Inspire Atlanta: Transforming women’s lives through leadership and philanthropy

By Guest Columnist KARI B. LOVE, CEO of the Atlanta Women’s Foundation

The mission of The Atlanta Women’s Foundation is to be a catalyst for change in the lives of women and girls. As a public foundation, our primary role is as a grant-maker, providing financial grants, resources and evaluation support to local nonprofits helping low-income women and girls to break the cycle of poverty. In order to achieve our mission, partners are critical, whether corporate or individual funders.

Kari B. Love

Kari B. Love

When I arrived at AWF almost five years ago, as then vice president of development and communications, one of the first steps I took to better understand the foundation and our donors was to meet with several of our corporate partners. In my conversations with each of these partners, the same need arose again and again – our corporate partners were looking for additional ways to become involved with AWF, and even more specifically, engage their respective corporate women’s affinity groups.

At the same time, women were becoming more civically and politically active, from the 2016 U.S. presidential election to the #MeToo movement. We know from the “Women Give 2010” report by Women’s Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy that “women are as much as 40% more likely to donate than men.” The same report also states that in 2010, “women control[ed] 51 percent, or $14 trillion, of personal wealth in the U.S. and are expected to control $22 trillion by 2020.” This shows that, collectively, women have become, and are growing as, an economic powerhouse.

After ongoing conversations with several of our corporate partners, and internally as a staff, an idea for a program began to emerge. How could we bring together the passion and energy of the women in our community looking to make a change in their lives and for women and girls in greater Atlanta? The answer was, Inspire Atlanta.

Launched this past spring, on March 8, International Women’s Day, Inspire Atlanta is a comprehensive initiative that provides a unique leadership opportunity to a diverse group of professional women who are looking to ignite their passion for creating positive change for women in Atlanta.

Inspire Atlanta graduation (cropped)

The inaugural class of Inspire Atlanta equipped 40 women with skills related to personal development, leadership development, and philanthropic development. Credit: AWF

The program focuses on three main areas – personal development; leadership development; and philanthropic development. Through Inspire Atlanta, participants meet many of AWF’s dynamic corporate and civic leaders, connect with other women professionals, and explore the critical issues facing economically vulnerable women and girls locally. Fundraising is also a significant part of the program with each participant managing an individual fundraising campaign to support the mission of AWF.

This immersive program is an opportunity for participants to explore the breadth and depth of what it means to be a philanthropic community leader. They gain an insider’s perspective on how nonprofit organizations function; are educated on the barriers economically vulnerable women and girls in our community face like lack of transportation, lack of access to healthcare, lack of job training and jobs and lack of affordable, quality childcare; and develop the skills to be a confident fundraiser. These are skills they can reinvest in the community, their career and themselves. They become a more educated donor, leader, citizen and advocate for Atlanta’s women and girls.

One of the more unique opportunities the participants experience is a poverty simulation. This eye-opening role-playing exercise takes the women through a month in the life of low-income families and the significant barriers they face on a daily basis. This year’s inaugural class walked away from the experience with a greater understanding, and empathy, for the challenges low-income families encounter and the stress that adds to their lives.

In addition to the poverty simulation, Inspire Atlanta participants also attend a fundraising training workshop, a board training workshop, behind-the-scene’s tours of AWF grantee partners, a day of service and leadership sessions with corporate and civic women leaders of Atlanta. The program culminates with a graduation celebration, recognizing the hard work and accomplishments of all the participants.

Inspire Atlanta poverty simulation

Inspire Atlanta includes a segment on poverty simulation, which takes participants through a month in the challenges that low-income families encounter and the stress that adds to their lives. Credit: AWF

The 2018 inaugural class of Inspire Atlanta graduated 40 women, who collectively raised $300,000 to support AWF’s grant-making. In addition to gaining community leadership training skills and experience, our post-program assessments revealed mentorships and partnerships were formed, participants gained greater access to C-suite executives in their companies, built new confidence due to developing sales skills through their fundraising campaign and secured new business.

Year One of Inspire Atlanta exceeded our expectations. We are incredibly proud of the first year results and are excited to launch year two.

Applications for the 2019 Inspire Atlanta class opened Dec. 14 and close on Jan. 14, 2019. Interested applicants can learn more about the program requirements and submit an application at our website. http://bit.ly/ATLinspire.

As the only public foundation in Georgia dedicated solely to women and girls, it is our responsibility to prepare women to be thoughtful, well-informed, philanthropic leaders who understand the unique issues women and girls face locally. Through the Inspire Atlanta initiative, we are training women to develop or enhance the skills needed to empower and develop not only themselves, but their communities as well.

Note to readers: More information is available about female donors, female philanthropy, and Inspire Atlanta at the linked websites.

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