Donors’ heads tracked the moderator as she jumped along in front of the windows looking out at the Birmingham Zoo. Camille Spratling held attention while she reiterated a point made by the panelists about the maintenance of green spaces. The room at the zoo held donors, Community Foundation staff, and panelists from local parks and governance who gathered on May 9th to celebrate the Community Foundation’s Spring Giving Together with a discussion about the importance of green space in the Birmingham community.
Ten years ago, the Community Foundation launched the Giving Together program to accompany our semiannual grant cycle. Every spring and fall, agencies apply for grants from the Foundation’s unrestricted funds to spearhead and maintain programs that serve the Greater Birmingham area. The application asks that these programs fall under one of five priorities: Fostering Equity and Inclusion, Creating Economic Opportunity for All, Overcoming Persistent Poverty, Driving Regional Cooperation, and Nurturing Thriving Communities. Then requests are evaluated, and agencies participate in site visits from Foundation staff and volunteers before final considerations. At this point in the cycle, our Giving Together program calls upon our donors to help. Donors are given the opportunity to co-invest in the programs presented by donating the remaining balance of funds needed to grant the entire amount of funds approved. Over the years, donors have partnered with the Foundation to grant $13 million to the community through this program.
The Birmingham area is lucky to be home to interested donors, not only in investing in their community but also in educating themselves about the community. So, to celebrate this year’s Spring Giving Together, donors were invited to lunch at the Birmingham Zoo to engage with a panel about Birmingham’s green spaces. Camille Spratling from Railroad Park moderated the panel, which included Carlee Sanford from Ruffner Mountain, Carolyn Buck from the Red Rock Trail System, Chad Scroggins, the County Manager for Shelby County, and the Foundation’s own Meg Ford, who has a background in environmental education.
The diverse set of voices on the panel lent to an inspiring conversation about why and how Birmingham should care for its parks and trails. Chad outlined Shelby County’s creative budget to acquire and maintain green spaces for their community. Carlee and Carolyn were able to speak to the difficulties of raising funds for the maintenance of parks. Meg spoke about the importance of time outside for young minds. Everyone agreed that access to nature positively impacts mental and physical health, which means adding to our green space could help many of our cities appear alluring to workforce populations and grow our economy. The audience also learned about Turkey Creek and Ruffner Mountain’s new partnership to form a countywide operating structure for Jefferson County (which lacks a Parks and Recreation office).
The panelists and donors reluctantly parted, but the donors were then presented with the grants approved for this cycle. This spring the Foundation received 61 grant requests totaling $1.7 million. Our grant committee made up of staff and volunteers approved $1.36 million to be granted to 47 of those requests. Most of the programs fell under our Nurturing Thriving Communities and Overcoming Persistent Poverty priorities while almost a third covered the other three priorities. Most importantly, we needed $207,000 from our Giving Together program to close the gap this year, and we surpassed our goal! The foundation cannot thank our donors enough for their boundless generosity. We look forward to learning more about the community and providing more for the community alongside you this fall.