Be A Hurricane Harvey Helper

By David Aft

Hurricane Harvey has caused historic flooding. Thousands have been displaced. You can be a "helper." Photo credit: Houston Chronicle

Hurricane Harvey has caused historic flooding. Thousands have been displaced. You can be a "helper." Photo credit: Houston Chronicle

Our thoughts and prayers turn to our Gulf Coast neighbors in need after Hurricane Harvey made landfall near Corpus Christi and precipitated historic flooding in Houston and surrounding communities. As the late Fred Rogers urged us years ago, we should spend less time dwelling on the catastrophe and focus instead on the “helpers” among us—those who choose to brave the rising waters to save families trapped in homes, those who provide shelter to the displaced, and those who purchase and distribute food, water, and clothing to the victims of this tragedy. In fact, you may want to be one of the helpers. This is not a complete list, but we've thrown together a few ways you can help those affected by the storm and included useful hyperlinks.

Monetary donations are more flexible and cause less of a strain on the charity in times of crisis. As a spokesman on television said last night, unlike material donations, cash involves no transportation costs, shipping delays, or customs fees. It also enables relief organizations to spend more time providing aid by spending less time managing goods.

The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help provide immediate relief. They have set up a way to donate to victims with a simple text. Text the word HARVEY to 90999 to make a $10 donation. You can also visit

The United Way has also announced a way to text a donation: Text UWFLOOD to 41444 to donate to the United Way Flood Relief Fund

Donations to support The Salvation Army's Hurricane Harvey relief efforts can be made at or by calling 1-800-SAL-ARMY.

The Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund set up by Houston's mayor, Sylvester Turner, and administered by the Greater Houston Community Foundation is another great way to provide aid.

The Houston Food Bank and the Food Bank of Corpus Christi are asking for donations.

Carter BloodCare covers hospitals in north, central and east Texas. To donate, call 877-571-1000 or text DONATE4LIFE to 444-999.

To help animals suffering from the disaster, visit the  Houston Humane Society or the San Antonio Humane Society.

The Texas Diaper Bank in San Antonio is asking for diapers and wipes, which can be mailed to 5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, Texas 78238.

AABB, which coordinates a task force to manage blood collection efforts during disasters, put out a call on Sunday for blood donations in the aftermath of Harvey.

Those interested in donating blood may contact the following organizations:
American Red Cross: 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767), Blood Assurance: 785 Shugart Rd, Dalton, GA 30720, 706-226-7735, Armed Services Blood Program: 703-681-5979, or AABB: 301-907-6977.

GoFundMe has created a page with all of its Harvey-related campaigns.

Airbnb is waiving service fees for those affected by the disaster and checking in between Aug. 23 and Sept. 1, and can guide users in creating a listing where their home is offered to victims free.

YouCaring has a fund-raising page set up by J. J. Watt of the Houston Texans with a goal of $1 million.

GlobalGiving's Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund supports local organizations by helping with "immediate needs for food, fuel, clean water, hygiene products and shelter.

You, too, can be a “helper.” As always, if you have a specific question about relief efforts or how you can make a difference, give me a call at the office at (706) 275-9117.

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.

A Warning to Donors

by David Aft

In my previous blog posts, I covered timing your charitable donations (when) and how to make the biggest impact with your gifts. Today’s blog post is essentially a warning to all donors.

We are bombarded with endless requests for charitable donations. We’re asked on the street, at home, at the neighbor’s cocktail party, by telephone, in the mail, via social media sites, and through personal email correspondence. The appeals are designed to tug at our hearts and make us believe our donations have the power to make or break an organization. In most instances, our donations will be used for good causes, but sadly, scammers and criminals occasionally ask for money under the guise of charity and doing good. They are savvy and smooth in their efforts to steal our money, and even the brightest among us can be misled and victimized.

Here are a few things all of us can do to prevent being victimized and ensure our generous donations are being used to make the world a better place.

Always check out unfamiliar organizations. If the organization is local, ask friends and family members about it. But if the organization isn’t local, go to the web and start searching. If you haven’t heard of a particular charity before, you may want to visit GuideStar (, which contains records from almost 2 million nonprofits registered with the IRS. The free component of GuideStar allows you to access an organization’s Form 990 and review the income, expenses, mission, and executive salaries. You may also want to visit the BBB Wise Giving Alliance (, a group affiliated with the Council of Better Business Bureaus that evaluates hundreds of national charities and thousands of smaller, regional groups. And CharityWatch ( rates most of the national organizations with a grading system from A to F. CharityWatch dives deep to determine how efficiently a charity will use a donation to fund its programs.

