Are we walking on the same path? Engaged learning from the community partner perspective.

March 27th, 2014

This afternoon David Mathews Center for Civic Life Executive Director Chris McCauley and I  did a pre-conference workshop at the Gulf-South Summit on Service Learning and Community Engagement at our Cornerstone Member Auburn University.

Our workshop, “Are We Walking on the Same Path?“, focused on engaged learning from the community partner perspective and equipped participants to design experiences which align community partner outcomes with student learning objectives.

I promised the group I would share some key resources with them, and what better way to do that then via this blog!


Mills, S. D. (December 07, 2012). The Four Furies: Primary Tensions between Service-Learners and Host AgenciesMichigan Journal of Community Service Learning, 19, 1, 33-43.

Stoecker, R., Tryon, E. A., & Hilgendorf, A. (2009). The Unheard Voices: Community Organizations and Service Learning. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Moulton, M., & Moulton, P. (April 2013). How Are We Doing? Making Service- Learning Assessment SimpleJournal of Service-Learning in Higher Education, 2, 37-46.


Community Partner Training Materials

Community Partner Resource Guide To Service Learning, California State University, Channel Islands

Community Partner Guide to Service- Learning, The University of Tennessee


Nonprofit Sector Resources

The Nonprofit Sector in Brief: Public Charities, Giving, and Volunteering (2013) Urban Institute

Transactions – Transformations – Translations: Metrics That Matter for Building, Scaling, and Funding Social Movements (2011) University of Southern California Program for Environmental and Regional Equity


Diversity Education Resources

Privilege Walk Exercise, University of Arizona

note: there are many examples of privilege walk exercises available via a Google search

Community Action Poverty Simulation, Missouri Association for Community Action

MACA may be able to connect you with an organization in your area that owns a poverty simulation kit

Test Your Knowledge of the Hidden Rules of Class, Ruby Payne

Modern Money Monopoly, University of Missouri Kansas City

BaFa’ BaFa’, Simulation Training Systems

Animating Democracy, Americans for the Arts



SAIL Partnership awards more than $675,000 in grants to prevent summer learning loss

January 22nd, 2014

Thanks to SAIL (Summer Adventures in Learning), a partnership of ten area funders, 32 grants totaling more than $675,000 have been awarded to programs that provide summer learning opportunities for children. The nonprofit organizations receiving grants this year include schools, learning centers, camps and churches. The grants are used to support programs that enhance or add rigorous academic components that help prevent learning loss, offer chances to explore new interests and skills and close the achievement gap for low-income children.

National studies have shown that students typically return to school one to three months behind where they were at the end of the previous school year. But, according to the results of assessment testing coordinated by PARCA, participants in the 2013 Summer Adventures in Learning programs advanced more than a month on average. Some programs helped students jump three to four months ahead.

“We were definitely pleased to see that these summer learning programs are closing the learning gap for low-income children,”said Jim Wooten, executive director of the Independent Presbyterian Church Foundation. “SAIL is a unique collaboration of funders, program hosts, educational services providers and other organizations with an interest in education. The funders write checks, but we do much more, and all the SAIL partners collaborate to strengthen one another and to give our children the opportunity for a better life.”

In 2012 six area funders collaborated in SAIL to award 16 grants totaling $455,000, this year four new funders have joined in the partnership. The SAIL partners for 2014 grant cycle are: Alabama Power Foundation, The Belk Foundation, The Caring Foundation of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Daniel Foundation of Alabama, Independent Presbyterian Church Foundation,  Joseph S. Bruno Charitable Foundation, The Junior League of Birmingham, Mike & Gillian Goodrich Foundation and United Way of Central Alabama.

