Helping Grantees Bridge the Gap – Literally
Since the bridge collapsed on I-85, my commute has been 10 minutes longer even though I live on the south side of Atlanta. Each day, my coworkers share travel horror stories around the water cooler about grueling trips to Buckhead for meetings that take an hour and attempts to get to Roswell that end in frustrated banging of the steering wheel. We are lucky that we work for an understanding organization. But what about those that are not in that situation?
For some, this issue is not about inconvenience or funny memes on Facebook. Perhaps they are docked pay for being tardy, no matter the reason, or are paid hourly. Maybe they were already traveling an hour to get to work and now they are faced with double that - complicating second jobs, child care and responsibilities. In short, complicating life.
Six Years Later, Hull Fellows Experience Continues to Make an Impact
I won't say that I was cocky or that I believed I knew all I needed to, but there was a large part of me that understood philanthropy as a simple and straightforward mechanism of American society. If the me of ten years ago was questioned, I would, more than likely, admit that the world of organized philanthropy was as about as complex as grass farming. Plow ground, sew seeds, water in, wait eight weeks, and bam...grass.
My year in the Hull Fellowship program changed this view completely. Not only did I discover that large social issues are a bit more complicated than basic agriculture, but also I found that many of the solutions I touted had been tried repeatedly, with little to no success. I learned that my family's foundation was as unique as it was common, that many of the issues we faced had been addressed by other family foundations in the past, and that many of our quirks were our very own. There were literally hundreds of insights on operations and governance. I imagine the virtual lightbulb above my head burning with a blinding light by the end of my fellowship year.
Yet, these were not the most important things. My Hull Fellows class remains one of my favorite groups of people I have ever encountered. The diversity of background, of opinion, of thought, and of context drove incredibly rich discussions that forever altered how I understood parts of my world. There were fierce conversations, incredible moments of honesty, lasting insights, and friendships forged through it all. To this day, should a question or need arise, I have 19 people whom I trust intensely to answer my call. I was affirmed in my belief that it takes great people to make great ideas work. These were truly great people.
Reinventing Food Banks
Last week I had the opportunity to attend a forum From Feeding People to Ending Hunger: Reinventing Food Banks, a forum hosted by the Social Enterprise program at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. The panelists represented organizations working to address hunger at the national, state, and local level and provided a layered perspective on strategies for ending hunger in the U.S.
The event included remarks from Kim Hamilton, Chief Impact Officer at Feeding America, Jon West, Vice President of Programs at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, and Jeremy Lewis, Executive Director of Urban Recipe.
Each of these organizations is doing its part to fight hunger: Feeding America is a nationwide network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs that provides food and services to more than 46 million people each year. The Atlanta Community Food Bank is part of Feeding America’s network and partners with more than 600 nonprofit partners to distribute over 60 million meals to more than 755,000 people in 29 counties across metro Atlanta and north Georgia. Urban Recipe operates within a unique co-op model in which each family served becomes a member of a 50-family co-op that meets biweekly to apportion donated food.
Investing in HOPE: The Blueprint for Reforming Child Welfare in Georgia
According to the latest Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT assessment, Georgia ranked 42nd among all states in child well-being, pointing to a need for greater investment in child welfare. To help address this crisis, Georgia’s child welfare system is teaming up with nonprofits, the philanthropic sector, businesses and communities to create a place where people share a vision of safety and success for every child – a State of Hope.
Last week, in collaboration with the Georgia Grantmakers Alliance, Casey Family Programs and SECF, the Georgia Division of Family and Children Services met with more than 30 local funders to share its vision for improving the lives of children and families in crisis. The meeting sought to support local philanthropic leaders who are seeking a better understanding of the state of children and families in Georgia and to cultivate opportunities for public-private partnership. This convening included a discussion with Division Director Bobby Cagle and other senior division leaders, as well as Stephanie Blank, the chair of the governor’s Child Welfare Reform Council.
Because of the increasing challenges for families – including substance abuse, poverty and unemployment – and the demands on families, Georgia has experienced an increase in the number of children and youth who have come to the attention of the Division of Family and Children Services. Therefore, building and strengthening public-private partnerships at the state level and at the regional level is critical.
I consider private philanthropy to hold the greatest potential to creating and ensuring a just society. While philanthropy does not provide the greatest resource – recognizing the outsize investment the public sector does and should play to drive equity and outcomes – it has always possessed unparalleled opportunity to catalyze and advance the essential conversations, work and investments to change conditions that keep folks poor, powerless and silent.
A few weeks ago, I posted the following blog on my Facebook page. I have worked at a foundation for more than 16 years, yet in this post I speak not as a philanthropic professional but rather as an African American in America. Sharing this post within the SECF family, I recognize that I have a unique advantage of speaking to an audience that many don’t get to speak to – colleagues, many of whom have become lifelong friends. I present it with an appeal to do the disciplined thinking that we have been trained to do… to hear… to ask not just “what” but “why”… to seek truth… to innovate… to right the scales.
All around us communities are exploding and imploding, creating and falling into breaches that threaten the whole. If philanthropy is, as I believe, the force that can be the change, we must be brave enough and humble enough to search for solutions within and without, that build our understanding and increase our impact.
