Georgians generous to world

Moderated by Rick Badie

Georgians, apparently, know charity begins at home. How else to explain Atlanta’s ranking as the fourth most-generous among large metropolitan areas? Our guest writers focus on philanthropy at home and abroad: A Spelman College administrator writes about the school’s growing philanthropic endeavors, from students to alumni and beyond. A business executive and a nonprofit official note the importance of Georgia’s engagement in global matters. In the third column, a writer shares his experience as a participant in the recent Atlanta Gay Pride parade.

Generosity, a Georgia trait

By David Abney and Jonathan Reckford

One of the greatest hopes for securing long-lasting stability and shared prosperity around the world is to foster economic opportunity, education, access to land and shelter and good governance in communities that need it most. As leaders of two of the world’s largest international organizations, we understand the value, in economic and humanitarian terms, of doing good.

We live in a world where one billion people go hungry, 1.5 billion lack access to clean water and 1.6 billion lack adequate shelter. It’s going to take all of us to address those challenges and to provide humanitarian relief following disasters and civil conflict. What happens in one part of the world can have dramatic ripple effects on others. Reaching out to people in the poorest corners of the world is not just humanitarian. It’s strategic.

We know that when our country assists developing nations, we not only help improve the lives of their citizens, but we also ensure that American taxpayers continue to see a strong return on investments in international affairs.

No one knows that better than the people of Georgia. We have a proud tradition of being engaged in today’s world. Atlanta serves as headquarters to some of the largest global brands and organizations in the world with rapidly growing international operations in emerging markets. Today, trade supports more than 1.2 million jobs in Georgia and has generated almost $38 billion in goods and services for exports to foreign markets.

Above all, lending a helping hand is a moral issue. Helping those who are struggling simply to survive is the right thing to do. As developing countries consume more than half of our exports, from an economic standpoint, America cannot afford to ignore the needs of those in emerging markets around the world. To bring about lasting change and create economic opportunities for people in need, American businesses and non-governmental organizations mustwork with international agencies to help people build the foundation for a better life. Our organizations are committed to working alongside families to create healthy and thriving communities.

For nearly 40 years, Habitat for Humanity has been a global poverty-fighting organization, partnered with more than 4 million people worldwide to help them participate in their own housing solutions. Sometimes that is new construction; at other times it is a matter of making repairs and rehabbing a structure. For many in the world, accessing microfinance loans to make small improvements is the best housing solution. In six countries in Europe and central Asia, 91 percent of the families Habitat served last year were through microfinance.

In addition, Habitat for Humanity helps families left homeless by disasters, war and civil unrest. Habitat for Humanity has supported more than 50,000 families in Port-au-Prince, Léogâne and Cabaret with transitional and permanent housing, emergency shelter kits, home repairs, house damage assessments and training. Throughout the world, Habitat and its supporters advocate for policies and systems that advance access to adequate, affordable housing.

Similarly, with operations in more than 200 countries and territories, UPS has a long history of working with disaster relief organizations to deliver critical, life-saving aid. Through a range of innovative global programs, the UPS Foundation has developed a multi-sector commitment to urgent humanitarian relief, making a measurable difference in global communities.

Earlier this month, the UPS Foundation committed to provide transportation support to relief agencies battling the deadly Ebola outbreak in West Africa. This is just a part of the more than $100 million that UPS and its employees invest each year in worldwide charitable giving.

Whether it’s responding to emergencies, improving housing conditions, fighting world hunger or fostering economic development through secure land tenure, addressing humanitarian needs is a smart investment. We can be proud that American assistance over the years – from vaccines to food aid to shelter to clean water and sanitation programs – has saved millions of lives and improved living conditions for countless people.

Georgians are the most generous people in the world. Our effort in serving people in need is one of our most remarkable values. With the world growing more interconnected every day, this is not just good for our soul, but also for our economy.

David Abney is the chief executive officer of UPS; Jonathan Reckford is CEO of Habitat for Humanity and serves on the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Georgia Advisory Committee.

Investing in future of higher education

By Kassandra Jolley

According to recent data from The Chronicle of Philanthropy, Atlantans give approximately 4 percent of their income to charity, ranking it as the fourth-most generous among large metropolitan areas. Even during the recent recession, Atlanta remained true to its philanthropic heritage by ensuring help was available to those who needed it the most.

In 2013, education was the recipient of the largest giving increase of all charitable sectors in the U.S. While that is good news for institutions like Spelman College, this validates the critical role higher education has in cultivating intellectuals and the next generation of philanthropists.

