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IDEAS of the month: November 2019

IDEAS 2019 continues, celebrating innovation in all areas of nonprofit management among GCN’s members and partners, from brilliant new services to audience-expanding initiatives to unexpected partnerships, and more.

Check out this month’s fresh crop of stories, featuring Action Ministries, Central Atlanta Progress, Dad’s Garage Theatre, FODAC, Foundation Center South, and their partners in impact.

Equity Now

SPOTLIGHTING DIVERSITY – LITERALLY

Diversifying nonprofit personnel remains a priority across the sector. But where do you start? Atlanta-based comedy outfit Dad's Garage Theatre Company began with the foundations: their improv classes, where all Dad’s Garage performers start out as students before working their way to the stage.

To help realize the diversity that has been one of their long-term goals, Dad’s Garage launched a Diversity and Inclusivity Scholarship two years ago, offering free improv classes for people who might never have taken the chance. Today, several scholarship students are performing onstage regularly as part of the Rookie program. Adding more people of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and international voices to the company, Dad’s Garage better reflects the enormous diversity of the Atlantans that they serve, and drives more of them to join the audience.

Feeding the Economy

READING, WRITING, AND FISCAL RESPONSIBILITY

For a long time, children have been picking up life lessons from the fictional exploits of kid detectives, kid doctors, and kid scientists; we can now add financial advisor to the list of adult-sized professions adopted by precocious young characters. To reach kids early with financial literacy lessons, Action Ministries launched the Smart Kid Save Smart program, distributing educational materials directly to children along with their summer lunch distribution. 

Created with help from the SunTrust Foundation, these third-grade-level lessons demonstrate how to make smart saving decisions through the story of Zelena, a spirited kid learning to save and work toward her dreams. Between 2018 and 2020, the program’s storybook, calendar, and activity workbooks will go home with 5,000 children. In addition, Action Ministries has developed a 5-day classroom curriculum for elementary school educators called Zelena’s Theme Week, including worksheets and activities that teach basic financial concepts such as earning, budgets, and savings.

Sector Support

COMMON PURPOSE, UNCOMMON TRAINING

In 2016, the Foundation Center South, now known as Candid South, partnered with the Annie E. Casey Foundation to bring together 14 nonprofit EDs for the first Boys and Men of Color Executive Director Collaboration Circle, a six-month intensive training and coaching program. Designed to improve the capacity and networks of nonprofits with a proven track record of serving boys and men of color – taking philanthropy from a focus on identifying the challenges faced by this long-underserved group to cultivating solutions – the program is now an annual eight-month engagement, each serving a cohort of 20 leaders

All-Inclusive

GETTING AHEAD OF THE NEXT EMERGENCY

Community emergencies – from earthquakes to floods to acts of terrorism – present a particular challenge for the elderly and people with disabilities. To address their needs for specialized equipment and care that aren’t always realized in emergency plans for the general population, Friends of Disabled Adults and Children (FODAC) has been a leader in relief efforts for special needs survivors since Hurricane Katrina.  

Building on those post-emergency efforts – in 19 states and 4 territories to date – they’re now helping communities prepare ahead-of-time. A new member of National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, FODAC is working with community disaster representatives to help them establish and maintain relationships with local nonprofits ahead of a disaster, then work with local disaster coalition teams – including onsite FEMA workers – during recovery efforts to address the immediate and on-going needs for people with disabilities. 

Pop-Up Impact

MORE THAN A GREENSPACE: EXPANDING THE HEART OF DOWNTOWN

In many ways, Woodruff Park can be thought of as the heart of Downtown Atlanta; by developing programs especially for park visitors experiencing homelessness, poverty, and other challenges, Central Atlanta Progress (CAP) is adding a new dimension to that idea.

As the City’s agents for maintaining it, CAP and the Atlanta Downtown Improvement District have worked over the past three years to transform park usage. Beyond new amenities, landscaping, and public events – a busy, year-round schedule – the partners have invested in effective, sustained assistance for park users who need help with housing, employment, substance abuse, and other underserved needs.

With funds from a Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant, CAP secured a social worker from HOPE Atlanta to work full time and on-site, connecting park visitors with the social services they need. To date, this staffer has placed over 100 individuals into permanent housing, enrolled over 700 park users into HOPE Atlanta programs, and referred over 750 more to other social service programs.

Additionally, a partnership with the Fulton County Library System has led to Library on the Lawn, an outdoor computer lab that gives park patrons free laptop and internet access, along with a librarian to ask for help. Since its 2018 inception, over 2,400 participants utilized library services in the open-air lab, averaging 23 users each day; the program was also awarded a 2019 Power of Libraries Award from SirsiDynix. Of course, internet access is crucial for those seeking employment, and many use Library on the Lawn to search for jobs and apply. This resource is especially crucial while the Central Library branch is closed for renovations.

Marc Schultz is communications editor at GCN.

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