Since 1986 the Georgia Power Foundation has given more than $85 million to nonprofit organizations across the state. With assets valued at approximately $118 million, the foundation ranks as the third-largest corporate foundation in Georgia. It contributes to about 350 endeavors each year that enrich the communities Georgia Power serves (the company has customers in all but 6 of the state’s 159 counties). In 2004 the foundation awarded $5 million in grants in the areas of health, education, the environment, and the promotion of culture and diversity.
The Georgia Power Company discontinued its charitable giving program in the 1970s because of severe financial pressures that nearly forced the company into bankruptcy. To ensure that in the future the company could honor its commitment to be “a citizen wherever we serve,” Warren Jobe, then Georgia Power’s chief financial officer, and his colleague Judy Anderson created the Georgia Power Foundation, an independent legal entity. Jobe and Anderson designed the foundation to bring greater clarity and strategic focus to the company’s philanthropic activities. The foundation’s funding is not reliant on Georgia Power’s financial success, although Georgia Power has contributed more than $82 million to the foundation since its creation. The company’s efforts resulted in its receipt of a Governor’s Award in the Humanities in 1986.
Anderson, now the foundation’s president and chief executive officer as well as the senior vice president of charitable giving at Georgia Power, explains the philosophy behind the philanthropic organization: “We wanted to have the ability to support our communities even if we were experiencing poor revenues and earnings. When you have an economic downturn, that’s when communities need support the most. We were trying to think about not just helping the communities we serve today, but how we could support them in the long term.”
A board of directors, which includes members of Georgia Power’s executive management, governs the foundation. The board gives strong preference in awarding grants to Georgia-based organizations and programs that seek to improve the quality of life for the state’s residents. The foundation also prefers to support specific programs and capital campaigns, and does not award grants to individuals, private elementary or secondary schools, or religious organizations; nor does it fund political campaigns or causes. To maintain flexibility in giving, it does not provide multiyear funding commitments.
The Georgia Power Foundation focuses its giving on issues that directly affect Georgia Power’s 2.1 million customers, its approximately 8,800 employees, its business, and its shareholders. The foundation has identified four areas of focus: promoting health and cancer prevention; improving the quality of education; protecting the environment; and supporting cultural, civic, and diversity efforts.
About 46 percent of the foundation’s annual contributions support the area of health and human services. A special area of concern is cancer prevention. Georgia Power and its employees and retirees contribute thousands of dollars annually to the Georgia Cancer Coalition and the American Cancer Society, including money from the employee-founded Run for the REASON, a fund-raising relay race across the state. Among the grant recipients are the United Way and the American Red Cross.
About 28 percent of the foundation’s annual contributions are made in the area of education. Georgia Power’s commitment to education focuses on initiatives that help the company recruit a quality workforce of engineers, linemen, and other highly skilled employees. In addition, the foundation matches qualifying contributions up to $5,000 from Georgia Power employees and retirees to accredited institutions of higher learning. Between 1990 and 2000 more than seventy colleges, universities, and technical schools benefited from these matching contributions. Among the grant recipients are Communities in Schools, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, and the United Negro College Fund.
Environmental grants represent approximately 13 percent of the foundation’s annual contributions. Preserving and protecting the environment is important to Georgia Power and its employees. A “fishing for trash” tournament, or river cleanup, conducted by Plant Hammond employees on the Coosa River in northwest Georgia is one of many programs the company supports to improve air and water quality, preserve natural resources, and protect endangered species. Grant recipients include the Nature Conservancy, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Southface Energy Institute.
About 13 percent of the foundation’s annual contributions are made to organizations that promote diversity and that support civic and cultural events. Georgia Power’s support of the Woodruff Arts Center, in particular, reflects the important role that civic and cultural events play in developing a community’s full potential. Gifts to the National Black Arts Festival, the YWCA of Greater Atlanta, 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Inc., and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People are examples of the company’s commitment to causes that support diversity.
Those seeking grant support may submit letters of inquiry throughout the year. Grant requests up to $10,000 are evaluated on an ongoing basis. Georgia Power works with leadership teams in its regions and power plants across the state to evaluate grant proposals within their local areas. Tax-exempt organizations may request contributions once per twelve-month period and reapply on an annual basis.
The foundation board must review and approve grant requests greater than $10,000. The board meets quarterly in March, June, September, and December. Proposals for board consideration should be submitted by February 15, May 15, August 15, and November 15 for the respective quarterly board meetings. All grant applicants are notified by the end of the month following each board meeting.