When Numbers and Need Meet Generous Donors

In 2015, the Community Foundation published a comprehensive report on aging in the Greater Birmingham area. It was a statistically valid study that the Foundation had commissioned to gain insight into the needs of seniors. In Alabama, the percentage of the population age 60 and over is rising at a much faster rate than all other age groups. We knew that as this ‘silver tsunami’ hit, the community would be faced with new opportunities and challenges.

The study, called EngAge, helped us understand our community’s age-friendliness and ability to meet the needs of the senior population. It was funded by generous donors from our foundation and others. The findings from the study were shared with stakeholders who work with seniors; they would also be used by the Community Foundation to help direct our grant making.

“Data driven insights can turn good intentions and hard work into lasting, sustainable impact,” said Chris Nanni, president and CEO of the Community Foundation.  “When we feel that there is a need, data like this allows us to zoom in and make the most of our donor’s gifts.”

The study continues to have an effect on the Community Foundation’s grant making. One of our areas of focus in our spring cycle of competitive grants is to improve nutrition and access to healthy food. “For adults, especially older adults, food insecurity can be a driver of a variety of health issues,” said Gus Heard-Hughes, Senior Program Officer with the Community Foundation. “The survey showed that one in five seniors in our area skipped meals due to lack of money and the majority doesn’t know about or utilize benefits like SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program).”

A local nonprofit, P.E.E.R. that promotes resources for healthy living in the eastern area of Birmingham, used the EngAge report to identify nutrition needs of seniors in their coverage area and apply for a grant from the Community Foundation. The grant allowed P.E.E.R. to reach out to help seniors enroll in SNAP, provide incentive for healthy produce at its East Lake Farmers Market and offer discounted, healthy meals at its Downstairs Diner.

“We have already found that this data can provide the bridge between the heart and the head,” said Nanni. “This study has helped us develop priorities that we can focus on to address current and future

Click Here to read more about EngAge.