Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta has named Literacy Action and Trees Atlanta recipients of its 33rd annual Managing for Excellence Award. Recognizing nonprofit organizations below and above $2 million in annual operations that demonstrate the attributes of an exceptionally well-run organization, noted qualities of Managing for Excellence Award winners include outstanding management and governance practices as well as innovative thinking that achieves results in the communities they serve.
These sterling standard setters will each receive a $75,000 award from the Community Foundation, a diverse array of recognition opportunities throughout the year and customized consulting services from The Boston Consulting Group, sponsor of the award.
“Both Literacy Action and Trees Atlanta have a proven track record of success over many decades in our region, each continuing to build on their impact year after year,” said Alicia Philipp, president of the Community Foundation. “Both have also continued to innovate and adapt to changing times, while staying true to their core missions, which is one of the key criteria for a Managing for Excellence winner.”
Philipp added, “the application and vetting process for Managing for Excellence is extremely rigorous and competitive and we’ve found that those who choose to apply are really doing the best work in our region and want to highlight their achievements. Every year I’m beyond impressed by those who are recognized after this marathon of data gathering, interviews and good, old fashioned, hard work is put into the effort.”
Literacy Action was awarded in the under $2 million in annual operating budget category. The U.S. Census states that approximately 22 percent of the Atlanta region is considered low literate, and Literacy Action’s mission is to support educational equity in society. In their current fiscal year, 71 percent of Literacy Action’s students have moved up at least one grade level and their student body represents over 37 different nationalities.
“We are honored to be recognized with the Community Foundation’s Managing for Excellence Award,” said Kate Boyer, interim executive director for Literacy Action. “We see this as a seal of approval for the hard work we put into improving literacy in our region.”
The Managing for Excellence review committee noted that Literacy Action has incorporated more digital literacy programming to respond to our ever-connected, modern technology. Today, Literacy Action is the largest community-based literacy agency in Georgia where professional adult-education teachers provide a full continuum of courses needed by low-income, undereducated adults. The review committee was particularly impressed with how the organization segmented their strategic plan activities and applauded the organization’s focus on internal work culture and recent improvements to program and operational metrics.
Literacy Action is facing two significant changes in 2017. Prompted by the sale of their current office space, the organization is relocating its office to Peachtree Center in downtown Atlanta this summer. While this move was unexpected, the review committee noted the organization’s demonstrated ability to readjust, revise plans and successfully negotiate terms (or contracts). In late April, Literacy Action announced the transition of their current Executive Director, Austin Dickson, to an opportunity out of state. Their board appointed Boyer as interim executive director while a search is conducted for a new Executive Director.
“Literacy Action has a track record of attracting strong executive directors to the organization,” said Rodrigo Garcia-Escudero, partner and managing director at BCG in Atlanta. “We think this is an opportune time for them to receive the Managing for Excellence Award with its supplemental consulting services, and we look forward to working with them through this leadership transition.”
Trees Atlanta received the award in the over $2 million in annual operating budget category for Managing for Excellence criteria. Atlanta is often referred to as a city in a forest because of its extensive tree canopy. Trees Atlanta has planted more than 119,000 trees since 1985, helping to improve air quality and reduce carbon emissions.
The Managing for Excellence review committee particularly noted that Trees Atlanta has an innovative co-executive director model through which each leader focuses on an individual strength, Greg Levine on programming and Connie Veates on operations and fundraising. As a result, staff feels they are able to address challenges faster due to greater access to executive leadership and decision making for the entire organization.
The review committee also appreciated that while many conservation organizations target more prosperous communities, Trees Atlanta works to diversify their impact and engage wider audiences. Trees Atlanta’s planting programs focus on all neighborhoods and require neighborhood buy-in to ensure shared goals are met. They also offer a robust youth-oriented program that instills the value of conservation into students at a young age while also providing volunteer opportunities and professional development.
“Trees Atlanta has a highly engaged board as well as a robust volunteer base,” Garcia-Escudero added. “These outside perspectives and skill sets are essential to maintaining a well-run nonprofit and provide us with a great foundation to build on as we work with them in the coming months.”
Managing for Excellence applicants were ranked against competitive criteria of more than 80 characteristics to win the award. Following a two-phase formal written application and in-person site visit process, the review committee selected this year’s winners.