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Stronger Together

Grantee Spotlight: Books From Birth & Porter-Leath

With its 2014 grant theme, "Collaboration for Change," GiVE 365 challenged grant applicants to partner with other agencies to support creative problem-solving in the community. GiVE 365 members believed that by working together, nonprofits could better serve their clients by sharing resources and leveraging each other’s strengths.

Two area organizations focused on early childhood education, Porter-Leath and Shelby County Books from Birth, responded to this call. Founded more than 160 years ago, Porter-Leath is the oldest child-serving agency in Tennessee. Books from Birth launched locally in 2005 as an affiliate of Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library—mailing free, age-appropriate books monthly to Shelby County children aged 0-5. 

GiVE 365 members awarded Shelby County Books from Birth a $4,940 grant to expand its reach and enrollment, boost school readiness and academic achievement, and strengthen family bonds by putting books directly in the hands of families each month through Porter-Leath’s Parents as Teachers home-visitation program. This collaboration with Porter-Leath enabled Books from Birth to serve families who otherwise would have had difficulty participating because of frequent address changes.

The project was the first time that the two organizations had ever worked together, and they recognized the powerful synergy their partnership created. The agencies subsequently merged in 2017, with Books from Birth becoming a program of Porter-Leath.

“GiVE 365 looked at this from much more than a monetary situation,” says Rob Hughes, Porter-Leath’s vice president of development. “They really helped us see that we would be better together, and now we are proud to celebrate Books from Birth under the Porter-Leath umbrella as our sixth program area.”

While optimistic that the whole could be greater than the sum of its parts, members in 2014 may not have anticipated that the synergy created would lead to the organizations’ permanent merger. However, encouraging the kind of collaboration that drives sustained change is indicative of GiVE 365’s commitment to creative problem-solving and philanthropic impact.

Together, and with encouragement from GiVE 365, Porter-Leath and Books from Birth now have the capacity, resources, and staffing to serve more families and serve them better.  

Books from Birth communications manager Mary Braddock agrees the merger has made both agencies stronger. “Having back office support has been incredible. We were a staff of three but now we have tremendous support to move the Books from Birth program further than ever before,” she says. “In general, GiVE 365 and the Community Foundation helped make the transition seamless.”

Read more from The Daily News on the organizations' merger.