Watch out for copycats. Some questionable organizations use names that closely resemble those of well-established charitable organizations. For example, Make-a-Wish Foundation has raised millions of dollars to give sick and dying children a day where they don’t have to think about being sick, but Make-A-Wish Foundation’s success at raising money and doing good has gotten the attention of copycats and con men. They ask for money for nonexistent charities with similar names like Making Wishes Come True, Kid Wish USA, and Granting Kids Wishes.

Beware of false claims. If someone calls and thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making, slow down and ask questions to determine if you actually made the pledge. And watch out for fraudulent invoices for pledges or donations.

Don’t give a donation over the phone unless you initiate the call. Organizations often call as we sit down with our family to eat dinner. We cringe but listen to the pitch. It is important to know that telephone solicitations are a favorite among scammers and criminals today, so you have to be very careful. Don’t ever give your bank account information or credit card information to a caller, because you really don’t know who you are talking to unless you initiate the call. If they become pushy, hang up.

Be careful when making a donation through a website portal. If you decide to make a pledge online, that’s fine, but if you decide to make an actual gift online, make sure that you see “https” at the beginning of the web address (URL). “Https” denotes that it is a secure link and your information will not be compromised. Also, take a few seconds and examine the entire web address to make sure the link is a legitimate donation processing site. For example, it probably wouldn’t be wise to type in your credit card information into a field at a site called, https://alx.234.girls.india.

Don’t click the link in email solicitations. We’ve all gotten email messages that look legitimate and ask us to click on a link. My advice—don’t click the link. If you want to give a gift to a particular organization, start from scratch. Look up the organization online, and make your donation either by sending a check through the mail, dropping off a check in person, or giving online via a safe link.

There are other precautions, but these are good starting tips. Again, be generous, but be thoughtful and smart with your generosity. And if you ever find yourself unsure about an organization and want a second opinion, give me a call and I’ll tell you what I think.

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.

HOW to Give

by David Aft

In my last blog, I covered timing your charitable gifts to make the greatest impact for the beneficiary organizations you’ve chosen to help. Today, my focus is on how to give—the best way to optimize your charitable contributions and get the most bang for your bucks. Here are a few notes to consider.

– Give larger donations to fewer organizations. It’s great to give $100 to ten organizations, but it may be smarter from a “charitable value” perspective to give $500 to two worthy organizations or one significant $1,000 contribution. Larger, well-thought-out donations will probably do more good than several smaller gifts. This makes for harder decisions on your part, but it is a reality.

– Consider making periodic payments (monthly, bimonthly, or quarterly). Based on my experience managing and assisting nonprofit organizations, I know that a steady flow of donations during the year helps the monthly cash flow and adds to the long-term sustainability and success of organizations. And face it—it’s easier on your pocketbook to make twelve monthly $100 donations to a charity than it is to write one big $1,200 check at the end of the year. In today’s world of easy online banking, it only takes a minute to setup a regular payment schedule directed to your favorite charitable groups. Set up your automatic payments in January, and be done with it.

– Use your employer’s payroll deduction program. Payroll deduction is another easy way to give. Money is automatically deducted from your check by your employer, pooled together, and sent to the organization(s) you’ve selected. Again, recurring payroll deductions allow you to spread out your charitable gifts over the course of a year, which makes your donation more manageable and helps keep a steady stream of cash going to the nonprofit of your choice. And did you know that hundreds of companies across the country match their employees’ contributions to qualified charities? Some match donations dollar for dollar, so a $500 gift becomes a $1,000 gift. Ask your human resources representative if your company offers charitable gift matching, and if so, find out what rules apply.

I consider my willingness and ability to “give back” an honor, a privilege, and a blessing, but it doesn’t stop with the generosity in my heart. Just like others, I seek value in my charitable giving decisions. I encourage all prospective donors to consider not just who they give to, but when they give and how they give. In my next blog post, I’ll address how to avoid scams in your charitable endeavors. Stay tuned.

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.

WHEN to Give

by David Aft

Every holiday season, I find myself in more than one conversation about charitable giving. Knowing I have dedicated my life to fostering both civic enterprise and promoting charitable giving, friends, family members, and business associates often corner me at holiday gatherings and ask candid questions about the legitimacy, effectiveness, and efficiency of dozens of local and global organizations on their radars.

A few weeks ago, when someone asked my advice about where he could donate some money to achieve the greatest impact, I shared a short list of groups I have worked with over the years—each with impressive records in impact and accountability. And then I paused and went a step further.

I told him that he could increase the relative value of his gift by waiting a month or two to make it. Let me explain.

For most people, the decision of which organizations to give to often trumps when to give and even, how to give. My argument is that all three of these decision factors are equal in importance.

