A child is the product of his or her community.
This was what United Way of Greater Atlanta saw at the end of its last strategic planning meeting. They saw that children growing up in Greater Atlanta’s 13 counties were given a disadvantage based on the zip code where they were born.
In order to help these communities, though, you need funding. You need people who understand the significance of a gift, and no group of donors gives more to the United Way than members of Tocqueville Society.
United Way uses 14 different data-driven child, community and family measures to determine an overall “Child Well-Being” score for each zip code in our 13-county region — United Way now has a shared agenda, and a way to leverage your donations in order to maximize the impact and reverse the implications of the Child Well-Being score. By using the child as the lens, United Way can then identify the big picture needs of the community.
Tocqueville Society members understand the impact a significant gift can make. Tocqueville Society is named after French politician Alexis de Tocqueville, who recognized the importance of voluntary action. Our local society was created in 1985. Members of Tocqueville Society are philanthropic leaders in the Atlanta area who contribute $10,000 or more annually to United Way of Greater Atlanta.
There is also a step-up match program that gets members in on the ground floor with donations of $5,000 in the first year, and a promise to increase that total to $6,500, $8,000 and then up to $10,000 in subsequent years. At least half of that first donation is allocated toward the Child Well-Being Impact Fund.
According to United Way Worldwide’s annual report, Tocqueville Society has generated more than $10 billion to date. There are 25,000-plus members in 400-plus societies around the world.
“We generate $14 million annually,” said United Way Senior Major Gifts Officer Yael Sherman. “We have 1,038 members.”
The affinity group increases in size and amount given each year. Sherman, Major Gifts Officer Sarah Massey and Tocqueville Society Director Karin Von Kaenel, recruit new members from existing corporate partners or through the “organic nature of the campaign.”
Tocqueville members are invited to First Tuesday luncheons where they can hear from prominent members of the community. There’s also an annual Tocqueville Awards Reception and other exclusive events such as a New Members Social and Mentoring Mixer with members of Young Professional Leaders.
“I feel like we have enough events to keep people engaged,” Massey said. “The people we are dealing with are very busy, so we have to stay busy to keep them engaged.”
Networking with like-minded people who are leaders in Atlanta is one of the major selling points for new Tocqueville members, Von Kaenel said.
“In addition to some of the benefits, it’s a wonderful peer network,” Von Kaenel says. “People at this level —if you give at this level— you really find value in knowing your investment is being allocated in the best way possible.”
Part of this comes from being able to explain to explain the impact a donation can make toward improving the well-being of children in Atlanta. Sherman spends a lot of time talking to members about the importance of the Child Well-Being Impact Fund.
“We talk to [Tocqueville Society members] about the importance of child well-being, and that in order to reverse this you need to look at ending generational poverty,” Sherman said. “If you want these children to be able to reach their full potential, then you have to improve the child well-being. If want an educated workforce, then we need to train these children to be tomorrow’s career-minded individuals.”
Sherman said we can’t continue to thrive and be a “Number 1 city” if we can’t improve the well-being of our children for the future.
“All of these [Child Well-Being] indicators predict outcomes,” Sherman said. “When we talk to people, it depends on where they are coming from and where their interests are. We show them where the Child Well-Being Agenda fits into that.”
The Child Well-Being heat map has been an excellent tool in ensuring them that their money would be used for the best impact, Massey said.
“We’ve really shifted to the whole data-driven approach,” Massey said. “That’s what has enabled us to develop the heat map, which has been an incredible tool for us. Every donor lives in one of our 13 counties. They are on that map and their children are measured on that map, and that’s why they should care.”
Tocqueville Society members know that this is bigger than just giving an individual gift. They have the chance to be a part of real change in their community.
“I want people to join Tocqueville Society because they know they can make a difference and be a part of something bigger and be a part of the biggest Tocqueville Society in the country,” Massey said. “It sends a clear message to your community that you care. This is a society of business-minded people who want to be smart about their philanthropic decisions, and they want their dollars to go as far as they can.”
For more info about Tocqueville Society, click here.