Local leaders joined to discuss the important role that foundations and their philanthropic efforts play in our community. (Photo by KrysAlex.)

By Hannah E. Jones

The word “philanthropy,” when broken down to its Greek roots, means a love for humanity. 

That’s the tone that kicked off a recent panel discussion among Atlanta leaders about the important role that foundations and their philanthropic efforts play in our community. The program, held on Aug. 22, was presented through the Atlanta Press Club’s (APC) ongoing Leadership Newsmaker series.

The panel included:

  • Nicole “Nikki” Clifton, president of The UPS Foundation
  • Frank Fernandez, president and CEO of Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
  • Fay Twersky, president of The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

The conversation was moderated by SaportaReport’s Maria Saporta. The three local leaders joined Saporta on-stage at the Buckhead Club to discuss their foundation’s philanthropic efforts to help create a better Atlanta.

(L to R) Maria Saporta, Nicole “Nikki” Clifton, Frank Fernandez and Fay Twersky. (Photo by KrysAlex.)

When asked to describe Atlanta’s philanthropic landscape, the speakers agreed that it’s a strong city for giving.

“In terms of philanthropy, Atlanta is a very generous place,” Fernandez said. “There is a commitment, both from the corporate community and individuals who have done well, to give back in a way that I haven’t seen in a lot of other places. Folks want to really see themselves rooting here which I think was a great thing.”

UPS is one of those companies, and it has called Atlanta home for nearly 30 years. While UPS is a global company, Clifton said that CEO Carol Tomé — who stepped into the role in 2020 — has emphasized that “how we show up in Atlanta really matters to her.” 

To that end, the team has pinpointed four areas to invest in to help Atlantans thrive — community safety, entrepreneurship, education and arts and civic engagement. 

The team identified these as priorities through conversations with other Atlanta leaders, which Clifton said is essential for impactful work. For example, in an effort to ensure that UPS isn’t unknowingly complicit in human trafficking, Clifton invited a co-founder of Truckers Against Trafficking to join the team. The nonprofit trains truck drivers to recognize and report instances of human trafficking and, earlier this year, UPS also donated nearly $1 million to the organization.

“Anti-human trafficking [efforts] are extremely important to UPS,” Clifton said. “We’ve got a lot of drivers on the road, and the transportation industry is unwittingly complicit in moving people and we wanted to make sure that we were not part of that problem. But, we needed experts in that area. [It’s important to] take the time to build the capacity, learn from the experts and approach your solutions in an informed way.”

Fernandez shared a similar sentiment, saying, “A lot of work is not something you would do alone. A community is a community — it involves lots of people and to be able to tackle the significant issues in our community, you need to work together.”

Twersky refers to her team’s philosophy as The Three R’s — “focus on results with relationships that respect.” 

“We’re in this to achieve results, no question about it,” Twersky said. “But you can only get [results] if you have really strong relationships and you treat people with respect.”

The next installment of the 2023 Leadership Newsmaker series is Wednesday, Sept. 6. Click here for more information.

Hannah Jones is a Georgia State University graduate, with a major in journalism and minor in public policy. She began studying journalism in high school and has since served as a reporter and editor for...

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