According to the results of the 2010 census, the official metropolitan area of Augusta/Aiken contained 575,000 people. We are 94th on the list of American metro areas when ranked by population. We have a much larger population than the metropolitan areas of Savannah, Columbus, Macon and all of the other cities in Georgia except, of course, for Atlanta.
In many ways, our size is ideal. We have the amenities of a large metro area without the terrible traffic, pollution and budgetary problems that Southern cities such as Atlanta, New Orleans, Birmingham, Ala., and Charlotte, N.C., face daily.
UNLIKE BIRMINGHAM, none of the cities in the CSRA are facing imminent bankruptcy. In addition, we are fortunate to have many
robust nonprofit organizations that provide myriad services for our citizenry.
Within our area there are more than 2,000 nonprofit organizations including churches, museums, foundations, civic clubs, veterans groups, hospitals, clinics, universities, colleges, schools, etc. They are organized in such a way that they normally do not have to pay federal, state or city taxes. Hence they can focus their attention their resources on serving the public good.
To cite a specific example of one type of nonprofit that thrives in the CSRA, there are more than 800 churches in our area. This includes more than 300 Baptist churches (Southern Baptist, Independent Baptist, Primitive Baptist, American Baptist, Free Will Baptist, Full Gospel Baptist, Missionary Baptist, etc.).
Some of these churches have staffs of more than 30 while most are much smaller and have staffs of five or fewer. They serve the spiritual needs of their congregations but also reach out to assist the less fortunate among us.
There are more than a dozen museums in the CSRA, including nine history museums. The Augusta Museum of History is the largest of the history museums and welcomes the most visitors.
ALMOST ALL OF these organizations and institutions contain a director, a staff and a board of directors. Most boards have committees of various sizes and compositions. More than 100,000 of the citizens in our area are working for these nonprofits, most on a volunteer basis. They receive no pay but they gain great satisfaction in their work.
Of course, nonprofits require sustained financial support. There are many sources of funds including corporations, foundations, individuals and government agencies.
The CSRA is especially blessed by the generosity of so many. Just think what has been accomplished recently. Many skeptics felt that there was no way that this community could raise $20 million for the Kroc Center with so many major capital campaigns already underway: the new Fisher House, a new soup kitchen and the Christ Community Health Center, to name a few. Happily, in all four cases, the needed funds were raised quickly and each of the initial funding goals was exceeded.
ONE OF THE clear lessons of the past six years (the “great recession” commenced in 2007) is that we cannot count on government to adequately meet the needs and desires of our citizenry. Nonprofits not only are necessary, but they can, in many cases, do a better job than government entities. Sadly, federal, state and local governments often face partisan and bureaucratic barriers that prevent them from providing efficient and timely services.
What can you do to help?
• If you are not actively involved in a nonprofit enterprise, sign up for one this coming week.
• If you are involved, volunteer to take a leadership role: as a board chairman, a committee chairman or a project leader.
• Read a wonderful new book: Give and Take, by Adam Grant. This book’s thesis, which is validated by solid research, is that the most successful and happiest people are not the “takers” or the “matchers” but the “givers,”
• Reach deep into your pocket and contribute financially to one or more worthy causes.
One capital campaign that is especially deserving of support at this time is the soon-to-be-built Ronald McDonald House. It will provide a home away from home for families of critically ill or injured children. Within a short walk of the Children’s Medical Center, the new Ronald McDonald House will be in an ideal location.
To help build the new house, mail a check made out to: Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta (attention: Capital Campaign), and send it to 938 Greene St., Augusta, GA 30901; or go to www.rmhcaugusta.org. Questions? Call Sean Frantom – (706) 724-5901, or contact him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – is the co-author, with Jeff Foley, of Rules and Tools for Leaders. This book’s fourth edition was published Aug. 6.)