in the year The Community Foundation is title sponsor of this celebration, the synergy between our two organizations is readily apparent – all three of the day’s award winners (Tom Chapman, Rabbi Alvin Sugarman and Jen Bennecke) are donors and/or volunteers at The Community Foundation and this year’s AFP Greater Atlanta Chapter president is the Foundation’s director of gift planning, Christy Eckoff.

But what I find even more remarkable about the Foundation and AFP is each organization’s deep commitment to developing a love for philanthropy in the next generation. Philanthropy is strong in Atlanta. An article just came out the other week in The Chronicle of Philanthropy, which ranks Atlanta the fourth most generous metro area in the country. We know for philanthropy to continue to be strong in our community, we must get the next generation as fired up about philanthropy as we are.

So, I challenge you to celebrate this third holiday and to explore philanthropy with your children this month. At The Community Foundation, we define philanthropy as the giving of time, talent and treasure. While making Halloween treats or putting together Halloween costumes, you can start talking with your children about philanthropy. You can ask questions like:

  • If you could do something to help someone, what would you do?
  • If you could change something for the better, what would you change and how?
  • If you could volunteer to teach a child or a senior citizen something you’re good at, what would it be?

Out of your children’s answers may come some great ideas for things you can do as a family this fall to be philanthropic by helping others. I challenge you to pick one thing you will do before Thanksgiving as a family. In amongst all of the other traditions Fall brings, this is a simple way to start a tradition of family philanthropy.

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Creating Change for a Stronger Community

By Milton J. Little, Jr.

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

United Way of Greater Atlanta is excited to partner with the Community Foundation on this Philanthropy Thought Leadership blog! When my team and I started brainstorming ideas for my first post, I had no idea of what direction to take. We tossed around ideas ranging from homeless veterans to the reasons people give (or don’t give) to nonprofits. But I decided that if I was going to write for a philanthropy-focused blog, I needed to first talk about what philanthropy is and why I believe we can all be philanthropists.

Some people hear the word “philanthropy” and automatically think about wealthy people writing checks to charities. While donating money is a big part of it – whether $1 or $1 million – if you donate your time – through volunteering – or even your talents, to support causes that are close to your heart, you are a philanthropist too.

So philanthropists, I ask: How do we come together and create change for a stronger community?

If you look around Greater Atlanta, you’ll see signs of transformation everywhere. We’re building two new professional sports stadiums. We’ve opened several new museums and you can hardly drive anywhere without seeing new apartments under construction and streets blocked off for film crews. But if we look a little deeper, we will see that we have more than a half million neighbors – men, women and children – who need our help.

Did you know 27 teenagers drop out of schools in Greater Atlanta every single day? Or that on any given night, at least 6,000 people – more than 1,000 of them veterans – do not have a place to call home? These are the issues we are working to solve. Issues we must solve. Wouldn’t you like to see more children graduate from high school? Homelessness decrease? Families have access to quality healthcare? Of course you do. But the question is, how do we do it?

Over the next year, along with The Community Foundation, we will explore solutions and ways we can collaborate with you to make our region a place where everyone thrives. Like Alicia Philipp, president of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, said in her post last week, the challenges in our region cannot be solved by a single organization or individual. It takes all of us. That’s why we want this blog to be a community conversation. We need you! Let us know what keeps you up at night. Share ideas and solutions for how we can address them. Whether you know it or not, you are a change agent and your insight is valuable.

We look forward to getting to know you so, together, we can figure out the best ways to create change for a stronger community.

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We’re back and welcome United Way of Greater Atlanta!

Alicia Philipp, president of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Alicia Philipp, president of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

We’re back! With fresh material! After a summer of sharing some of the best of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta’s past Philanthropy Thought Leadership blogs, I want you to know that change is not just on the way – it’s here!

Going forward, I am excited to say the Philanthropy Thought Leadership blog will now be shared between The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and the United Way of Greater Atlanta. Each organization will be providing new content on alternate weeks throughout the end of 2014 and throughout 2015.

For some, this may be surprising. Both Milt Little, CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta, and I are often asked if we are competing organizations. My answer is always a loud “NO!” It would only be “yes” if you believe Atlanta’s philanthropic and civic resources cannot grow or if you think the quality of life challenges in our metro Atlanta region can be solved by just one organization, acting alone, with no help from anyone or any place else.

In fact, The Community Foundation and the United Way often partner together on a variety of projects. Last year we collaborated on the creation of The Philanthropy Store in Finance Park at the Junior Achievement Chik-fil-A Foundation Discovery Center. Each year, through the Philanthropy Store, 30,000 middle schoolers learn about how, together, they and their families can give of their time, talent and treasure to help their communities.

In addition to the Philanthropy Store, there are at least nine other significant projects underway that we have partnered on together. We preach and practice collaboration and we hope we serve as examples of the value and impact of smart, strategic organizational collaboration.

I hope you are looking forward to seeing what great material our organizations will bring you right here each week as much as I am! United Way … welcome to the Philanthropy Thought Leadership blog!

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Tell Your Story

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

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

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 March 10, 2014.

We often talk of legacy in philanthropy and the importance of sharing with those coming after you what you want your legacy to be. There’s something about the conversation around legacy that tends to make people think of something formal, something they’d rather not deal with – or something that their family isn’t interested in hearing. What I’d like to remind you is talking about your legacy is simply telling your story.

It’s an opportunity to share with the people you love most in the world who you are, where you came from, and what you hope for them. It can be as simple as a conversation over dinner, or you can take advantage of some of the resources here in Atlanta to help you. Take for instance the Storycorps booth at the Atlanta History Center. It’s a chance to get to know your family and for them to get to know you… the real you.

I grew up here in Atlanta, as did my mother and her mother. There are pieces of our history scattered throughout this city but there are other pieces that are lost. My grandmother passed away when I was 7 years old, so my memories of her are memories as a little girl. I can only imagine what I would have learned about her life and her dreams through conversations as a teenager or young adult. How was growing up on St. Charles Ave., or working in the same building where I work today? But for every piece of information I find, I discover a little bit more about her and so a little bit more about me.

I see how we are connected and that the legacy she left has shaped who I’ve become. I’m now asking my mom to tell her story, so that I can carry her legacy with me as well. I hope you will be open to telling your stories, to sharing those pieces of you that have made you who you are.

That is your legacy.

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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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