Bar Foundations: Partners in Philanthropy
Author: Len Horton
Three years ago, the Georgia Bar Foundation (GBF) applied for and received a grant, funded by the Public Welfare Foundation, to expand our involvement in the local philanthropic community. The plan included partnering with SECF to raise awareness of bar foundations and their grantees, to promote greater understanding of the importance of civil indigent legal services, and to nurture relationships with other foundations. In essence, the grant supported a coming out party for the Georgia Bar Foundation among the many foundations that comprise Georgia’s philanthropic community.
SECF helped introduce us to its members so they would know who we are, who our grantees are and what we are trying to accomplish. SECF helped us create a webinar, “Funding Civil Legal Aid to Advance Your Grantmaking Goals” and an online tool kit, “Funding Civil Legal Aid,” that provides a way for state bar foundation members to spotlight their states statistically in great detail.
One of the outcomes of this initial grant was other foundations’ being more aware of the importance of access to justice in their states and the nation. Another important outcome was the realization of how sophisticated and knowledgeable our SECF membership is and how much I have learned, and still need to learn, from them. Perhaps the most important outcome, however, was the opportunity for bar foundations to discuss becoming partners with other foundations in attacking our mutual problems.
One Foundation, Three Perspectives on SECF's Essential Skills & Strategies
Author: Anna Sims, Josina Greene & Kelli Parker
Editor’s Note: On January 31 – February 1 this year, three staff members from the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley (CFCV) attended SECF’s Essential Skills & Strategies for New Grantmakers in Atlanta. Each of them took the time to offer some thoughts on their experience.
A Few Lessons Learned
Anna Sims, Grants and Communication Associate
Oftentimes in life, the best way to learn is to just do it – to simply jump in and get to it! That’s a large part of how I’ve learned what I’ve learned as the grants and communication associate at the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley after nearly two years. Of course, I wouldn’t have it any other way, but in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, we may have missed some key pieces to the puzzle.
We can only do so much with our limited time day to day, which is why it’s such a valuable opportunity to attend a workshop like Essential Skills & Strategies for New Grantmakers, hosted by SECF. This seminar reinforced much of what I’ve learned on the job. But it also introduced some key themes that I’ve never had the opportunity to learn and explore.
One of those key concepts, part of the Making Sound Funding Recommendations section, involved learning what healthy financials should look like when examining a grantee and making a sound funding recommendation. We studied key financial documents, such as 990s, balance sheets and income statements.
Scaling Philanthropy: The Emergence of Creative Capital for Social Solutions
Author: Mark Crosswell
Over the past several years, many of us in the philanthropic community have watched and wondered about impact investing and what it means, if anything, for fueling social change. Whether you've read about it in blogs, witnessed panel discussions or actually put your toe in the water, for the longest time most of us have been confused on how a social good could come from an investment that also yields a financial return.
Along the way, I also noticed that Georgia and the Southeast were trailing other regions regarding the use of impact capital with philanthropy.
Apparently, I haven't been alone. In late 2016, I joined a group of other concerned Georgians who came together to tackle one question: How might we accelerate impact investing throughout Georgia?
We call ourselves the Georgia Social Impact Collaborative, or GSIC, and our goal is simply to educate stakeholders and provide onramps for investors to find ways to invest in social outcomes. Some of us are with foundations or nonprofits, some are private or angel investors and a few are involved with startups, social enterprise and funding social ventures. Yet all of us were truly perplexed on why impact investing in the Georgia and the South was not nearly as developed as in other parts of the country.
Take a look at the West Coast, where social innovation reigns - venture capitalists and angel investors are investing in social startups of all kinds. Or the upper Midwest, where nonprofit banks have eclipsed the $1 billion mark by lending money for community development. Or the Northeast, where national foundations invest loans and equity in social enterprises and the public sector is willing to "pay for success."
Member Highlight: Claire Webber
Author: Southeastern Council of Foundations
A decade ago, Claire Webber was just starting to become involved in her family's foundation, while also reintroducing herself to the South.
"I attended my first SECF Annual Meeting, green and returning to my hometown of Atlanta, after living on the West Coast for some time," she said. "I was eager to dive into the philanthropic community and the Annual Meeting was the perfect place to re-connect."
That event was a transformational experience.
"I am so grateful to be part of such a wonderfully engaged group of thought leaders, who kindly let me sit at the adults' table," Claire said. "Between the sessions and social offerings, I was able to re-engage and haven't looked back."
An Innovative Approach to Launching and Sustaining Student Success
Author: Karen Lambert
Navigating college for the first time can be daunting, especially when you’re the first from your family to do so.
This notion of firsts is what caught the Peyton Anderson Foundation’s attention when Middle Georgia State University presented plans for the Center to Launch and Sustain Student Success (CLASS).
The proposed 8,000-square-foot Macon campus center will be a key resource in helping prospective, incoming and current students navigate the process of applying to college, securing financial aid, meeting with academic advisors, registering for classes and transitioning into their professional careers, all within one central space.
Middle Georgia State University is Georgia’s most affordable public university. With diverse degree offerings, central locations (five campuses throughout Middle Georgia) and tuition and fees totaling approximately $4,600 a year, the university takes pride in its accessibility for students seeking postsecondary education, especially when they are the first in the family.