To maximize our positive impact on the region, the Community Foundation develops and implements large-scale, multi-year regional initiatives on a regular basis. Working with donors, nonprofit organizations, civic leaders, local and national experts, and members of the greater Birmingham community, we identify key concerns and develop initiatives to address specific concerns, as well as opportunities within the area.

Current Initiatives

 Predatory Lending Reform

In 2003, the Alabama legislature carved out a special exception to the Small Loan Act for certain types of loans.  As a result, today Alabama has the second highest concentration per capita of payday lending businesses in the nation.  In Alabama, payday lenders are allowed to charge 456% interest APR on loans up to $500, and auto title lenders can charge 300% APR on loans secured by the borrower’s car.  Predatory lenders are disproportionately concentrated in low‐income communities that lack access to traditional financial services, and offer quick sources of cash as a way to seemingly bridge a short‐term cash crunch.  However, studies show that customers often take out repeated loans and get trapped in a prolonged cycle of debt as they try to pay off the original loan and its high fees.  The average borrower remains indebted for 212 days, renewing the loan 8 times.  Recognizing the need for affordable credit, CFGB has partnered with Alabama Central Credit Union (ACCU) and Gateway’s Financial Freedom Program to implement a Payday Loan Alterative Model. The keys to this model are financial education, assessing the borrower’s ability to repay, and providing a meaningful repayment period. Additionally, CFGB is advocating for predatory lending reform at the legislative level through a statewide, bipartisan, grass-roots coalition.

Building on progress in 2016, CFGB is stepping up the effort with polling, focus groups and targeted advocacy to bring conservative voices into the work, created consistent and professional messaging and engage key stakeholders to support payday lending reform.

Two bills have been introduced this spring dealing with Payday Lending Reform:
HB321 Press Release

Mental Health Initiatives

According to the CDC, Alabama and all but one of the Birmingham metro counties have higher rates of suicide and poor mental health than the nation as a whole.  Since 2008, Alabama has cut state funding for mental health by a total of 30%.  Despite these challenges, CFGB has identified opportunities to make a meaningful difference in mental health.  Drawing on proven national models, CFGB has taken the lead on three mental health projects:

  • Vincent’s Collaborative Care Clinic: CFGB is partnering with St. Vincent’s Health System to implement an integrated care model (linking mental health and primary care) at St. Vincent’s residency clinic in Center Point.  This model is associated with improved health outcomes and lower mean health care costs. A CFGB grant helped St. Vincent’s plan and launch the project in 2016, working with a leading national consultant. In 2017, St. Vincent’s is expanding to another clinic to test the sustainability of the model.
  • School-Based Health Care: CFGB is exploring a local pilot of another integrated care model, the school-based health center.  This model links a Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) with local schools to provide mental health and primary care in a school clinic setting.  Studies shows that school-based health correlates with improved student mental and physical health outcomes.  CFGB supported school-based health feasibility assessments with two local partner teams and the national School-Based Health Alliance, which will be completed in early 2017.
  • Health Action Partnership (HAP) Mental Health Priority Group: Founded in 2007, the Jefferson County HAP is a coalition of more than 80 organizations partnering to improve community health. In 2015, CFGB became the backbone organization for the HAP’s Mental Health Priority Group, which aims to expand access to mental health services.  In 2017, CFGB and the group are working with a national expert, the Center for Health and Health Care in Schools, to assess and plan for sustainable school mental health improvements in select local districts.
Breast Cancer Survivorship Rehabilitation Initiative (BCSRI)

The Women’s Breast Health Fund was established as a Field of Interest Fund by an anonymous gift of $5M in 2009 and then augmented with the establishment of the Women’s Breast Health Advised Fund with an additional gift of $5M in 2010. The purpose of both funds is to provide support for holistic breast cancer care for women and their loved ones from the time of diagnosis for the rest of their lives. In 2014, in an unprecedented move, CFGB brought together executive‐level leadership from all hospital systems in the Greater Birmingham Area (Baptist Health System, Brookwood Medical Center, St. Vincent’s Health System, Grandview Medical Center, UAB Medicine & School of Nursing) to develop a comprehensive, holistic and patient-centered rehabilitative model of care for breast cancer survivors and their loved ones. The initiative just completed its second year of funding, after assessing the breast cancer community and national models of survivorship care. In 2017, BCSRI is continuing to work on infrastructure, marketing, branding, volunteer education, training and service.  The long-term vision is the development of a patient-centered rehabilitation center by 2020. In addition to funding this initiative, CFGB plays a prominent role on the Leadership Team and directing this overall effort. Learn more…

Innovation District

In 2015, CFGB played a lead role in bringing together major Birmingham institutions (City of Birmingham, UAB, BBA, REV Birmingham, Regions, Alabama Power) to compare economic development plans and identify areas of synergy.   The group became known as the Mayor’s CEO Group and met throughout 2015 and 2016.  During this period, Bruce Katz of the Brookings Institute came to Birmingham to speak about the Metropolitan Revolution and the importance of innovation districts.  The innovation district concept aligned with plans emerging from the Mayor’s CEO Group and its participating institutions (including plans for expanding local broadband capacity and developing an Innovation Depot 2.0 for graduating companies). The group decided to focus on the innovation district concept, and UAB took the lead in moving the process forward. Support from CFGB’s Catalyst donors allowed the group to engage planning firm Perkins + Will to synthesize plans and complete a market and real estate analysis for the district.  The next steps for 2017 are to complete planning and move forward with development of the innovation district.  The concept for the district is a multi-pronged approach that leverages physical, financial and human capital to make Birmingham a center of innovation, technology and entrepreneurship.  Some early successes supported by this partnership include the launch of the Velocity Business Accelerator at Innovation Depot (funded by CFGB) and a $6 million federal grant to UAB and partners to help young adults coming out of the Birmingham City Schools train for existing local tech jobs.

EngAge: Senior Living Survey

In 2014, the Community Foundation launched the Advantage Initiative Survey to study the needs of older adults in our community. Nearly 1,800 intensive interviews were conducted with local seniors, resulting in statistically valid and reliable data. The foundation is using this data to 1) guide us in channeling resources to the greatest needs and, 2) to help providers deploy their precious resources in a more deliberate way to maximize impact.

To see the complete EngAge Report and read more about the Community Foundation’s efforts in this area click here.