Organizations receiving grants for 2014 summer programs are:

A.G. Gaston Boys & Girls Club

American Baseball Foundation, Inc (in partnership with the Jefferson County Board of Education)

Antioch Missionary Baptist Church

Better Basics

Birmingham Zoo, Inc.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Alabama

Breakthrough Birmingham

Cahaba River Society

Cornerstone Schools of Alabama

Summer Advantage USA (in partnership with the Bessemer Board of Education)

Summer Advantage USA (in partnership with the Birmingham Board of Education)

Fresh Start Family Solutions

Girls Incorporated of Central Alabama

Camp Shiloh (GSBC Community Development)

Higher Achievement Summer School

Household of Faith Church, Inc

Impact Alabama: A Student Service Initiative

IMPACT Family Counseling

Independent Presbyterian Church

Jones Valley Teaching Farm

New Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church Community Support Corporation

NorthStar Youth Ministries

Norwood Resource Center

Public Affairs Council of Alabama (PARCA)

YMCA of Greater Birmingham (three branches)

Sixth Avenue Baptist Church Summer Camp

Tarrant City Schools

The Learning Village

YWCA Central Alabama

Zion Spring Baptist Church

About SAIL: Summer Adventures in Learning developed as part of an action plan to respond to a survey of 37 Birmingham area summer programs, conducted by the National Summer Learning Association in 2011. Through this important partnership, funders committed to use a joint application process for nonprofit organizations wishing to receive grant support to enhance or add consistent academic components to summer youth programs.  Awarding grants through SAIL are Alabama Power Foundation, The Belk Foundation, The Caring Foundation of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alabama, Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham, Daniel Foundation of Alabama, Joseph S. Bruno Charitable Foundation, The Junior League of Birmingham, Mike & Gillian Goodrich Foundation, Independent Presbyterian Church Foundation and United Way of Central Alabama

The Summer Adventures in Learning (SAIL) Partnership focuses on summer programs where students can explore new interests and skills and gain the support they need to prevent summer learning loss. Data show that summer learning loss accounts for nearly two-thirds of the ninth grade achievement gap in reading. They also shows that the effects of participation in a summer learning program can benefit the child for at least two years afterwards. Local experience in Birmingham has shown average gains of at least two months in reading and math during a five to six week program, making a significant positive difference for these children.

For More Information Contact:

Jim Wooten, IPC Foundation


Blueprints Kickoff at Wenonah High

January 10th, 2014

Our Blueprints Program Coordinators Kevi Martin and Landon Taylor spent yesterday afternoon with two classes of sophomores at Wenonah High School here in Birmingham.

We expanded our partnership with Birmingham City Schools through the Birmingham Education Foundation’s College Prep Institute. Kevi and Landon began our Blueprints program by getting to know each individual student.


The students, who are part of the Hospitality and Tourism Academy at Wenonah, shared their hobbies and interests with the class. They recorded these along with their academic interests in a pre-program survey so we can better understand where each student is in the college-planning process and what makes each student unique.


Students also shared what they hoped to gain out of their college experiences along with their future career plans. They used their creativity to further this discussion as they created drawings and passages in their Blueprints portfolio, a step-by-step tool to navigate the college application process as they move through high school.


We will be back at Wenonah on February 6 for our next session.

Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty

January 8th, 2014

Today marks the 50th anniversary of President Johnson’s declaration of “an unconditional War on Poverty.”

“Many Americans live on the outskirts of hope–some because of their poverty, and some because of their color, and all too many because of both. Our task is to help replace their despair with opportunity,” said President Johnson in his January 8, 1964, State of the Union address.

While 1 in 5 Alabamians and more than 1 in 4 children currently live below the federal poverty line, it is an issue we can make progress on. Americans have done it before. Between 1959 and 1973, we cut our national poverty rate nearly in half through an economy that worked for everyone and a strong set of programs that supported families when they struggled, including Head Start, Medicare, and TRIO college access programs.

However, we must be vigilant in our quest to ensure that every Alabamian can reach their full potential. Poverty won’t just go away; it’s something we must constantly and consistently work to reduce.

According to new research from the Half in Ten campaign, 70 percent of Americans would support a new effort to cut poverty in half within the next decade through investments in jobs, wages, health care, and education.

As President Johnson said, “the richest Nation on earth can afford to win [the war on poverty]. We cannot afford to lose it.”

Watch the 1964 State of the Union address below.  For its full text, click here.

