Column: New Community Foundation fund helps nonprofits in tough times

By Maria Saporta
Friday, October 29, 2010

Atlanta’s nonprofits now have a new financial tool to help them through the tough times.

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has just launched a new Nonprofit Loan Fund through a unique partnership between Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation and six bank sponsors.

The foundation has set aside $320,000 to be made available to nonprofits with a tight cash flow and a need for bridge financing. Only nonprofits that have been by turned down by a bank can apply for a loan of between $10,000 and $50,000.
The program is available to nonprofits with budgets between $250,000 to $3 million.

“It is one of those important tools that we now have for nonprofits,” said Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. “It’s helping connect nonprofits to the banks, and it’s helping nonprofits become more financially literate.”

The Community Foundation already has tested this approach. In June, 2010, the Living Room, the largest provider of HIV supportive housing in the Atlanta region, needed bridge financing to help it through a cash flow shortfall. Its bank had decided not to renew the organization’s $100,0000 line of credit.

With a lack of operating capital, the Living Room had to cut back its client’s services. In July, the Community Foundation approved a $39,000 loan to be due in December 2010.

That financing solidified the Living Room’s financial position and helped it secure a new line of credit with a local bank. It was able to repay the bridge loan in late September.

The Community Foundation has experience in this field because it established the Arts Loan Fund in 2005 to work with cultural organizations in a financial squeeze.

“We’ve been doing it for five years with just arts organizations,” Philipp said. “All loans have been repaid. We felt this needed to happen for all nonprofits.”

Johnson named Distinguished Leader

Longtime Atlanta lawyer Ben Johnson received one of the top national awards on Oct. 27 in New York City.

The American Lawyer magazine honored Johnson, the retired managing partner of Alston & Bird LLP, with the Law Firm Distinguished Leader Award.

The magazine said Johnson received the award for his efforts to creating a family-friendly workplace, supporting the firm’s pro bono work and building a diverse workplace.

“I’m humbled by the whole thing,” Johnson said. “To get this after you’ve been out of active law firm management for several years is gratifying.”

Johnson said he credited his success to four mentors. His father — Ben Johnson Jr., who served as dean of Emory University’s and Georgia State University’s law schools — taught him that there was no higher calling than law.

Archibald Cox, for whom Johnson worked for as a research assistant while he was at Harvard University’s law school, taught him “all about nuance and compromise” as well as the value of being patient.

Another mentor was Griffin Bell, who later went on to being U.S. attorney general. Johnson clerked for Judge Bell at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. “Griffin Bell taught me that the law was pragmatic and practical, and it depends on relationships of respect and civility,” Johnson said.

Lastly, Johnson said that Philip Alston Jr. became his mentor when he joined the firm in 1971. “Philip Alston taught me that a great law firm provides a place of nurture, a collective moral compass and an engine of civic engagement,” Johnson said.

EcoBenefete honors Laird

The Georgia Conservancy will honor E. Cody Laird Jr. at its 2010 ecoBenefete on Nov. 4 with its 2010 Distinguished Conservationist Award at the Atlanta Biltmore.

Laird, 75, is a successful businessman and a dedicated environmentalist. In 1991, Laird became one of the founders of the Mountain Conservation Trust, which has set aside more than 1,000 acres in north Georgia from development.

More recently, Laird has been focused on South Georgia. He has been instrumental in helping restore the dwindling longleaf pine-wiregrass ecosystem, which is the living ground for many endangered and threatened species.

AADD’s Legacy Breakfast

All About Developmental Disabilities (AADD) relaunched its Legacy Breakfast Oct. 26 with a full-house turnout at the Atlanta History Center.

The organization helps raise awareness of the challenges that face people living with disabilities and it seeks changes in the political sector to improve conditions for the disability community.

Because of the down economy, AADD did not hold a Legacy Breakfast in 2009. In 2008, however, AADD was able to raise $350,000 to support its programs.
David Blanchard, who has been with the organization for 10 years and now serves as its executive director, said the hope is that the 2010 breakfast will be even more lucrative than the breakfast two years ago. The hope is that it will bring in 20 percent more funding.

Southern’s Ratcliffe honored

David Ratcliffe, chairman and CEO of Southern Co., received the 2010 Ethics Advocate Award on Oct. 27 at the Carter Center.

This is eighth annual award that has been given by the Center for Ethics and Corporate Responsibility. Past honorees have included Helene Gayle, president and CEO of CARE USA; E. Neville Isdell, retired chairman and CEO of The Coca-Cola Co.; and former Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin.

Ratcliffe said he believes that “ethics requires accountability,” and that “it must begin with the head of the organization.” He added that expectations need to be clear and that actions must follow words.

“People in the organization must have the belief that they can hold leaders accountable without retaliation,” Ratcliffe wrote in an e-mail about his views on ethics and responsibility.

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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