Home > IDEAS: Georgia Nonprofit Innovation at Work, Part 2

IDEAS: Georgia Nonprofit Innovation at Work, Part 2


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Mapping community need and nonprofit capacity

This past year, GCN and the Peyton Anderson Foundation teamed up to study the needs of low-income residents in Macon and surrounding Bibb County, and assess the sector’s ability to meet them. The process began by identifying more than 200 area nonprofits, followed by focus groups, in-depth data collection, and analysis, which was used to quantify issues, assess capacity, and find both duplications and gaps in services.

The research has helped inform everyone involved: For the service population, the project revealed unmet needs in areas like housing repair support, employment assistance, healthcare, and youth development programs. For nonprofits, it demonstrated the benefits that arise when nonprofits make data-driven decisions and work in tandem. For GCN and the Foundation, it provided an advanced understanding of sector challenges and opportunities to help Bibb County nonprofits better serve their communities.


Investing big in the arts

In 2011, the Metropolitan Atlanta Arts Fund (MAAF) surveyed the financial health of 40 nonprofits they’d supported over the years, and found that “this cohort of fantastic, creative, mature, highly productive arts organizations had extremely low liquidity,” said founding Director Lisa Cremin. “This was no way to do business.”

What these organizations needed, the MAAF decided, was capitalization: an injection of funds large enough to give them the security and adaptability that comes with a significant reserve. That meant a grant of unprecedented size for the MAAF: $200,000. Said Cremin, “You can’t short-change a capitalization plan and expect it to work.”

Knowing that the recipient would need training to steward the investment, and that help from the sector as a whole would be needed to further the effort, MAAF designed a pilot program to educate consultants, funders, and nonprofits in capitalization principles. After considering six nonprofits who might be ready for capitalization, they decided on three finalists, each of whom got 50 hours with a MAAF-trained consultant to develop a 15-minute pitch for the funding committee.

The MAAF wanted to make sure that each finalist walked away with a compelling pitch, but also that other investors were ready to hear them. That’s why they briefed the funding and business communities on the concept, and roped in members of those communities to act as pitch coaches for the finalists. Said Cremin, “We knew we were going to need a lot of different partners on different levels” to start a capitalization movement for Atlanta’s arts organizations.

Following the final pitches, much deliberation, and days of reflection, the MAAF selected the Atlanta Contemporary Art Center (a GCN member) for the $200,000 capitalization grant. Cremin said the grant, announced in May, is just the beginning: the MAAF will be helping all three finalists continue their work capitalizing and seeking capitalization funds, and will be tweaking the pilot program for the next round. “Our real hope is to get some more investors for the other organizations, and start focusing on evaluation and planning for where we go next,” said Cremin.


Quality childcare a tap away

With their toll-free All Georgia Kids hotline (1-877-ALL-GA-KIDS) and a user-friendly website at allgakids.org, Quality Care for Children became the first and only statewide resource helping families find affordable, quality child care. Beginning this past September, they made that service smartphone-accessible with a free mobile app, developed with the help of the Mobilize 2012 hack-a-thon (created by Atlanta-based ad agency 22squared to benefit local nonprofits), and now available in the iPhone app store.


90.1 : Finding sustenance

In 2013, Atlanta’s longtime NPR station WABE 90.1 added a new arsenal to its now-familiar on-air funding drives: the Sustainer Program, allowing listeners to pledge a regular monthly donation—as little as $10. That program not only provides the station with a reliable income stream and cuts down on time spent by the development department pursuing past donors, but gives participants a nice bonus: entry into every one of the donor drawings WABE holds during its seasonal, weeklong donor drives. “We’ve had a remarkable response,” Chief Operating Officer John Weatherford told the AJC in May, reporting that a full 42% of donors during the program’s first season signed up to become sustainers.


A full-service home for homeless families

When City of Refuge was gifted a large facility by philanthropist Malon Mimms, CEO Bruce Deel envisioned turning the space into a “one-stop shop” for families facing the crisis of homelessness. “Many of our clients were struggling to get the resources they need, because they had to visit many organizations, make multiple appointments, find funds for public transportation to get there, line up child care,” said Deel. His idea was to give their service population, primarily women and their children, a wrap-around suite of programs and providers in the same place they were residing.

The result is the City of Refuge Campus, a 210,000 square foot collaborative facility housing 300 women and children, three different day-care centers, an after-school program, an academy for middle and high school students, and offering vocational training, spiritual guidance, recreation, and case management, all provided by City of Refuge and partners like Bright Futures Atlanta and Feed My Lambs—plus a full-service health care facility, run by St. Joseph’s Mercy Care Services. “On one campus, a family has available to them all the tools they need to reach a place of self-sufficiency,” said Deel.

Now in its sixth year, the wrap-around residential program has served more than 3,000 people, and construction is underway on a new residence for pregnant teens and new teen moms, as well as an auto repair center to train veterans re-entering the workforce, those coming out of rehab or incarceration, and academy students interested in a vocational tech career.


Refreshing strategy with a SWOT alternative

During their last round of strategic planning, Rainbow Village decided to forgo the typical environmental scan in favor of bringing together their full range of stakeholders to take part in a process known as appreciative inquiry. In four steps—discovery, dreaming, designing, and destiny—they uncovered the needs, hopes, and plans of their entire community. “Once we determined our destiny, we were able to put together three-year goals, and came out with an incredible plan,” said CEO Nancy Yancey. “Appreciative inquiry really engaged everyone in the process in a very exciting way.”


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