Grassroots Giving

“It’s not about cutting a check and walking away.” 

It’s a simple sentence – but it succinctly describes Brian Gardner’s passion for the Gwinnett community and the reasoning behind he and his wife Emily’s decision to become fundholders at the Community Foundation. 

As a young couple, they both deeply value the sustainability of the organizations they give to. So when financial advisor Scott Phelan introduced them to the Community Foundation, they were intrigued. 

“We had started thinking about planned giving and giving back, where to donate and such,” said Brian, a tax attorney. “After looking into the Community Foundation we decided it would be a good fit for us personally. We liked the idea of giving back to a place, a community, we grew up in.”

Brian and Emily currently live in Cobb County but both grew up in Gwinnett, in Dacula. They wanted their giving journey to start in their home community.

“My family has lived in Gwinnett for many generations, so it is very much home to us,” Emily said.

 “We really liked the sort of causes the Community Foundation is supporting – and how they are supporting them,” Brian said. “They’re investing in local nonprofits through education and other ways that makes those nonprofits sustainable for a long time. We view this as a long-term investment.”

For Emily, a former Gwinnett County Public School teacher, her passion for education was a driving force in their decision to become fundholders. 

“The Community Foundation’s educational focus directly impacts Gwinnett students…It makes me feel like I still know those communities and am directly impacting them myself,” Emily said. 

The Gardners also liked the fact that the Community Foundation directly vets organizations.

“[Giving through] the Community Foundation allows us to trust that our money is going to be managed and used appropriately to support sustainable organizations that benefit the community. There are lots and lots of charities out there, and many that are deserving of funds, so having the level of management the Community Foundation provides to ensure we’re giving strategically is really important.

“Plus, I am a tax guy,” Brian laughed. “I do the math. Yes, you get a charitable deduction, so, if you have the ability to give, there is a tax benefit when you give now as opposed to waiting. For people with the ability and the means to do it – and get a tax benefit for doing something that’s this good – then why not?”

For other young couples just starting on their journey of generosity, the Gardners have some encouragement. 

“There’s no better time than now. Start [giving] earlier rather than later,” Brian said.

Interested in learning more about giving through the Community Foundation? Contact DePriest Waddy at