Today, I will focus on the when part of the equation.

Most donors are “value driven”—they want the best return on their investment—and relatively speaking, their contribution could possibly hold more “charitable value” to an organization in the leaner months following the holiday season, when less dollars are circulating through the organization.

Many people are filled with the giving spirit in December, and they make a few year-end donations to help others, and perhaps, because they are looking for a few more tax deductions—not that there is anything wrong with that. As a result, many organizations are “financially fatter” at the close of the year than they are in the following springtime. So again, the aptly described “season of giving” may not always be the time when charities and the important causes they champion need our help the most.

It brings me great pleasure to be able to give back, but like other folks, I want to give back with great value and confidence. I encourage all prospective donors to consider not just who they give to, but when they give, because the timing of our charitable contributions matters.

In my next blog post, I’ll share a few thoughts about the different ways donors approach their giving, with an eye for making large charitable gifts manageable. Stay tuned.

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development

Effective Board Members

by David Aft

The most successful nonprofit organizations have two key ingredients—competent staff members committed to the organization’s mission and a board of directors made up of driven, energized volunteers. If you are an active community member, chances are, you have been asked to serve on one or more charitable boards. A board commitment can be a lot of work, and so it’s not a decision you should take lightly.

Even boards of directors that lead great nonprofits have their inherent imperfections, quirks, and inadequacies. In my twenty-five year career helping struggling nonprofit organizations become more effective, I’ve often witnessed boards composed of weak—even invisible and absent—members. I’m not knocking community volunteers. However, I believe in most cases, those inactive board members may not have fully understood what they were agreeing to when they were approached about serving on the board.

It is important that people fully understand typical board duties before making the decision to serve. Let me explain:

Successful Board Members Know the Organization—You need to know and understand the organization’s mission and activities. Indeed, you need to be ready to deliver an elevator pitch (a simple two-minute explanation of the organization and its vision) to a friend who inquires. You need to know the organization’s phone number and website. You need to become familiar with key staff members and their duties in case you have a question. And it’s a good idea to read the original bylaws and most recent audit materials.

Great Board Members Take Their Fiduciary Responsibilities Seriously—When you agree to serve on a nonprofit board you are agreeing to follow several basic fiduciary duties (duties involving trust). You are expected to attend board meetings, listen, and make decisions based on the best interest of the organization—ignoring any personal interests you may have in the matters of discussion. In fact, you may be asked to sign a “Conflict of Interest” agreement. You need to make sure that your position on the board is not such that you will directly or indirectly receive an inappropriate financial gain for you, your family members, or your friends. Signing “Conflict of Interest” agreement does not mean you are banned from doing business with the nonprofit itself. It just means that relationships are disclosed and documented in advance and that you will recuse yourself from votes involving work or service you provide, or that may indirectly benefit you.

Active Members Bring Their Talents To Boards—Board members often assist in fundraising activities. They make phone calls to help “get the ball rolling” on projects sometimes. If you have a special skill set, you may be asked to use those tools to move the organization forward. For example, if you are the Chief Financial Officer for a company, you may be asked to oversee financials of the organization. If you work in the marketing field, you may be asked to help make decisions affecting the organization’s marketing, publicity, and communications. You may also be asked to work on a committee. That’s common, and it may require even more attention and time. If you are on a committee, you may be asked to deliver a brief status report noting the committee’s findings or recommendations at the regular board meetings.

Effective Board Members Show Up, Speak Up, and Vote—You need to read board materials sent to you in advance, and think about issues pertaining to the organization’s mission and decide how you feel about issues on the table. For example, in most cases, you will be sent the “minutes” from the previous board meeting. You are expected to review the minutes in advance and make a note of any necessary corrections. You are an overseer, so be prepared to attend meetings and speak up if you see or hear something in a board meeting that seems like a bad idea, looks suspicious, seems risky, or doesn’t seem to match the organizational mission. That’s your job. And your votes are important, so show up, speak up, and vote.

Being on the board of directors of one of your favorite nonprofits can be an immensely rewarding experience, so I encourage you to get involved. But again, know what you are getting into when you agree to serve. Love what you do, work as a team, and stay passionate, always.

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.


by David Aft

Okay—first, a few disclosures. I have been around philanthropy and charitable enterprise most of my life. I am the son of a career community services professional and have made my living working in the nonprofit sector for almost thirty years. During this time I have had the pleasure of watching civic and humanitarian pursuits of all shapes and sizes blossom. These causes have been led and supported by countless volunteers, who pour hours of time and energies into various missions and pursuits.

