Giving Time and Treasure to Community
Banking expert gives time and treasure back through Community Foundation
Some people see their community as simply a place to live and work. Phil Bettendorf sees it as somewhere to invest in.
“I’ve been in Athens since I came here for school and never left. I’ve also been in banking for almost 30 years. I like to call myself a community activist because I think getting involved in the community is really important and is really part of who I am,” Phil said.
This community-driven purpose is a big part of what drove Phil to get involved with the Athens Area Community Foundation nearly 15 years ago.
Partners for a Prosperous Athens was a group of Athenians passionate about addressing poverty-related issues in the community. After focusing on 11 prominent causes, OneAthens formed a brand-new organization: the OneAthens Community Foundation, later renamed the Athens Area Community Foundation.
“I had the privilege of watching [AACF] as it morphed into what it's become today. My company and I realized how much of a need there was and how much of an impact it could have, so we wanted to raise our hand early on to say ‘we want to be on the ground floor’” Phil said, “Under Sarah’s leadership [AACF’s CEO], and Delene’s before hers’, it’s certainly exceeded any expectations that we had!”
“AACF helps connect donors and individuals with the organizations that do such good things in our community. They also provide education and training to help the boards of nonprofits improve, and they’re a great collaborator with the University [of Georgia].
“If you've got something you're passionate about, they can help you direct that pathway [of giving]. You can really make an impact in the community in ways that you want to see.”
Not long after hearing about AACF, while it was still in its infancy, Phil got involved – and just like his life in Athens, he’s never left.
“AACF makes such a difference, and I believe so much in it that even though my board member term limit expired, I stayed involved,” he said. “You can be on the board for nine years, so I went along with it as long as I could and have been on the finance committee ever since.
“On the finance committee, we help with strategic planning from the financial standpoint, the budget, reviewing the audit, determining needed resources to present to the board, and tracking the financial health and wellbeing of AACF.”
Phil also believes in AACF and local causes enough to give not just his time but his dollars, too.
“The bank that I work with has a fund [at AACF], and I give toward the operations of it. I'm also always going to give to my church. I'm passionate about music and art, and if there's a humanitarian need, I'm glad to help as those come up, too.”
Even in some of the most ,challenging situations, AACF has provided the connections and assistance the community needs. And Phil attributes that to great leadership.
“During COVID, they partnered with the hospitals, the United Way, the school system and gave people a mechanism to give money to our local community. They brought people together and said, ‘What do we need to do?’” he said. “I can't say enough about Sarah and Stephanie and their team. You’ve got to have leadership, you’ve got to have vision, you’ve got to motivate people. Sarah has done a fantastic job doing that.
“And I can't tell you how much money has flowed out to the community through AACF. It’s just been amazing. Even organizations like the Woodruff Foundation will also help us because of the track record and finances. When you have success, it attracts more success.”
Phil encourages anyone with a heart for giving back to look into AACF.
“If you care about your community, AACF is an excellent vehicle to partner with,” he said. “They make sure organizations are an official 501c3, they're healthy, they're in good shape, and they're legit and doing what they say they do. They help you have peace of mind – knowing that you're giving to something that is legitimate and is really helping the community.
“You can put money in your account and leave it and wait to donate when you’re ready. It's kind of like a bank for your philanthropic donations. It’s safe, it's good, and it's there for you when you need it.
“And you can have a conversation with them. They can tell you what current needs are, and they'll guide you and help you do research.
“Everybody's got a story, and part of AACF is they let you tell your story and then help you donate and give back to those things you’re passionate about. It's just a great organization!”