Rodney D. Bullard is the CEO of The Same House, a public benefit corporation dedicated to furthering economic mobility and bridging social division. He was the Vice President of Community Affairs at Chick-fil-A, Inc. and Executive Director of the Chick-fil-A Foundation, where he led the company’s corporate community and philanthropic strategy that focused on fostering youth and furthering education.
During our interview, Rodney Bullard openly discussed changing careers, The Same House, and the Beloved Benefit.
Q. What inspired you to leave Chick-fil-A after working there for 12 years to become The Same House’s CEO?
A. I was inspired not to leave corporate America but to take corporate America and galvanize not just Chick-fil-A but togalvanize other corporate relationships that we have accrued into focusing on our community’s toughest issues. We started The Same House as a public benefit corporation, which is really an effort to do good.
We have put on the Beloved Benefit since 2019. We had Bruno Mars, Steve Harvey, TI, and Congressman John Lewis at one of his last public events. We did not know he was ill at the time. He said very profoundly, “We’re one people, one family. We all belong to the same house, the house of Atlanta, Georgia”.
That stuck with me in the sense that if we all belong to the same house, then it is our responsibility, individually and collectively, to build this house. When I decided to leave Chick-fil-A to do something different, it was to bring together not just corporate Atlanta but the community, politicians, and others so we could build this house together. I thought that it would be easier to do that from another platform. So it was clear that this was not a brand effort. This was not us trying to aggrandize Chick-fil-A or Coca-Cola.
In a city like Atlanta, we have an unfortunate statistic. We have the greatest economic inequality in the country. If you’re a child born into poverty in Atlanta, you only have a 4.7% chance of getting out of poverty and going to some self-sufficient wealth. That’s the lowest in the country. But the blessing is that we have wonderful organizations, sponsors, and wealth in Atlanta. We can do something collectively about the problems of our city.
Q, What is the mission of The Same House?
A. The mission of The Same House is to bring people together. We say that we’re one city worlds apart. But it is to bring people together so that we can collectively improve the plight of our community. Regardless of our differences or what we talk about outwardly, we know at the end of the day, we all live in the same geography and that the problems that impact you also impact me. Doctor King once said, “I can’t be who I’m supposed to be if you can’t be who you’re supposed to be.” We are all tied into this fabric, this garment of life, this garment of destiny, and so that is our mission very simply.
Q. What are some examples of how you’ve seen the work of The Same House make a difference?
The Beloved Benefit in 2019 raised an additional accretive 5.3 million dollars. Those dollars went to organizations working on the west side of Atlanta and uplifting that community. Then in 2022, we were able to have the Beloved Benefit again. We had Usher and Maroon Five. We were able to focus our efforts on economic mobility and ensuring that we were really trying to help those in our community who were struggling with just getting out of poverty.
In 2022, we raised over $6 million. We then distributed those dollars back into organizations that were doing the work. We want to continue to bring those resources to bear and make them not just old dollars but new dollars that move the needle and help people in a different way. We’re excited about that.
This year, we are having another Beloved Benefit on August 24that the Georgia World Congress Center. John Legend will be performing. Again we have wonderful sponsors like Chick-fil-A, The Home Depot, and Southern Company as our premier sponsors. But we’ve got other corporations like Coca-Cola,Delta, UPS, and Quick Trip. We’re excited about the organizations that are part of this effort.
We’re also excited about the individuals that are part of this effort. Dan Cathy has championed this since day one and has thought that this was worth his time, energy, and treasure. Weare very pleased and blessed by his support for the production of this event because you’ll see this is no small event. This is a big-time event. This is like the Grammys in Atlanta.
This year we will broadcast or rebroadcast elements of the Beloved Benefit on Atlanta News First, Peachtree TV, and Gray Media. Gray Media has channels throughout the state of Georgia. We will rebroadcast this effort throughout the state of Georgia to inspire others in other communities to do something similar.
Q. Will assistance be provided to organizations outside of the West side? Or only to the West side?
A. We initially started on the West side with the first Beloved Benefit, and now it is Metro Atlanta-wide. The organizations that we are supporting this year are the Boys and Girls Club, the Russell Center for Entrepreneurship, First Step Staffing, the Urban League of Greater Atlanta, and the West Side Future Fund. So, organizations that have reached, in some cases, well beyond Georgia and, in most cases, throughout the state of Georgia.
Q. Are you all helping to fund smaller nonprofits or just the larger organizations?
That’s a great question, Towanna. So, in 2019 we had what we call beneficiaries and then beacons. The beneficiaries are larger organizations that can receive a large check because, quite frankly, we are raising enough money to distribute anywhere from $500,000 to a million dollars to an organization. Organizations have to be large enough, and they have to have a mission big enough, they have to have a clientele that’s expansive enough to receive that type of donation. We also had beacons which were smaller organizations in some cases. Those were organizations that we gave $50,000 to. Truist Bank sponsored and gave that money to those organizations.
Through Truist’s generosity, those organizations got notoriety. They also obviously got the dollars, but we set them up with business consulting. McKinsey came along and provided business consulting to these organizations as well, so they don’t always stay small. That they grow and become bigger, and in many cases, some of these organizations, these beacons, are doing the grassroots work on the ground. It’s helping people know that there is a plight out there and that our neighbors need your help.
Q. Where can our readers purchase tickets for the Beloved Benefit?
A. They can go online to http://www.belovedbenefit.org and purchase tickets there. Tickets are on currently on sale. We only have about 2,500 tickets for the Beloved Benefit event. Many of the tickets are sold corporately. However, what we pride ourselves on and what we really appreciate about this event is that 20 to 30% of the tickets are given away to the community. It is not a black tie or stuffy event. It is a party with a purpose. It is come as you are. It is not round tables, but it’s long tables. We, in fact,have intermixed the seating. If we live in the same house, we need to sit together. We need to have a common table, and that is what we perpetuate on that evening.
I also want your readers to know that there is an opportunity to win tickets to the Beloved Benefit as well. We are on all social media platforms. There is currently a promotion that we have on Instagram. Please follow us @Wearethesamehouse and @Belovedbenefit for additional information.