It is rare that I witness a new, worthy model of volunteering emerge, and even rarer that a new approach finds footing and success. Yet, that is precisely what has happened with micro-volunteering, a term I first heard in 2009 as I drove home listening to an NPR broadcast about The Extraordinaries (now known as Sparked).

Micro-volunteerism opportunities are convenient, bite-sized, low-commitment services that benefit a worthy cause. Most micro-volunteerism tasks can be accomplished via a smart phone or tablet. Simply put—it’s where charity meets brevity meets technology, and that’s why I believe the concept has taken root. Volunteering has always been synonymous with the investment of time, and not everyone who is inclined to volunteer has large chunks of time to offer. Micro-volunteerism makes the act of voluntary participation possible throughout the day—a few minutes here and a few minutes there—from wherever you are.

After browsing a micro-volunteerism database (, you may choose to use your smartphone or tablet to tag photos and videos for a museum in your spare time. Have an extra thirty minutes before you pick the kids up from soccer practice? Why not help a high school senior fill out his or her college application via Skype.

Another micro-volunteerism service named, Be My Eyes, allows blind or sight-impaired individuals to reach out through cyber space and be paired with a reader who can read food or medicine labels over a two-way video connection. To date, over 24,000 sight-impaired individuals have registered with the service and almost 325,000 people have volunteered to be part of the sight response team.

In our busy worlds, setting aside hours to volunteer is difficult, but taking five minutes to read a food label for a blind person or take a look at a young job seeker’s resume and provide feedback or even translate a document from another language, is quite do-able.

Now I know micro-volunteerism will never be an effective way to build a new ball field or clean up a polluted stream or river, but the idea that people can use technology to unite those with a need with volunteers willing to help who have a few minutes of spare time, is a novel idea whose time has come.

I believe every act of charity is an act of hope—hope for the hopeless, as well as hope to better ourselves through service to others. Through micro-volunteerism, no act of kindness or goodwill toward mankind, is too small.

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.

Recognizing Jonas Salk

by David Aft

As I was waiting for a colleague to join me for breakfast, I took a moment to flip through Facebook and catch up on the meanderings of friends, family and the world at large. Within my first few clicks I was greeted with a reminder that today is the birthday of Dr. Jonas Salk. Most will remember that Salk led the team of researchers who developed the polio vaccine.

To put things in perspective, until the discovery of this very simple and effective measure, tens of thousands of people a year succumbed to the debilitating ravages of Polio. The disease spared few who were infected, often leaving its victims with a lifetime of crippling illness. The human cost was immeasurable.

The work of Salk and his team changed the face of the world.

For this alone, our species owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to this pioneering researcher.

While Salk’s gift to humanity has few equals in the annals of history, it is not his discovery that I find most remarkable – it is how he chose to handle the commercial implications of his work.

In most cases, pharmaceutical companies and other researchers invest vast sums of money in the development of new drugs and treatments. They do this for humanitarian and commercial reasons. Many would argue, and I would agree, that those who invest their resources in developing today’s miracle cures should receive adequate compensation for their work, as it is often speculative and extremely expensive.

When confronted with these issues, Salk chose not to retain ownership of vaccine, rather choosing to make it available to all who could use it and licensing its production for free.

In this case, one of the twentieth century’s greatest discoveries could have been a hugely successful pharmaceutical product. Salk could have made millions, if not billions, of dollars. Instead, he chose to make nothing, preferring to give his very special discovery to the world for free.

This arrangement has played a significant role making sure this lifesaving vaccine would be available to everyone at a very low cost. He chose to take his profits in the form of direct benefit to humanity.

While difficult to estimate its financial value, the human value of this approach has been unbelievable in scale. The lives that have been saved and the number of Polio cases that have been prevented can be measured in the millions.

Polio has nearly been eliminated world-wide, with fewer than 50 cases being reported in 2015. A staggering statistic given that in the early twentieth century, public health officials estimated that there were about 50,000 new cases of Polio each year, just in the US.

Salk’s gift is possibly the greatest charitable gift of all time, and it keeps on giving.

Thank you, Dr. Salk!

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.

Charlie and Company

by David Aft

Several days ago, I opened a copy of the Dalton Daily Citizen and was greeted by a picture of Dalton residents Charlie Miller and Burt Wingfield. The headline of the accompanying article read “Churches Join Forces to Help Local Woman”. The story detailed the work of the Dalton First United Methodist’s men’s mission and their work with a recent roofing repair project.

