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IDEAS of the month: December 2019

In this month’s edition of IDEAS, celebrating innovation in all areas of nonprofit management, GCN’s members and partners share stories of responsive new services, easy-access fundraising tools, and program changes that multiplied two nonprofits’ reach by more than three times.

Check out this month’s fresh crop of stories, featuring LaAmistad, Atlanta Ronald McDonald House, Community Guilds, The Empty Stocking Fund, and their partners in making innovative, impactful strides.

IDEAS Update


Since its launch, and its IDEAS debut, in 2014, Community Guilds’ award-winning STE(A)M Truck has been joined by five other vehicles designed to bring tools, technologies, and experts to schools throughout Metro Atlanta. Their objectives: Give kids the chance to get their hands dirty making things, and empower teachers to continue that work once they drive away.

Part of the ambitious mission of Community Guilds is ensuring that all youth thrive, which meant they needed to dramatically increase the number of students they serve. By doubling and then tripling down on a successful mobile service, they increased their initial reach more than 33 times: from 300 youth served in the STE(A)M Truck’s first year to more than 10,000 in 2018, along with hundreds of educators.

Going forward, the STE(A)M fleet will continue expanding, but Community Guilds also has plans to launch their first stationary programs, including the construction of permanent, place-based innovation labs.



When it came time to celebrate their 40th anniversary, Atlanta Ronald McDonald House (ARMH) wanted to do more than the typical fundraiser or community thank-you: They wanted to empower their supporters to celebrate the milestone with their own networks. Through a new online toolkit, set up through their site, they’ve provided factsheets, social media guides, photos and videos of the mission in action, and ready-to-adopt fundraising program suggestions – from custom crowdsourcing software to official guidelines for an in-person party.

Though it was designed primarily to encourage staff, board members, volunteers, and beneficiaries to share the impact ARMH has made serving the families of sick and injured kids, the toolkit has also proven to be a powerful resource for engaging companies and others to take up the cause.



Throughout the history of LaAmistad, a Latino-focused organization, a single question has come up more than any other: Can you teach me Spanish? “It’s a good question,” said Community Engagement Manager Marcus Laing. But, until January of 2019, the answer had always been no.

The biggest demand for this move, said Laing, came from their volunteers, who were interested in better serving the students they tutor and the families they work with. In response, LaAmistad devised a way to add Spanish instruction that also expand opportunities for their primary beneficiaries: a “hybrid” model that pairs their ESL students with Spanish students, doing double duty and maximizing class time. 

Their beginner-level Spanish course is now open to anyone seeking to learn, with a second-year component for those who complete all classes with a passing grade. So far, Laing reports, many first-time Spanish students find themselves speaking confidently after their initial ten-week course.

Strategy Sync


Over 2017 and 2018, The Empty Stocking Fund partnered with the Atlanta Community Food Bank to share space for their free “shopping” programs: Empty Stocking’s holiday gift program for families in need, and the Food Bank’s Kids in Need school supply program for low-income children. This successful partnership led to deeper conversations between the organizations.

As it turned out, The Empty Stocking Fund’s strategic plan called for expanding services at the same time the Food Bank’s plan called for sharpening their focus on food security. Transferring the Kids in Need program to Empty Stocking would effectively triple their reach, while freeing resources for the Food Bank’s core mission, and most importantly, ensuring that school supplies kept reaching kids.

With help from the Strategic Restructuring Fund of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta, The Empty Stocking Fund acquired the program in 2019, enabling them to serve an additional 100,000 kids. With the community’s support, said ED Manda Hunt, The Empty Stocking Fund is confident they will reach more than 200,000 annually by 2023.

Got an IDEA of your own to share? Send it our way!

Marc Schultz is communications editor at GCN.

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