Other Resources

Alabama Possible 2013 Data Sheet 

The War on Poverty Then and Now: Applying Lessons Learned to the Challenges and Opportunities Facing a 21st-Century America

50 Years After LBJ’s War on Poverty: A Study of American Attitudes About Work, Economic Opportunity, and the Social Safety Net

 The Unfinished War Part I & The Unfinished War Part II by Nicholas Lemann

Legacies of the War on Poverty by Martha J. Bailey & Sheldon Danziger

Poverty Rate in Alabama Remains Unchanged, Seventh Highest in US

December 18th, 2013

F6_MP_2012New statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau find that the number of people living in poverty in the State of Alabama remained virtually unchanged last year, but according to a new analysis by Alabama Possible, the 2012 Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) tell a mixed story about poverty and median household income in the state.

The U.S. Census Bureau defines the official poverty threshold for a family of four containing two related children under the age of 18 as $23,283. The new SAIPE results, which were released on Thursday, December 12, find that Alabama is the seventh poorest state in the country with a statewide poverty rate of 19 percent; virtually unchanged from 19.1 percent in 2011.

However, Alabama Possible notes that when compared to the 2007 survey, poverty in the state remains well above pre-recession levels (16.6 percent). During the same 5-year time period, poverty increased in 56 of Alabama’s 67 counties. The increase was statistically significant in 19 counties, according to Census Bureau analysis. Five counties – Conecuh, Dallas, Marengo, Tallapoosa, and Winston – saw increases of more than 5 percent.

Alternatively, the median household income in Alabama grew during the same period. In 2012, Alabama’s median household income was $41,610, or $1,014 more than it was in 2007. At the county level, 42 counties saw increases in median household income from 2007 to 2012. The biggest increase was in Coffee County, which saw an $8,812 increase from $36,819 in 2007 to $45,631 in 2012. Of the 25 counties that experienced decreases in median household income, Talladega County had by far the largest, from $38,644 in 2007 to $34,785, or a decrease of $3,859.

“While it is disappointing that our poverty rate continues to be one of the highest in the nation, the increase in median household income may be a sign that more families are moving from meeting their basic needs to being economically secure,” said Kristina Scott, executive director of Alabama Possible. “Alabama has been working hard to increase career jobs and boost educational attainment. In particular, investments in education can take years, if not decades, to pay off in reduced poverty rates. However, they are crucial to ensure that our state can and will meet its tremendous potential.”

The Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) combine data from administrative records, postcensal population estimates, and the decennial census with direct estimates from the American Community Survey to provide consistent and reliable single-year poverty estimates.

A complete chart of poverty rates, child poverty rates, and median household income in Alabama can be found at

To view SAIPE maps prepared by the U.S. Census Bureau, please visit:


Shaping the Future through Advocacy

November 20th, 2013

Our November 15th workshop, How We Can Shape the Future: Advocacy 101 for Nonprofit Organizations, attracted over 70 attendees at Burr & Forman LLP in downtown Birmingham. We spent the day learning from Isaiah Castilla of the Alliance for Justice and each other’s experiences.

Advocacy Workshop 2

“AFJ is the go-to group for understanding how much lobbying the IRS allows nonprofits to do. Isaiah was an engaging, expert presenter,” said Alabama Arise Executive Director Kimble Forrister.

Advocacy Workshop 3

With 19 percent of Alabamians living below the federal poverty line, our neighbors’ needs are great. Alabama Possible was founded in 1993 as the Alabama Poverty Project because we cannot end poverty through direct service alone. However, by participating in the public arena, the nonprofit sector can change flawed or missing public policies so that our constituents can reach their full potential.

Advocacy Workshop 1

Thanks to our speaker, community partners, and participants for attending and providing ample questions and real examples of the advocacy that is happening around our state. Special thanks to the Alabama Civil Justice Foundation for its presenting sponsorship, Burr & Forman LLP for hosting us, and Alabama Appleseed and Alliance for Justice for co-sponsoring the event.

Here are some further resources:

Workshop Materials

Nonprofit Advocacy 101 Presentation

2013 Alabama Possible Data Sheet

Advocacy Resources

What is Advocacy?: Definitions and Examples

Worry Free Lobbying for Nonprofits: How To Use The 501(h) Election To Maximize Effectiveness

The Rules of the Game: A Guide to Election-Related Activities for 501(c)(3) Organizations

Being a Player: A Guide to the IRS Lobbying Regulations for Advocacy Charities