Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta: Connecting Philanthropic Passion with Purpose

John Tabellione

Tuesday, June 14th, 2016

Alicia Philipp, President of the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, speaks with fervor when describing the efforts of her organization to function as a metaphorical GPS device that unlocks the philanthropy of donors and directs them to a broad array of needy causes.  

“We want them to become ‘raging’ philanthropists,” says Philipp. “So, our advisors listen carefully to these benefactors and elicit their preferences, asking them, ‘What’s your passion?’” 

While some contributors may not know how to turn non-liquid assets into cash for endowments, the Community Foundation does, whether it’s a racehorse or a seat on the mercantile exchange, both of which have actually happened, notes Philipp. “We’re then able to connect passion with purpose, and we know how to make it real because we have a deep knowledge of, and connections with, critical impact areas. Much like a university or a hospital may have an endowment, our Foundation is the communities’ endowment.” 

The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta encompasses 23 counties in and around the metro area. Cumulative grants distributed since its inception in 1951 through 2015 total $1.8 billion. The Foundation has current assets of $920 million and last year received $113 million from donors, while awarding $140 million via 6,800 grants to more than 2,900 nonprofits. The organization has 943 donor funds under management.  

Philipp notes that Atlanta is the fourth-highest giving city in the U.S. “We are hard wired to be generous, yet still so much need exists in our region.” The state of Georgia has 13 similar foundations, and over 750 similar organizations exist throughout the U.S. 

Philipp also talks of the importance of communications with other regional civic leaders, such as Hala Moddelmog (Chamber of Commerce), Milton Little, Jr. (United Way) and Doug Hooker (Atlanta Regional Commission). 

“We meet every six weeks and we think in terms about regional issues together. One may take the lead on a certain project, while the others contribute as wingmen, and so forth. We have too many issues in this region for any of us to be duplicating in any way. We need to be thinking together. It could be affordable housing, work force training, or education. We think in a holistic way and then we have targeted interventions that really work.”

Philipp speaks of her 39 years at the Foundation ever since former Foundation board member Dan Sweat hired her, in terms of “the joy of philanthropy.” She is quick to credit the vital importance of today’s volunteer board members, who, while demanding excellence, also have a balance of knowledge, interest and expertise in the field of endowments and donors.  

Likewise, she offers a lot of praise for her staff. For example, the Foundation advisors who listen to and counsel the benefactors are able to successfully connect their most significant donations through their profusion of connections and organizations. 

Furthermore, Philipp notes proudly that the Charity Navigator Guide to Intelligent Giving ranks the Foundation as a 4-star top rated organization.

“Donors, however, are our greatest asset because of their engagement and their willingness to get the next generation of philanthropists involved.” Speaking of next generations, the energetic Philipp says that she advises her own children, “I only hope you have a passion in your work.”

While noting that the Foundation has a limited advertising and PR budget, Philipp says,  “We need to put the message out there more often.” She welcomes interested parties to visit the Foundation website (www.cfgreateratlanta.org), or to contact her directly via email at info@cfgreateratlanta.org.

About John Tabellione

John Tabellione is an award-winning, professional business writer, complemented by over twenty-five years of strategic communication responsibilities as a Marketing, New Business Development and National Account Sales Executive in consumer goods and commercial industries. 

Experience with Fortune 500 companies, as well as with smaller firms and non-profits, encompassing a variety of products, including those of Georgia-Pacific, Kimberly-Clark and Stanley Works. 

John has a B.A. in English from Fairfield University and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Hartford. In addition, he has studied Russian at the Defense Language Institute at Syracuse University, and Italian language and culture at Kennesaw State University.