The Role of Philanthropic Organizations in Supporting Development Projects in Atlanta, Georgia

We understand the importance of data for planning and making informed decisions. To this end, we have identified seven community measures that are essential indicators of the prosperity, strength, and vitality of the community. Philanthropic organizations can be valuable allies for cities, towns, and counties striving to develop a local housing strategy. For instance, philanthropic organizations can bring together stakeholders to facilitate the participation of professionals and advocates, provide financial support for planning initiatives (such as a housing needs assessment), or invest in public-private partnerships, such as a procurement fund to back the preservation of rental housing.Philanthropic organizations can also contribute by making complementary investments that support local housing objectives, for example, by building the capacity of local non-profit developers.

Mayor Andre Dickens and President and CEO Frank Fernandez of the Community Foundation for the Metropolitan Area of Atlanta recently announced a historic investment of public and philanthropic resources to provide affordable, quality housing to all who call Atlanta home. In addition to involving a philanthropic organization in the planning process, it can be beneficial for localities to create opportunities for philanthropic organizations to participate on an ongoing basis in the implementation of the program. The Blank Family Foundation, Urban Land Institute-Atlanta, Central Atlanta Progress, Center for Civic Innovation and Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce are just some of the more than 200 civic leaders that have joined forces with the city of Atlanta. The Foundation's programs to support innovation in local government related to housing and community development include JPMorgan Chase's AdvancingCities and PRO Neighborhoods programs and Bloomberg Philanthropies' What Works Cities program, among others. Whether used as the sole source of funding or as a complement to a publicly funded project, philanthropic funding can help localities design projects with elements other than what publicly funded projects allow. This can be achieved by the locality by demonstrating that it has the capacity to implement successful projects and be innovative, and that it needs philanthropic support to finance projects that cannot be financed with other resources, such as state or federal funds. For example, a philanthropic organization might be interested in funding an early warning system to identify areas vulnerable to gentrification, which would support the anti-displacement strategy of localities, or would agree to invest in an acquisition fund to support the acquisition of land for future affordable development.

Staying in touch and following the progress of any joint project is a good way to continue cultivating a strong relationship with philanthropic organizations. A case in point is when driven by a report prepared by local activists that identified patterns of segregation in the city, the city developed a collaborative plan to raise funds for the development of new housing units. The fund aims to support the development of 1,000 units of affordable housing in the Denver region, which is in the process of one of the largest public transportation expansions in the country. In these cases, philanthropy support may indicate to others that the policy or project is well conceived and that it is likely to produce the desired impacts. A locality's relationship with a philanthropic organization may not begin with a particular project in mind, but rather with a relationship that develops over time and leads to the generation of ideas about how they can work together. Regardless of the motivation of a philanthropic organization, they can be key actors in convening stakeholders or creating cross-sectoral coalitions that provide opportunities to achieve significant and positive changes in communities. Philanthropic organizations that have housing, equity, racial justice, or community development as part of their mission may be particularly interested in working with localities on housing strategies.

The previous sections describe some of the motivations of philanthropic organizations in general, but it will be important for localities to learn more about the specific missions of philanthropic organizations operating in their areas.