The fact that the “United Methodist Men,” as they often refer to themselves, were making a difference wasn’t a surprise, as they are an active and wonderful group of parishioners who consistently help those in need. The notable aspect of this article was that it reminded me that Charlie Miller was still active with this organization after many years of involvement. Miller, who has been active in many local charities including the Community Foundation and the United Way was still engaged in the humanitarian efforts of the First Methodist church over twenty years after agreeing to get involved.

While Miller has been an active volunteer with many organizations and causes, his lengthy tenure with the United Methodist Men provides a great example of a good fit between volunteer and organization.

We all get involved in projects—some big, some small. Some are terms on boards of directors or serving as host parents for Rotary International exchange students visiting from abroad. While many of these activities are rewarding, they may not be a gateway to a twenty-year commitment. Sometimes, the fit isn’t right. This can happen for a number of reasons and I’ll have to devote a different blog post to that. Some volunteers walk away from these imperfect experiences with little interest in finding a new one.

You may need to try a few different projects or committee positions before you find one that fits. The key, as with most things, is to not walk away if your first experience is less than satisfying, but to keep trying new experiences. If you do your homework, work hard to understand your own needs and motivations and remain open to new opportunities, I am confident you will find that “perfect fit”.

I know Charlie has enjoyed his work with many local charities, but his long-term affiliation with the United Methodist Men will stand as testament to the fact that it may take a few tries, but like Charlie, you, too will eventually find a satisfying and rewarding experience that sings to your soul.

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.


3 Simple Rules for Grant Requests

by David Aft

Each year, the Community Foundation receives a variety of grant requests, each making the case for an organization or program that seeks to make our piece of Northwest Georgia a little better. The variety of requests is often astounding, as charitable and civic groups compete for grants in an environment where there are always more needs than resources. We receive financial requests that often exceed our granting capacity by five or six times (about $500,000 in requests for every $100,000 in grants). The decisions are difficult, as most requests address important issues and the majority of applicants are able and passionate about their work.

I am quickly approaching thirty years in the nonprofit business and a portion of my work during this time has involved making grants or working with organizations to refine their fundraising pitch and capital campaign strategies, and I have learned a little bit about what makes these efforts successful. There are a few very simple rules organizations can follow to increase their batting average and help build stronger funding and non-funding relationships with key donors and prospective advocates.

Rule #1—Keep It Simple

Develop a concise case for support that includes a simple statement of purpose and the manner in which your organization or program will make a difference. All too often, those seeking funds overwhelm potential donors with too much information. After a while, it’s difficult to separate the narrative and supporting material from the ask. Keep it simple, straightforward and focused. Tell us what you hope to accomplish and how we can help. Be specific.

Rule #2—Seek Balance

Make sure your request balances the emotional aspects of your appeal with the business elements of your plan. Research shows that people give to charities for a variety of reasons, but two of the most important are a belief in the project and its goals, coupled with a level of confidence that the organization requesting the funds has the ability to make good on their goals.

Rule #3—Follow Instructions and Answer Every Question

Make sure you provide the information requested. This is key whether you are approaching a foundation, wealthy benefactor, or your cousin Fred. Too many times, those requesting support overlook the fact that their request is probably not the only one being made and that they can improve their chances by delivering a complete application—or ask—prior to the deadline. Be direct, follow the rules, and don’t color too far outside the lines.

By following these three, simple rules, your proposal will most likely survive the first “cut” and stay in consideration for support.

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.

Blog for Good


Welcome to the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia’s Blog for Good. Along with our mission of promoting philanthropy, the blog will present short posts that talk about getting the most out of your charitable giving. It will spotlight organizations who are making a difference in communities and showcase individuals and families who are doing extraordinary work. It will offer a fresh perspective on civics and charitable projects and present good practices and ideas that our friends in the nonprofit organization world may find helpful. Finally, it will celebrate the goodness of humanity.

We love our work of helping philanthropists of Northwest Georgia and their families with their charitable endeavors. We love working with nonprofit organizations and civic groups and applaud their efforts in serving the communities of the region. We especially enjoy awarding grants to help prepare our children and youth for the future, preserve historic sites, promote arts and culture, help struggling families, and expand greenspaces. Our blog will give us a forum for sharing our many stories of goodwill, service, and community leadership.

Our Blog for Good will be informal – as if I am having a personal conversation with you.

I invite you to join the conversation – leave a comment underneath a post that you find particularly thought-provoking. If you’d like me to weigh in on a certain topic, shoot me an email and suggest the subject, and I’ll add it to the list of blog post topics.

I look forward to sharing with you.

David Aft, President

David Aft is the president of the Community Foundation of Northwest Georgia. He has worked in the nonprofit field for over twenty-five years and is a recognized resource and noted speaker on charitable enterprise, civics, fundraising strategy and community development.