Interestingly, The Chronicle of Philanthropy data reveals that middle-class Americans increased their share of income given to charity, even if they were making less than they were before the recession. National statistics show that for many organizations, mid-level donors are increasingly a larger portion of annual donors; we’ve found this to be true at Spelman.

Earlier this year, Spelman announced that it exceeded its comprehensive fund-raising campaign goal, generating $157.8 million. This is the largest amount raised in the history of the institution. The campaign attracted support for scholarships, academic initiatives and campus renewal. Of the more than 18,000 campaign donors, a record-breaking 12,000 alumnae made a gift to the campaign.

What do these trends mean for our future?

With this much growth in foundation giving among middle-income donors, the need for a thriving, philanthropic middle class is clear. As an all-women’s, historically black college, Spelman is producing the next generation of philanthropists by transforming student lives and equipping graduates to transform their communities and the world.

Half of our student population is Pell-Grant eligible, a high number compared to other selective, private liberal arts colleges. Additionally, just as many of our students are first-generation college attendees. At 76 percent, our six-year average graduation rate is well above the national average of 50 percent for first-generation students.

DFor several years in a row, Washington Monthly has ranked Spelman among the top 10 schools for social mobility, meaning our students gain advantages earlier generations didn’t have. College graduates are predicted to earn one million dollars more than high school graduates over a lifetime.

According to the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, African-Americans are inclined to give a higher percentage of their income (25 percent more per year) to charities than other races. Nearly two-thirds of African-American households make charitable donations.

Institutions that prepare students to earn financial independence and amplify a disposition for giving through intentional student programming are laying the foundation for the future of giving in this country. At Spelman, that effort begins when a student walks on campus. She is greeted by women who came before her through a series of co-curricular activities, including formal alumnae mentoring programs.

Our students are routinely engaged in fundraising efforts for their community and college. For example, each year seniors are asked to give in honor of their graduation year. Seniors who participate receive a special tassel and are recognized at their final convocation at Spelman. We place emphasis on the importance of alumnae giving through the Every Woman, Every Year campaign that has catapulted alumnae participation from 16 percent to 41 percent in just seven years.

The histories of Atlanta and Spelman College are intertwined. We don’t believe it is by accident that our community continues to be among the most generous when it comes to giving to others. We have intentionally fostered altruism – among Spelman students, faculty and alumnae.

Investing in higher education is key to growing the middle class and building future generations of philanthropists. As each of us seek out organizations and causes to support in the years to come, that’s a lesson worth taking to heart.

Kassandra Jolley is vice president for institutional advancement at Spelman College.

Gay rights, human rights

By John Christakis

In Atlanta on a recent Sunday, I marched to the tunes of the Spice Girls underneath a rainbow-colored Union Jack representing the British Consulate General in Atlanta. As our “Love is GREAT” t-shirt-wearing-clan turned down Peachtree Street, I hopped onto the side of a Mini Cooper convertible.

Waving to the crowd in a fashion that surely the Queen would approve, I was overwhelmed by cheers as the British Invasion debuted at Atlanta Pride. As an out-and-proud American working for the British Government and a Yankee in the South, I wanted to say “thanks y’all” for making me feel so welcome at my first Pride experience.

Let us shake off the image of the stiff-upper lip Brit and embrace the United Kingdom (U.K.) as one of most progressive nations in the world in terms of LGBT equality. England and Wales celebrated their first same-sex weddings earlier this year and Scotland will recognize equal marriage later this year. As a result, the International Gay and Lesbian Association’s (ILGA) annual Rainbow Map ranked the U.K. as first in LGBT rights in Europe.

We’ve come a long way in a little over two decades. My own organization, the Foreign Office, banned gay people from working there until 1991; there is still work to be done. Today, it empowers me to know that my employer not only supports its LGBT-friendly staff but allows them a vehicle to show their pride by participating in events like Pride parades across the nation.

LGBT culture is more present in mainstream media than ever before. We must remember that we march in Pride to show the world there is no shame in being out and it is ok to be comfortable with who you are, no matter sexual identity. We also march in memory of those who could not, the generations left in the closet and without a voice. Again, it is not whether you are gay or straight, transexual, or bisexual; LGBT rights are human rights. And until equal rights are granted to all citizens, there will still be a necessity for Pride.

In Atlanta, I was filled with emotion when the parade route came across a group of anti-gay protestors. We knew they would be there. It was not the anti-gay slander that evoked so much feeling in me, but rather the Pride crowd blocking protestors from Peachtree Street. Pride celebrates diversity through unity; gay and straight, Brits and Americans, all marching towards a common goal. This is not about gay rights, but human right

John Christakis is the business development associate, UK trade & investment, for the British Consulate-General Miami.

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