Behind the scenes of Junior League of Atlanta’s Centennial Grants to Community: How transformation takes shape
Three years ago, the Board of the Junior League of Atlanta reached out to me to help lead a transformational process – awarding $1 million in grants to commemorate the League’s Centennial. With my co-chair, Lizanne Stephenson, at my side, we embarked on this extraordinary effort.
The League had started planning for the grants 10 years in advance of the Centennial, with an ambitious goal to raise $1 million. With the goal achieved, now we had to create a structure to give it away. Our purpose: The Centennial Grants to Community’s goal is to award a transformational, million-dollar gift leveraging the Junior League of Atlanta’s legacy of leadership, capacity building and collaboration within the Atlanta Community.
Historically, the Junior League is not a grantmaking organization. Therefore, we needed to create a structure around the Centennial Grants to Community to ensure that nonprofits could engage with the League efficiently via the application process and would gain something from their involvement even if they were not awarded a gift in the end.
We formed an advisory committee that included Community Foundation President, Alicia Philipp, and many more dedicated volunteers. We also found a strong partner in the Georgia Center for Nonprofits who created a Design Thinking workshop for interested nonprofits to help them think innovatively and collaboratively about their proposals. The intent was not to fund business as usual. We wanted innovative solutions that would move the needle for the community. And we encouraged nonprofits to partner with other organizations in a collaborative model, if that made sense for the project being funded.
We received 114 Letters of Intent, 28 organizations were invited to submit final applications and nine organizations were invited to participate in site visits. In the end, three grants, totaling $1 million, were awarded. Funding will align with two of the League’s Issue Based Community Impact Areas, Generational Poverty and the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children/Human Trafficking. The Centennial Grants to Community will provide seed funding for the Institute for Healthcare and Human Trafficking, the Generational Poverty Law Center and will help implement the Child Nutrition Program.
The winning organizations are the Atlanta Community Food Bank, a partnership between Atlanta Legal Aid Society, Georgia Heirs Property Law Center and Pro Bono Partnership of Atlanta, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Learn more about the specific programs to be funded here.
Grants will be awarded over a three-year timeframe allowing the organizations time to develop, launch, build and evaluate the programs. We wanted to give organizations their very best chance at success given that this is a one-time grant. More importantly, we see these grants as partnerships that will last well beyond the next three years.