Diverse Talent Results in Solutions to Address Complex Community Issues

Black History Month has always represented an exciting time for me to explore heritage and honor heroes.  Studying the accomplishments of diverse trailblazers and thought leaders provides a reflection of achievement that we as a community can identify with.  This year, I plan to capitalize on the celebration by highlighting service opportunities, encouraging diverse groups to participate in philanthropy, and advancing the common good.

Recently, United Way Worldwide published a Diversity and Inclusion Statement of Principle.  The statement argues that innovative solutions are a result of diverse volunteers, board members and stakeholders  sharing a multitude of experiences to solve complex community problems.  United Way of Greater Atlanta is an example of this principle at work.  In particular, we have a longstanding affinity group for leadership donors, The African-American Partnership (AAP), that has successfully provided diverse talent and resources to philanthropy for over a decade. 

AAP includes more than 1,000 leadership donors who each contribute $1,000+ to the Greater Atlanta community.  AAP is governed by a high-energy group of 25 top executives who plan volunteer and social networking opportunities throughout the year for AAP members.

This year, AAP has adopted a signature focus on young African-American males.  Though faced with challenging statistics in Greater Atlanta that include gaps in graduation rates, S.T.E.M. education, etc., AAP has created a work plan to begin addressing these issues.  Please take a moment to view the video link below that recaps a fall event where AAP hosted 75 students to engage them on college interest, career options, philanthropy and encourage economic literacy.

 Click here to view the video.

 Click here to visit AAP on Facebook.


Bryan Vinson - UWGA
Bryan Vinson is the Director of United Way of Greater Atlanta’s African-American Partnership. He can be reached at [email protected]

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The Importance of Servant Leadership

By Brian Graham, Assistant Controller, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Brian Graham, Assistant Controller, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Brian Graham, Assistant Controller, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Leadership has been defined in many ways by many different people. Perhaps the most impactful description that I have encountered is that of a Servant Leader. At the core of its meaning the phrase is somewhat of an oxymoron. A person that humbles themselves to become a servant of today, is actually positioning themselves to become a leader of tomorrow.

Servant Leadership is the idea that you should be willing to support the greater good even if it means temporarily sacrificing yourself or your ideas. It embraces the concept that meeting the needs of others is what allows communities and businesses to reach their full potential. It involves going above and beyond to collaborate and achieve that which really doesn’t have a direct benefit to yourself.

At this time of year, it’s especially appropriate to share the powerful words from one of our greatest Servant Leaders, Martin Luther King, Jr. – “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘what are you doing for others?’

From my perspective, Servant Leadership is the heart-beat of the philanthropic world. It’s in the wave of individuals who generously give monetary support to those that dedicate their professional career to the cause. It’s in both the tireless teams who organize and plan the day and those who wake up early to attend and participate.

Don’t get me wrong – there are seasons where it feels the importance and need for service is greater than the resources currently available. However, those that are passionate about progress are also the ones who strongly believe in the potential that can be attained. Let’s continue walking and working together as we invite others to join us in the journey.

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Picking Your Philanthropic Passion

Before you can promote what you love with whole-hearted commitment, you must first know what you love. There is an art to self-discovery. It evokes a motivation to seek and find one’s passion. During this process, many reveal the need to be a part of something greater, giving back to their communities and people in need. Volunteerism often leads to this discovery. Have you realized your love of philanthropy and become an active philanthropist?

To me, a philanthropist is a socially conscience person who promotes the welfare of others with positive contributive acts that benefit humanitarians while building stronger communities. It’s as much of a commitment as that sentence is a mouthful. Hence, you arrive at this point by your journey’s design, never by accident. Ask a nonprofit professional and/or philanthropist why they give! Not only will you enjoy a great story, it will be one that warms your heart and encourages your faith in tomorrow.

My path of self-discovery led me to one of the greatest loves in my career. Imagine the power of a group of dedicated philanthropists. It’s an unending commitment to a better tomorrow. Sure, it’s a bumpy ride and by far not easy, but there is always a happy ending – one that leaves you empowered to face the next challenge. If you are searching for something greater, find the organization that supports your causes and speaks to your heart. No matter the choice, you’ll discover that sharing your time, talents and treasures leads to an endless circle of giving. That sounds like a win/win to me.

 


 

AllisonAllison Todd is a Development Officer at United Way of Greater Atlanta. She can be reached at [email protected]

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Wishes for Atlanta in 2016

By Alicia Philipp, President, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Alicia Philipp, President, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Alicia Philipp, President, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

The beginning of a new year is best when filled with hope and joy; and I am filled with both! That hope and joy means that I am also filled with wishes – amazing wishes for Atlanta and all of its residents. This year, I wish for:

  • Hope that each of us will find our passion for making this region stronger and give our time, talent and treasure to that passion.
  • Hope that we can practice active listening and learn from each other and not just listen to those who reinforce our beliefs.
  • Hope that we can move the needle on income inequality, leveling the playing field for everyone.
  • Hope that we will be an equally welcoming community to all who join us – be they refugees from Syria or millennials from Boston.
  • Joy in the things that uniquely make us Atlanta – our trees and southern hospitality being two big ones.
  • Joy in giving back to the community that has nurtured and supported us so that it can nurture and support more who need it.

