About this Assessment

Atlanta’s largest and most popular foundation, the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation is an independent private foundation established by the former Coca-Cola president. The foundation has had tremendous positive impact on the city’s physical landscape, and can do more to strengthen its social fabric and advance equity. The foundation also needs to engage more diverse voices in its decision-making, increase transparency about its strategies and practices, and diversify its investment portfolio.

The assessment of the Woodruff Foundation was conducted by Elizabeth Myrick.

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Key Finding and Recommendations

1. Continue the exemplary practices that have made it a trusted partner.

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The care, thoughtfulness and humility with which the foundation operates are exemplary and should be maintained. Similarly, the staff’s integrity, vast knowledge of the community they serve and commitment to the foundation’s mission are especially strong.

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2. Invest in the social fabric of Atlanta to advance equity and opportunity.

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Alongside capital investments, the Woodruff Foundation could achieve even greater impact by providing multi-year, flexible operating and program grants to support efforts that strengthen diverse communities, including supporting emerging leaders representing low-income, people of color and other marginalized communities; and providing both the grants and leadership required to address issues of race and equity in Georgia.

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3. Engage more diverse voices to deepen the foundation’s impact.

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The foundation would benefit from engaging constituencies beyond the traditional leaders already in its orbit. Woodruff can be more explicit in its commitment to making Atlanta a better place for underserved and marginalized residents, such as by adding more diverse voices to its staff and board.

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4. Increase transparency about grantmaking strategies and practices to encourage new partnerships.

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Given Woodruff’s figurative “Good Housekeeping seal of approval,” the foundation could add even more to its reputational capital with increased transparency about its support for marginalized communities. While sensitive to its core value of humility, NCRP urges Woodruff to invite more collaboration with other potential partners. While it does make multi-year and flexible grants, its impact would be enhanced by increasing transparency about when and why these grants are made. Steps it can take include improving its grant coding and participation in GlassPockets.

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5. Diversify the foundation’s holdings to allow for more flexible and strategic grantmaking.

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Woodruff maintains a close relationship with Coca-Cola, even though some of the company’s practices are at odds with the foundation’s mission. The foundation should develop a plan for incremental and gradual diversification of assets to enable it to pursue more stability in its grantmaking portfolio, including mission-related investments that benefit marginalized communities.

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