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Philanthropy Thought Leader Uncategorized

Infusing philanthropy into a corporate DNA benefits our region

Lesley Grady, senior vice president, community, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Lesley Grady

By Lesley Grady, senior vice president, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Lots of corporations give back to the communities they serve, but at what point does giving become transformational – moving from writing a check to becoming part of the corporate DNA? And how do companies empower not just those with the biggest salaries, but the front-line staff – who aren’t millionaires and may never be – to understand how they can make a difference in their own corner of the world?

Enter Atlanta-based MailChimp, the world’s largest marketing and email automation platform and Inc. magazine’s firm of the year, who set out on a journey to help its future leaders understand the role of philanthropy in achieving greater equity in community. From the beginning, the company has valued giving back, but they wanted to do more and involve more of their staff.

At its root, MailChimp’s giving aims to improve the city where they live and work. Many employees live within a few miles of their offices at Ponce City Market, some commute on foot or by bicycle. Along the way, they see the burst of development along the Atlanta BeltLine as well as neighborhoods that seem to have been left behind.

You see, Atlanta ranks as the city with the highest income inequity in the U.S. (https://www.cbsnews.com/media/9-american-cities-with-the-worst-income-inequality/). This is not a list where we want to be at the top. MailChimp saw this as an opportunity, and an obligation, for action. And they asked the Community Foundation to be a partner in this effort.

This innovative partnership evolved into a 15-week experience, dubbed the “MailChimp Community College,” more details here. MailChimp employees applied to be part of the initial cohort of 12 participants. Over eight, half-day sessions, they learned about public education, transportation, the arts, homelessness, criminal justice, affordable housing and more. They read homework and visited nonprofits on the front lines trying to make our region stronger. And, in the end, they put their money where their mouth is by giving Community College participants a pool of $200,000 in grants to award that will combat the challenges they saw first-hand. Among the recipients were Partnership for Southern Equity, Raising Expectations and the Georgia Justice Project.

In the tech world, companies like MailChimp view equity largely in financial terms, as an ownership position or a stake in the profits. But on a hyper-local level, equity has now taken on a different meaning for everyone who works there, and our community is better for it. Learn more about their journey here.


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