Empowering Strength for Potential to Meet Opportunity, Kari Love, CEO of The Atlanta’s Women Foundation
Q: Can you share with our audience what “The Atlanta Women’s Foundation” is about along with your duties as CEO?
KL: The Atlanta Women’s Foundation (AWF) is the only public foundation in Georgia dedicated solely to women and girls, AWF’s mission is to be a catalyst for change in the lives of women and girls. We strive to ensure that all women and girls in metro Atlanta live safe, economically self-sufficient, successful lives.
The Atlanta Women's Foundation provides funding, resources, and evaluation support to nonprofits that provide programs to low-income women and girls to help them break the cycle of poverty. We also provide leadership development through our Women on Board nonprofit training workshops and Inspire Atlanta. Lastly, we build awareness and support through our issue area reports on barriers impeding women and girls.
The day-to-day responsibilities for nonprofit chief executive officers (CEOs) can vary greatly depending on the nonprofit organization’s size, geographic reach, and mission, among other factors.
As the CEO of The Atlanta Women’s Foundation, it is my responsibility to oversee the execution of the mission and leadership programs, organizational operations, and the strategic plan of the organization. Additionally, I am ultimately responsible for AWF’s fundraising, marketing, and community engagement and the success and development of the staff.
I spend a significant amount of time in my day on fundraising-related activities in order to meet the demand for AWF’s support of non-profit partner’s services for the women and girls in our community who face the most barriers. I often am in the community attending community-based meetings and luncheons to share information about AWF’s work.
AWF is very fortunate to have a very supportive and generous community. We are thankful that our donors are confident that we are making a difference in the lives of women and girls in Atlanta.
Q: Based on the Foundations work, I’m sure there’s many success stories … is there one story that comes to mind you can share?
KL: A great example of a success story of one of our grantee partner’s clients is Talia.
After working hard at a few different jobs and still struggling, Talia dreamed of starting her own business. When her Granny and mom passed away, Talia decided it was time to listen to their advice to open her own ice cream parlor. She looked into applying for bank loans, but with the high interest rates and little support, she knew that was not the best option for her. That’s when she found the Women’s Business Center from AWF grantee partner Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs (ACE).
Talia attended classes, workshops, and one-on-one coaching through the Women’s Business Center. With her new knowledge and ACE’s support, she designed her business plan. By the time she met with the loan officer, she felt more than prepared to put her plan into action.
Talia named her ice cream shop, Sweet Joy, after her mother Joy.
Not only has she successfully started her own business, but Talia strives to make Sweet Joy a core part of her community, acting as a hub for residents to come together to create positive change, and experience the joy she felt with her mother and granny when she was growing up.
Q: What are some of the programs you have implemented since taking over as CEO of The Atlanta Women’s Foundation?
KL: The most important program launched under my leadership is Inspire Atlanta. Inspire Atlanta is a comprehensive initiative that provides a unique leadership opportunity to a diverse group of professional women who are looking to ignite their passion for creating positive change for women in Atlanta.
Inspire Atlanta focuses on three main areas – personal development, leadership development and philanthropic development. Participants meet many of the dynamic corporate and civic leaders associated with AWF, connect with other women professionals, and explore the critical issues facing women and girls locally. They also manage an individual fundraising campaign to support the mission of AWF.
It is our responsibility to prepare women to be thoughtful, well-informed, philanthropic leaders who understand the unique issues women and girls face locally. Through the Inspire Atlanta initiative, we are training women to develop or enhance the skills needed to empower and develop not only themselves, but their communities as well.
We have a quote that has become the motto of the program, “Success isn’t just about what you accomplish in your life; it’s about what you inspire others to do.”
Q: Can you share with us what’s the best part of your job as CEO.
KL: There are so many best parts. I suppose, I’d say it’s all about the people that I interact with. The staff is so talented and together we have accomplished more that any of us thought just the six of us could do. As I mentioned before, the community of supporters are amazing. Our Board Alumni are active and engaged; we have been in partnership with many of our corporate partners for 20 years or more and they continue to support us at significant levels; and we are delighted to welcome our new contributors whose support will carry AWF’s work forward with the next generation.
Q: When you graduated from High School, where did you think your career path would take you?
KL: That, I did not know. While at the University of Georgia, I explored different subjects and classes, which exposed me to different fields for a major. It was clear to me what I DID NOT like so I decided to follow my strengths and passions and knew that at some point my career path would become clear to me.
Helping others was always a passion for me; I was the kid with the lemonade stand raising money for something or someone in need. I started fundraising when I was 10 and, as I look back, philanthropy has always been a part of my life. When I was young, my family volunteered with our church and for other civic projects in our community. In college, I was the Philanthropy Chair of my sorority; it was my responsibility to plan a campus wide tennis tournament fundraiser, which supported our national charity partner. My career begin in radio, and it was my responsibility as Promotions and Marketing Director, to connect with non-profit partners to benefit from the station’s “big booming voice” – St. Jude’s, CHOA, Make-A-Wish, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society were a few that I worked with to support.
And now I am the CEO of The Atlanta Women’s Foundation. My career path has not been a straight one, but I would not give up any of the experiences I had along the way. It all lead me here.
“It might take a year, it might take a day, but what's meant to be will always find its way."
Q: What was your first job? And how did it shape or impact you?
KL: My first job(s) were lawn mowing and baby-sitting in our neighborhood. Those jobs taught me responsibility, the importance of being on time, how to manage money (albeit 20 bucks), how to care for someone who is depending on you, that it’s good to get sweat and get dirty…and that girls can do anything they want to do!
Q: Can you tell our audience one of your most memorable moments your career?
KL: It was my extreme pleasure and honor to meet and visit with First Lady, Laura W. Bush last year at our Numbers Too Big To Ignore Luncheon. She is such an amazing woman, very warm, caring and witty!
Q: What’s one lesson you’ve learned in your career that you can share with us?
KL: Don’t be afraid of the hard times. Even though they may hurt or cause you to doubt yourself, those hard times are preparing you for something bigger in life. The hard times won’t last forever, so find the silver lining, hang on to who you are, and be prepared for something great in your life!
Q: What is one word of advice you can offer to young women entering the work force who want to reach your level of success?
KL: My one word of advice is to “Believe” – in your faith and in yourself!
Q: What behavior or personality trait do you most attribute to your success?
KL: Being a people person – I truly enjoy being with people! I love to meet strangers on the elevator, hear about someone’s family history, and to learn something unique about another person. It seems to always make that person smile.
Q: Which woman inspires you and why?
KL: My mom, she taught me how to be a woman… a lady, a wife, a mom, a leader, a friend, a fighter, a motivator, a hard worker, to be confident, humble, caring, and to have fun!
Q: What's your advice for women in male-dominated fields?
KL: Be prepared, be confident and be a woman!
Five Things About Kari Love
1. If you could talk to one famous person past or present, who would it be and why?
KL: Jesus because there are so many questions, I’d like to ask him.
2. If you were a superhero, what would your special powers be?
KL: I’d like to be able to transport back in time to see how/why things in history were done or decided.
3. Where is your favorite vacation spot?
KL: Anywhere as long as I am with my family
4. What app can’t you live without?
KL: My life is extremely busy – Lyft/Uber has helped me manage traveling considerably
5. What’s your favorite Food to cook?
KL: Chocolate Chip Cookies – makes everyone smile
Kari Love, CEO
The Atlanta Women’s Foundation