#ThursdayIdeas | ATL Humane Society, Fuller Center for Housing, Boys and Girls Club of Metro ATL

Our #ThursdayIdeas blog series continues with three of the featured nonprofits from our just-published annual IDEAS issue of Georgia Nonprofit NOW.

The power of playtime

For a day this past January, the Atlanta Humane Society (AHS) made a number of Atlanta office workers very, very happy by delivering Puppies on Demand for 15 stress-relieving minutes of snuggling and playtime. Teaming up with a nation-wide "Puppy Bowl" campaign from the Animal Planet channel and ride-sharing service Uber, the AHS spent the day delivering an assortment of adoptable pups to workplaces around Atlanta for a $30 fee, all of which went to support the shelter. Between 11am and 3pm, a dozen puppies crisscrossed Atlanta with AHS handlers, making stops
requested directly through the Uber app.

Puppies didn’t just get some quality socializing time, said Director of Communications Meredith Millwood, they got a unique opportunity to find a “forever home” with folks who might never have visited a shelter. Also benefiting were the offices receiving a “puppy break,” including The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Though their first goal is always to put homeless animals in good homes—all participating puppies were adopted within four days—the event also paid in visit fees, almost $2,500, and extra donations from companies inspired by the visit. Another measure of success, noted Millwood: “Per Uber, we had the most ‘puppy playtime’ of all 10 cities participating!”

A board abroad

Early this year, a group of board members from the Fuller Center for Housing spent seven days in a Nicaraguan fishing village getting to know exactly how important their governance responsibilities are. An annual board tradition, board members joined the Center’s Global Builders program, which recruits 575 volunteers annually to travel across the globe, at their own expense, to help build houses alongside the “homeowner partners” who will occupy them.

In the village of Las Peñitas, a four-hour flight and two-hour bus ride from Hartsfield-Jackson Airport, Fuller Center board members don’t just live like, and work to the same standards, as “any other volunteer,” they also pay their own way for the privilege. Stacey Odom-Driggers, the Fuller Center’s Director of U.S. Covenant Partner Development, said that pitching in alongside the gracious, hardworking families they serve, and experiencing what the most dedicated staff and volunteers go through to make an impact, gives returning board members “a renewed commitment to the mission, and a real sense of urgency.”

Following his experience in Nicaragua, board member Edgar Stoesz said that "being able to participate in a build, to meet and work with the homeowners, to see the difference a house makes in the life of a family—that’s what inspires us to make our governance work count.”

Crafting a data-driven culture

“We know how much data matters, but we also understand it’s a point of fear and misunderstanding for many people,” said Michael Armstrong, VP of Club Operations & Evaluation at Boys & Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta (BGCMA). That’s why, in 2009, BGCMA began a thoughtful shift not just in data-handling, but in the way everyone running the organization approaches data—a data-centered cultural transformation.

They invested in training to give key staff—HR, marketing, managers from all 28 locations, and more—the skills to pull, analyze, and use data to make smart decisions. Along with a newsletter series explaining research findings and how to use them, BGCMA also set up an online dashboard making data easy to access and to break down by location or focus area.

With the right data and a team ready to use it, said Armstrong, BGCMA developed action plans customize to each Club location and Atlanta as a whole, like a 16-week tutoring program answering the need to bring kids struggling in English and math up to grade level, or a job skills development program called Jobs Wanted answering a call for more youth leadership opportunities.

Beyond programming, data has made its way into many facets of the operation, said Armstrong, “from staffing models to marketing to resource development. And it’s paying off, today, for the kids we serve.”


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