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ATL Business Chronicle Maria Saporta

Column: Community Foundation sets goal of $1.6 billion in assets by 2018

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on June 24, 2016

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta is on a mission. It intends to have $1.6 billion in assets by the end of 2018 — nearly doubling the $950 million it had at the end of 2015.

Alicia Philipp, the organization’s CEO, is convinced that goal can be reached. Already the Foundation receives about $100 million in new philanthropic funds every year from individuals, foundations and estates.

Alicia Philipp, Michael Thurmond, Lesley Grady

Alicia Philipp, Michael Thurmond and Lesley Grady at the 2015 Neighborhood Summit (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“That is absolutely awesome,” Philipp said. “But the potential is so much more from this community. We need to more actively and proactively promote philanthropy in Atlanta.”

She points to the community foundation in Columbus, Ohio, which had assets of $1.8 billion at the end of 2014. The Foundation for the Carolinas (Charlotte, N.C.’s community foundation) has assets of $1.74 billion. And the Communities Foundation of Texas in Dallas has $1.1 billion in assets.

“We can do this Atlanta. We should be bigger. It’s not for the sake of being bigger. It’s for the sake of having greater impact,” Philipp said. “Building philanthropy is key to a region’s success.”

In order to meet the goals set out in its three-year strategic plan, the Community Foundation is launching an $8.5 million campaign to totally revamp its outreach, marketing and communications efforts.

It has received an initial $1 million gift from The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation for its campaign.

“They have ambitions to grow, and that growth will be good for the community,” said Russ Hardin, president of the Woodruff Foundation. “That makes for a stronger, healthier community.”

Philipp can point to endless examples of how the Community Foundation matches philanthropists with local initiatives while managing their wealth and investing in Atlanta. She talks about the African-American couple Pearl and George Strickland.

“Pearl was a domestic, and George worked for the railroad,” Philipp said. “They didn’t have any children, but they deeply believed in education. When they died in the 1980s, they had $500,000 that they left to the Community Foundation for gifts to historically black colleges. Since that time, we have made $850,000 in scholarships, and there’s $2 million in the fund. It really shows you the power of the fund. These were people of modest means who have had an incredible impact.”

Molly Blank and the Atlanta Opera

Molly Blank lived to be 99 years old, the mother of Arthur M. Blank, the owner of the Atlanta Falcons and a co-founder of the Home Depot.

But Molly Blank, who passed away in January, 2015, still lives on.

The Molly Blank Fund, which is part of the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, has made a two-year $600,000 grant to the Atlanta Opera to underwrite its Discoveries series over the next two seasons.

“This generous gift makes us both grateful and excited,” said Tomer Zvulun, general and artistic director of the Atlanta Opera, in a statement. “We are grateful for the support of a fund associated with a woman, Molly Blank, who was so passionate about opera and the power of the arts. And we are excited to put these monies to work to continue building audiences for The Opera through our Discoveries series.”

Alicia Philipp, Michael Thurmond, Lesley Grady

Alicia Philipp, Michael Thurmond and Lesley Grady at the 2015 Neighborhood Summit (Photo by Maria Saporta)

The gift will help support the Maria de Buenos Aires opera and Mozart’s The Secret Gardener that will be presented in the 2016-2017 season.

A portion of the grant will also be used to underwrite the company’s Studio Tour in 2017, which will feature an abridged version of Rossini’s Cinderella (or, Goodness Triumphant) that will be performed at schools and performing arts spaces throughout the Atlanta metro area.


Maria Saporta

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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