Member Highlight: Alicia Philipp

This week, in the offices of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, the Host Committee for SECF's 50th Annual Meeting convened to begin planning how this historic celebration will showcase its home -- a diverse, thriving hub for the entire region and a city where philanthropy has played a major role in revitalization and renewal.

Who could lead such an effort? One of the first names to come to mind was Alicia Philipp, the longtime president of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta -- not only is she one of the city's most prominent philanthropic leaders, but she's also one of the city's biggest civic boosters.

A recent Atlanta magazine profile of Alicia noted that "she's done more to change the Atlanta region than most elected officials ever could," adding that the foundation under her leadership "has become one of the largest philanthropic organizations in the Southeast -- donating an estimated $100 million a year to nonprofit and faith-based organizations."

Alicia will lead the Host Committee's work throughout the year, joined by her co-chair -- also a pillar of the Atlanta region -- Helen Smith Price, president of The Coca-Cola Foundation. By the end, it will have assembled a collection of site visits, activities, off-site sessions, dine-arounds, music, arts and culture that will show Atlanta, and its philanthropic community, at its best.

Of course, Alicia's work means that she's also familiar with the challenges facing the city, ranging from affordable housing to one of the country's highest HIV/AIDS infection rates. Alicia believes these and other problems need to be addressed at the systemic level.

"There's definitely still a need for a soup kitchen, but we need to figure out why people are homeless," Alicia said in an interview. "There's so much more attention now to peeling the onion to get to the core issue."

Alicia is also a strong advocate for the work of community foundations. She joined other community foundation leaders last year to co-author a defense of donor-advised funds that ran in Nonprofit Quarterly.

"To achieve our mission, we need DAFs to be a tool that helps us actively partner with community groups to address their needs," Alicia and other authors wrote. "While no giving tool is perfect, the vast majority of DAFs we control achieve this goal. That's why we have grave concerns about efforts to place arbitrary rules and guidelines around them, no matter how well intentioned those efforts might be."

She believes one of the foundation's programs, Spark Opportunity -- a giving circle of donors focused on the region's stark income and opportunity disparities -- is one example of how community foundations can bridge divides between philanthropy and the communities it serves.

"A community foundation, so deeply and closely near people in place, can close that distance between philanthropists and those who have felt shut out," she wrote recently on the foundation's blog. "Community foundations can change the paradigm. I truly believe those community foundation donors who are part of Spark Opportunity see this happening."

In a recent post looking at the year ahead, Alicia wrote that she sees real momentum across multiple sectors in the effort to close the opportunity gap in Metro Atlanta.

"There is a coalescing of will around closing the opportunity gap from leaders in our region," she wrote. "It's important that we continue to address the underlying factors that lead to a lack of economic mobility and to lift up the organizations in our region that are doing the difficult work of closing that gap. It's morally right, and a strong economy depends on it."


Southeastern Council of Foundations
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Mission: The Southeastern Council of Foundations serves, connects, strengthens and champions philanthropy and philanthropic infrastructure in the South.