I am proud of my organization and all that it is doing to help further these wishes in our city through philanthropy. This year, we kick off our new 2016-2018 strategic plan, which is ambitious, exciting and transformative. Through that plan, we are spreading the joy of philanthropy and making Atlanta a better place to live and thrive.

I hope you will join with me to help make these wishes come true. Will you help embrace the positivity of hope and joy and make this a fabulous 2016 for all Atlantans?

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Make Thoughtful Year-End Giving Decisions

By Christy Eckoff, Director of Gift Planning, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

 Christy Eckoff, Director of Gift Planning, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Christy Eckoff, Director of Gift Planning, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

With the end of the year coming rapidly, making thoughtful decisions about year-end giving can feel overwhelming, but I am here to help. To help you achieve your giving goals, here are five tips for last-minute charitable giving:

Make a gift

No matter your budget and ability to give, you can make a difference. Pick a cause that’s closest to your heart. Any size of gift makes an impact.

Know the organization you are giving to

Only donations to organizations with tax-exempt 501(c)(3) status are deductible on your tax return. You can research charities at online databases like Guidestar or the IRS. Religious institutions and government agencies are generally eligible, even if they are not listed in the databases above.

Don’t forget about matching gifts

Many companies will match the charitable contributions of their employees. Please check with your human resources department to see if your company does this. Sometimes it can be up to a three-to-one match.

Don’t leave money on the table

Charitable contributions allowed by the IRS can reduce your taxes if you itemize. Contributing appreciated stock can also mitigate taxes and increase the net gift to an organization.

Consider a donor-advised fund

A donor-advised fund can help take the headache out of making individual contributions to charitable organizations. You can deduct the full amount of annual contributions to a donor-advised fund, even if you haven’t yet determined which particular charities you want to donate to. You then have the freedom to advise on how contributions are distributed.

As always check with your financial advisor on your specific tax situation and make a gift today!

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The holidays through the eyes of a child

Looking at the holidays through the eyes of a child is often a magical ride. It’s one filled with family feasts, sweet treats, seasonal sounds of happiness and holiday wishes of gifts coming true.

But for many children in Greater Atlanta, through their eyes the holidays look very different. For some, there is no mom or dad, but a band of comrades in an area group home wishing for a family to call their own.

Many of the children in our community fight against the daily impacts of living in poverty. Performing below grade level because homelessness relocates their family multiple times during a school year. Battling chronic illnesses like asthma, diabetes and mental illness due to limited access to healthcare. And quieting their growling stomachs because their parent is still three days from payday and a trip to the local grocery store. Their lives are tough, but like our community, their futures are evolving and can be bright.

So, as we prepare for this holiday season, celebrate our many blessings and enjoy the splendor of holiday cheer, I challenge the Greater Atlanta community to join me and look through the eyes of a child who longs for a holiday wish to come true and change the course of their future because they are the children who need us most—not just during the holidays, but every day.

Nationally, we have received many accolades as one of the nation’s most philanthropic communities, and to us that’s no surprise. But to the children in Greater Atlanta who don’t see the glow of the holidays, let’s lift them up and show them the strength of the caring community they call home.

Let’s GIVE the children in our community their holiday wishes of family, food, shelter, access to healthcare, and even a gift wrapped especially for them.

Let’s ADVOCATE for their futures by creating pathways for their success at home, in school and in their communities.

And let’s VOLUNTEER to give our time as mentors, coaches and friends who show them the power of a caring, connected, and committed community that lifts them up during the holidays and beyond.

ShanaShana Davis is the Senior Director, Marketing and Communications at United Way of Greater Atlanta. She can be reached at [email protected]

 

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A sense of place – and a fresh perspective

By Megan Swett, Director, Operational Strategy at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Megan Swett, Director, Operational Strategy at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Megan Swett, Director, Operational Strategy at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

At the end of September, the Community Foundation completed a nearly two year process of selecting, building out and moving to our new office location. As per the nature of our organization, the process was deliberate and involved a great deal of soul searching and engagement from key partners – thinking about and listening to what the community needs from the organization, and how its physical space can contribute to what it provides.

Throughout the move process and even more once we began to really get settled in our new home, I became keenly aware of how deeply ingrained a sense of place is in the day-to-day priorities of those who work for and with the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta. A sense of place is the experience of the unique characteristics of a particular location. A sense of place is a facet of who you are, whether you are a person or an organization. Our identities are so often tied to where we live, work or play. Place is a part of our history and make-up. When you first meet someone, often one of the first questions is “where are you from?”

A sense of place is a key element in fostering community in neighborhoods, workplaces, towns and beyond. Shared history, experiences and physical environments come together to undergird communities. However, to keep a sense of place relevant and evolving, it helps to change our perspective every once in a while.

