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It’s great to have a generous spirit. The question is, how do you decide where to give? That’s where the Community Foundation of Greater Huntsville (CFGH) comes into play.
Empowering Wiser Giving
CFGH was founded in September 2009 as a way to provide prospective donors with the insight needed to give wisely and tax-efficiently. It strives to improve the quality of life for those in the Greater Huntsville community by connecting individuals, corporations and families with non-profits and initiatives that address issues about which donors are passionate. Another huge part of the mission is empowering non-profits by helping them receive grants and learn better business practices.
Since CFGH’s inception, there has been a tremendous growth of assets and impact on the community. Most community leaders now recognize CFGH as a force for positive change.
President and CEO Stuart Obermann has worked at the helm of CFGH for the past six years. A former engineer of 25 years, Obermann gained entrepreneurial experience through starting and growing many of his own businesses and, later, as a volunteer leader of several non-profit organizations.
“I was thrilled to accept this leadership position at CFGH so I could give back to the community and help build an exciting new organization,” Obermann said.
Re-Investment in the Community
Despite the impact CFGH makes throughout the community, it’s not without its challenges. It can be difficult to know which needs to prioritize, and, of course, there’s always the challenge of limited funding.
“With all the different needs out there, it’s hard to really decide where best to use the available dollars,” Obermann said. “But it is so rewarding to help donors give back to the community and help non-profits through grants.”
When helping donors decide where to give, CFGH staff assists them in setting their goals and visions.
“Each person or company has a different area they want to impact, so we try to match them with a fund, initiative or organization that will achieve that goal,” Obermann said. “In addition, we work closely with a group of local financial services, professionals and advisors to help their clients formulate a personalized plan for giving. These advisors are volunteers for CFGH, professionals from the community with backgrounds in finance who give of their time to make a difference themselves.”
The overall community of Greater Huntsville has changed for the better because of the Community Foundation, with over $15 million in grants given, 80 percent of which were invested locally in North Alabama.
“In 2018 alone, we have been able to provide over 825 grants, and since our founding, we have impacted over 1,000 non-profit organizations,” Obermann said.
Non-Profit Education and Networking
One particular way CFGH has aided non-profits in the area is through their popular, professional development conference, Non-Profit University (NPU). An annual event since 2014, this intensive learning experience helps non-profits acquire many invaluable lessons from experts: how to operate more effectively, improve board governance, prepare for audits, coordinate events, manage volunteers and more.
But it’s not just about learning. Attendees are able to network with peers and professionals from the North Alabama area, too. As the largest non-profit development conference in the region, with over 450 people in attendance, this networking time can help non-profits forge mutually beneficial relationships. This has improved collaboration between non-profit organizations in the area as more realize we’re all in this together.
This year’s NPU will take place Tuesday, June 18, at the VBC North Hall. You can register here.
Growing the Community
Part of what drives CFGH’s decision-making in creating or funding programs is the annual Vital Signs report that quantifies multiple quality of life indicators in Huntsville. One such program implemented is SAIL, a program that combats summer learning loss in low-income children. SAIL originated as a program in Birmingham, and after Huntsville leaders saw the success of the program, they decided to replicate it here.
“It is a narrow and deep investment,” Obermann said. “We work with the YMCA, Boys and Girls Club, and all three local public-school districts, in conjunction with about 15 other funders, to create an environment where kids can learn and retain more of their knowledge from the school year.”
Currently, SAIL is in its third year with six sites serving over 600 kids.
Another event the foundation hosts every year is the Summit on Philanthropy, where donors and leaders in the community come together to learn more about new strategies for giving back. One person receives an award for their philanthropic works, and a keynote speaker comes to inspire attenders. This year’s Summit on September 10 will be a special evening gala celebrating the 10th anniversary of CFGH.
If you’re into the great outdoors, CFGH is also partnering with regional government agencies and other community leadership organizations to help create the Singing River Trail. The Singing River Trail will include 70 miles of trails to bike, run, or walk, interconnecting Huntsville, Madison, Decatur and Athens. Unlike anything else in the region, you and your loved ones will be able to enjoy the great expanses of nature.