Rodney Bullard: Beloved Benefit will now be part of new entity – The Same House
By Maria Saporta
The Beloved Benefit, championed by Chick-fil-A’s Dan Cathy, is shifting to a new entity called “The Same House.”
Rodney Bullard, who announced in December that he would be stepping down as executive director of Chick-fil-A Foundation on Dec. 31, will be the CEO of The Same House.
A preview event for the 2023 Beloved Benefit will be held Thursday evening at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the Delta Lounge. Details about The Same House and the 2023 Beloved Benefit event will be announced at that dinner.
Bullard, in an exclusive interview Wednesday afternoon, explained the name, the purpose and the scope of The Same House.
“At the very first Beloved Benefit, Congressman John Lewis – it had to be one of his last public outings — said ‘we all belong to the same house; we all belong to the City of Atlanta,’” Bullard recalled. “That notion that we all belong to the same house really resonated with me. It’s something I carried forward. It just kind of kept reverberating in our minds… So, we are calling this organization, The Same House.”
Bullard helped organize the Beloved Benefit in 2019 and 2022 (the concert event wasn’t held during the height of the Covid pandemic), which raised more than $5 million the first year and about $6.5 million last year.
For the past 12 years, Cathy and Bullard have focused much of their philanthropic efforts on revitalizing the west side of Atlanta. Many of the organizations that have benefited from the event’s proceeds serve Westside communities, especially Vine City and English Avenue.
At Thursday night’s dinner, Bullard is expected to announce the major performer who has been lined up for the 2023 Beloved Benefit to be held Aug. 24 at the Georgia World Congress Center. Bullard also plans to announce the nonprofits that will be the beneficiaries of the money raised.
“The purpose of the Beloved Benefit is not just to raise money; it’s not just to give away money, but it’s also to bring people together into the same space where they can connect with one another and to allow others to know about what’s going on in our community and the needs of our neighbors,” Bullard said. “We had this event, but we needed an actual movement.”
The Same House will have twin goals – a social goal and an economic goal.
“It doesn’t take much for you to fully understand the need for both goals,” said Bullard, who compared English Avenue to Buckhead. “You see the social differences, you see the physical differences between those neighborhoods. There is a significant gap in services, a significant gap in education and opportunities, a significant gap in even health outcomes.”
Life expectancy in English Avenue is about 64 years old while in Buckhead, it’s 87 years old, he added.
“The social goal is to build bridges between communities and to bring people together,” Bullard said. “Then on an economic standpoint, economic mobility, in our estimation, is at the root of many of our issues… We will continue to focus on economic mobility and three bucket areas: education, employment, and entrepreneurship.”
Bullard said Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathy and Home Depot co-founder Arthur Blank serve as great role models for entrepreneurship, and The Same House will seek to ignite social change through storytelling and media.
Bullard said the Blank Foundation will continue to be involved with the event, which has been a partnership between Dan Cathy and Arthur Blank. Shan Cooper, who has helped put together the Beloved Benefit, will continue to be involved through The Same House umbrella.
The Same House will be a public benefit corporation, a purpose-driven organization created to generate social and public good. Georgia is one of 35 states in the country to allow public benefit corporations.
Money raised for the Beloved Benefit will continue to be made to the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, so they will be tax deductible. Bullard said The Same House’s organization, including its board, is still being developed.
Cathy and Bullard have previously talked about having national aspirations to take the Beloved Benefit model to other cities.
“We’re going to continue to focus on Atlanta and Georgia. We will continue to be rooted here and then grow from here,” Bullard said. “It is our aspiration to really go to other cities because we know the social need and the economic need persist in other cities, They persist in LA. They persist in Chicago, Miami, Houston, etc. So, that is an aspiration.”