Shari Martin

Cobb Community Foundation Executive Director Shari Martin speaks with a student at a networking event for Y.E.L.L.S., Youth Empowerment through Learning, Leading and Serving

Nearly 1,500 nonprofits and churches are being asked to take part in an effort this summer to define the critical needs of Cobb County’s population of more than 750,000.

In partnership with United Way and Cobb Collaborative, the Cobb Community Foundation has engaged with the Georgia Center for Nonprofits to perform a community needs assessment to show what areas nonprofits serving the county are covering, where their efforts are concentrated and where there might be gaps in support.

Shari Martin, executive director of the foundation, said the effort is targeting an October release of the report, which is planned to be released publicly. Those results, she said, will hopefully be of use to those wanting to make a difference in the community, from organizations serving Cobb to donors and volunteers who may want to give their time or money to those groups.

“I think it’s going to be very helpful for them to see some real data behind needs and also behind organizations,” Shari Martin said. “I know for us, we’re hoping that this will help us with our investment strategy within the community — for example, with the next round of impact grants we’re currently raising money for — what is going to be the most impactful way to deploy those dollars? That’s the kind of benefit we see coming out of it.”

According to its website, the Cobb Community Foundation manages charitable funds for local individuals, families, for-profit and nonprofit organizations. Last year, the organization gave away over $1.3 million through individual or corporate charitable funds established with the foundation.

“A couple of years ago, we began to be very aware that most of the knowledge that we have of the needs in our community was anecdotal, and while there is a tremendous amount of data available, frankly it’s in multiple different places and it’s very difficult to process it,” Shari Martin said. “The question that we were really wanting to know the answer to is what are the critical needs in Cobb County, and where in Cobb County do those needs exist?”

Additionally, the Georgia Center for Nonprofits has created a survey that Shari Martin said is being distributed to nonprofits serving Cobb County in the human services arena — totaling nearly 1,000 organizations — along with about 475 churches. The survey will ask respondents how they are serving the county, for whom and where, and where they might see gaps in services offered.

Organizations that receive surveys are asked to submit their information to bolster the results of the study.

Helping to contribute to the funding of the analysis is Georgia Power, according to Al Martin, a region external affairs manager for the company and CCF board member.

“I’ve been working for Georgia Power in Cobb County for 10 years, and I can’t ever remember a comprehensive study being done on the needs,” Al Martin said. “I think the real magic of this study is going to be they’re going to give us an idea of what the major needs are in Cobb — I don’t know if that will be a surprise to anyone, but it will be a good confirmation of what the needs are. From a business perspective, knowing what nonprofits in Cobb are working on those issues is going to be very helpful to us as a company — the business community will know who is doing what and which issue they’re working on and we can best utilize the resources that we have to support the causes that are important to us.”

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