Column: Atlanta Community Foundation recognized nationally

By Maria Saporta
Friday, August 13, 2010

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta does not believe that now is a time to be stingy with its dollars. Last year it gave away $140 million to nonprofit organizations in metro Atlanta and beyond.

“Our payout last year was 22 percent,” said Alicia Philipp, president of metro Atlanta’s Community Foundation. “We are getting the money out there. We think that’s an important message. These high-net-worth individuals, who are our donors, want to get the money out in the community.”

As a result, the foundation is receiving national recognition. CF Insights, which ranks more than 700 community foundations nationally, ranked Atlanta’s eighth in the country in terms of active grant-making.

And that’s not all. The foundation also ranked 17th out of more than 700 in the value of its assets ($651 million at the end of December 2009), 40th for the most activity (the number of gifts and grants processed annually) and 66th in the number of gifts per capita.

That put Atlanta’s Community Foundation in the top 100 among community foundations nationally in all the major categories.

But the real story is not about the numbers, but about the foundation wanting to have a significant impact when nonprofit organizations need it the most.

“Building your endowment is a great thing, but right now we are trying to do everything we can to get donors engaged by providing grants for general operating support,” Philipp said. “We know that nonprofits right now need stability and strength.”

To respond to the economic crisis of the past couple of years, the foundation has encouraged its donors to provide more general operating support and it has increased how often it gives grants so it can be more responsive to pressing needs.

And it is showing no signs of slowing down in 2010. In the first six months of this year, the foundation has given away $56.3 million compared with $43.3 million for the first six months of 2009.

“We have 650 donors,” Philipp said. “And there’s a real sense among our donors of wanting to figure out how they can make a real impact.”

The Community Foundation also did something a bit different when it recently released its 2009 annual report.

Every year, it takes a hard look at local nonprofits to decide which ones are worthy of its Managing for Excellence Award. The application and review process studies the effectiveness of nonprofits by looking at several criteria.

This year, Philipp said, the Community Foundation decided to “turn the tables” and examine its own effectiveness by seeing how it would fare under the “Managing for Excellence” evaluation process. “We wanted to know the areas that we are good at and the areas where we really want to do better,” Philipp said.

The results? “We have a huge opportunity to diversify our donor base,” she said, adding that the vast majority of its donors are white, which is not reflective of the Atlanta region.

Politics in the air

Politics is in the air, especially about how the 2010 elections will impact Georgia’s relationship with Washington, D.C.

And the Council for Quality Growth is hoping to position Georgia and metro Atlanta on a more solid footing when it comes to federal transportation funding.

On Monday, Aug. 16, three Georgia congressmen and the Council for Quality Growth have invited James Oberstar, chairman of the U.S. House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to be the keynote speaker at its 25th anniversary celebration.

Congressmen Hank Johnson (Democrat), Lynn Westmoreland (Republican) and Tom Graves (Republican) are co-hosting the luncheon.

The luncheon, which will be at the Westin Atlanta Perimeter North, also will recognize community improvement districts across the Atlanta region. Community improvement districts allow communities to tax themselves so they can invest in local transportation and infrastructure projects.

Oberstar plays a critical role in transportation policy and funding on a national basis. In the past several years, Georgia has not fared well in receiving federal funds — whether it be for transit or high-speed rail or other major projects — when compared to our neighbors.

“Chairman Oberstar’s visit to Atlanta gives us an opportunity to illustrate how we have gained momentum in helping ourselves with our transportation issues,” said Michael Paris, president and CEO of the Council for Quality Growth.

Paris said the passage of House Bill 277, which will permit regions across Georgia to vote in 2012 on a 1 cent transportation sales tax, also will send Oberstar a positive message.

“Through the major investments of our self-taxing community improvement districts, who are leveraging over $4 billion capital projects over the next 10 years, and through the passage of HB 277 … Georgia has shown a commitment to work on solving our problems,” Paris said. “Additionally, we hope to learn from him the status of new federal transportation initiatives and how we further invest in public-private partnerships.”

To attend the Oberstar luncheon, go to

Congressional luncheon

Continuing the theme of politics being in the air, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce will hold its annual Congressional Luncheon on Aug. 17 at the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter in Perry, Ga.

Pollster Scott Rasmussen will be the keynote speaker at the Congressional Luncheon, and he will offer insights about the November election and the trends in Georgia as well as the national political scene.

Rasmussen is president and CEO of Rasmussen Reports, a media company known for its independent polls regarding political races, the economy and other current events, according to the Georgia Chamber.

To attend the Congressional Luncheon in Perry, go to

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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