The Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2009 by asking the community to imagine what they wanted for the next 50 years. That led to the creation of community catalyst funds to build new resources and the launch of an online idea contest called Prize2theFuture as the first investment. Both tapped into the community’s hunger to make a difference. Despite the challenge of a national recession, more than 50 individuals and families made gifts from $50,000 to $2 million before the end of 2009. Prize2theFuture, which launched on January 13, 2011, began with a worldwide search for one great idea to transform a single city block in downtown Birmingham and make the city center cooler and more vibrant. Almost 3,000 participants from 39 countries registered and 1,115 entries were submitted. When the winners were announced on May 5, we had more than just an exciting idea to implement—we also had a new way to listen to the community.
Today we are in phase 2 of the process, working with the city of Birmingham, owner of the property and our partner throughout, to implement the winning idea. This innovative effort already is a success in many ways. Other contest ideas already have generated interest from others who want to implement them elsewhere. Based on the results of a survey, we also saw people gain a more positive perception of our community.
Donors continue to be drawn to the opportunity to share a vision and do more together, with Community Catalyst Fund No. 58 established in December 2011. We expect to start exploring more “big things” in the days and weeks ahead. Whatever we decide, we can use our experience with our new online community to connect with a broad range of people who care about the Birmingham region and want to build on its successes. Prize2theFuture helped us take our tradition of listening to the community to a new level using Facebook, Twitter and the contest website.