Our move to a new office location is showing me a new perspective of the workplace that is the Community Foundation, as well as the work we do. There are new streets to navigate, new lunch spots to explore, new faces in the elevator lobby. There are new neighbors, both in terms of fellow tenants of the building, and in terms of colleagues and peers who were not previously nearby. There are new collaboration and meeting spaces that are leading to new conversations and ideas, all giving a fresh perspective on our region and the impact we aim to have.

It’s amazing how a simple change of scene can change your perspective. And how quickly a new place can become a home – a building block that shapes who you are.

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Choosing to be Grateful

By Barrett Coker Krise, senior philanthropic advisor

By Barrett Krise, Senior Philanthropic Advisor at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

By Barrett Krise, Senior Philanthropic Advisor at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

There was a recent op-ed article in the New York Times that discussed the importance of choosing to be grateful. The simple act of deciding and following through with a conscious feeling of gratitude not only has a positive impact on yourself, but also positively impacts those around you. It has the power to increase our happiness—apparently it also can increase our waistline, but what else is new?

When so much of the noise and clutter surrounding us is counter to the very thing it purports to commemorate (it is called Thanksgiving after all) it’s easy to forget why we celebrate. Perhaps this Thanksgiving we do need to make the choice to be grateful. We are grateful and we are thankful. Thankful to have family and friends. Thankful to have food on our table. Thankful to be able to do something for someone who needs it.

I’m particularly thankful to work at the Community Foundation. This time of year, we’re inundated with ads for Black Friday and entreaties to buy, buy, buy. But I get so many phone calls asking me for volunteer ideas for families over the holidays—try the Atlanta Community Food Bank, Open Hand or Crossroads Community Ministries. I get emails asking for suggestions for how to have a conversation with kids about being thankful and giving back—consider doing a family values exercise to share what matters to you and see where your values align. I have conversations about who to make a gift to that will have a real impact on an organization—take a look at Extra Wish, these real, tangible wishes include everything from backpacks and yoga mats to MARTA cards and electric can openers.

This year, I choose to be grateful. For family and friends, for a challenging and rewarding career, for dedicated and smart colleagues, for generous and thoughtful clients, for a vibrant and exciting community and for all of you who are part of it. What will you choose?

Happy Thanksgiving.

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The Face of Homeless Youth

In Greater Atlanta alone, we have approximately 2,500 youth living in homelessness. Unlike their adult counterparts – many of whom live on the streets – homeless youth often live with friends and family, moving from place to place, sleeping on people’s couches. But they never have a place to call home.

Two main reasons for homelessness among youth are kids and teens running away from violence, abuse and neglect at home, and youth turning 18 and “aging out” of the foster care system.

We wanted to help put a face on this issue for National Homeless Youth Awareness Month, so we spoke with one of our United Way partners, Chris Kids, and asked one of their directors to tell us a story about a homeless youth they helped. You’ll also hear from me about United Way’s Regional Commission on Homelessness to learn about our Youth Home Initiative Program that helps homeless youth and their families. Take a look:

You can watch the full interview here:

If you would like to help homeless youth find housing and get on the path to self-sufficiency, [email protected]


Elizabeth Danley - v1Liz Danley is a Project Manager at United Way of Greater Atlanta’s Regional Commission on Homelessness. She can be reached at [email protected].

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Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund Luncheon – Amping Up the Arts

By Lisa Cremin, director, metropolitan Atlanta arts fund and nonprofit bridge loan fund

It’s going to be a good one this year.

Lisa Cremin, Director at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Lisa Cremin, Director of metropolitan Atlanta arts fund and nonprofit bridge loan fund at The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta

Producing the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund luncheon is a daunting and humbling project. Let’s face it – the audience for this big gathering are people whose daily ‘lift’ and professional gifts are focused on making great art for audiences. They are the pros. These are the artists, arts administrators, board members and investors who are the engine of the creative community.

Big news will be revealed at the luncheon. The Arts Fund is announcing $1.5M in financial grants to arts groups. These investments are competitive and coveted, and the arts organizations that receive these investments have earned them. The Arts Fund awards big dollars to small and mid-sized professional organizations because they are the breadth and depth of the arts across the metro Atlanta region. These organizations provide the joy and inspiration in our lives – giving us dance, music, theatre and visual art.

For context and enlightenment at the luncheon, we’ll hear from the great scholar and writer Steven Tepper, in from Arizona to talk about how artists and arts leaders are reshaping the relationship between art and the city. He will address the question: What is America’s next big cultural policy innovation? If you want to plug in more, there are pre-luncheon onsite seminars that include Clyde Valentín, former executive director of the Hip Hop Theater festival in New York, who is now bringing arts into all corners in the city of Dallas. And the conversation on the mandate for arts capitalization continues in a seminar led by Terri Theisen, a highly in-demand Atlanta consultant.

DID I MENTION THE ART IN THE PROGRAM? We’ve commissioned some new artistic performances that will help us make sure we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

Join us!

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