Supporting Music and Arts Education for Athens Youth and the Community

aka AthFest Educates   |   Athens, GA   |


AthFest Educates advances high-quality music and arts education for local youth and the Athens community through direct support of school and community-based programs and events, including an annual music and arts festival.

Ruling year info


Executive Director

Jill Helme

Main address

Po Box 327

Athens, GA 30603 USA

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NTEE code info

Arts, Cultural Organizations - Multipurpose (A20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

AthFest Educates is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization whose mission is to sustain and advance music and arts education for the young people in Athens-Clarke County. In order to fulfill its mission, AthFest Educates produces two annual fundraisers, the AthFest Music & Arts Festival and the AthHalf Half Marathon. The proceeds from these two events fund the organization’s annual grant-making efforts. Awards are issued in September of each academic year. As of May 2020, AthFest has issued over $414,000 in grants throughout the Athens community and all fourteen Clarke County School District elementary schools and its four middle schools have been recipients of AthFest Educates grants.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

AthFest Music & Arts Festival

Each summer, AthFest Educates produces the AthFest Music & Arts Festival. The festival is an important part of our mission to advance music and arts education in Athens. AthFest brings the best local and regional music and visual artists to downtown Athens and showcases their talent for the entire community and our visitors to enjoy… for free! The festival includes three outdoor stages, a juried Artist Market, and a dedicated KidsFest. AthFest gives everyone an opportunity to experience the vibrant and gifted music and arts scene of Athens, GA. AthFest is also one of our two major fundraisers, and is a great opportunity to experience the best that our city has to offer.

Population(s) Served

Where we work

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

- Support the development and advancement of high-quality music and arts education for K - 12 youth in Athens
- Increase access to high-quality music and arts experiences for Athens youth and the larger Athens community
- Provide a platform to allow professional performing artists and visual artists an opportunity to share their work with the larger community
- Promote the rich music and arts culture and history of Athens, GA

The AthFest Music & Arts Festival began under the Athens Chamber of Commerce in 1997, set on increasing revenue for downtown businesses, hotels, and restaurants during the slower months of the University of Georgia (UGA) summer break and showcasing Athens, GA musicians and artists. AthFest, Inc. was incorporated as an independent 501(c)(3) in 2004, giving the festival and its board more autonomy to make decisions that favored economic growth, and emphasizing increased access to music and arts for all residents and visitors, regardless of income level. Since AthFest is free to attend and offers programming directed at youth and families, it has become a popular destination for low-income, minority families to have a fun, music and arts-based educational experience. The lineup of musicians and artists at the festival is diverse and strives to be continually representative of the evolving local and regional demographics.

With a mission focused on providing exposure and attention to the talented musicians and artists in and around Athens, AthFest presents 25 hours of free music across a range of genres on three stages over the course of the three-day event. The festival features 55+ local and regional visual artists in a juried artist market, highlighting the ceramic, glass, fabric, metal, painting, photography, and woodwork arts.

AthFest also includes KidsFest, a block-long area of downtown Athens focused on promoting music and arts appreciation for young people. The KidsFest stage features youth-focused music, dance, and spoken word performers, allowing them the opportunity to develop their craft while simultaneously encouraging young audience members to consider their own participation in the arts. The stage is home to the UpNext Showcase, an evening that presents local bands consisting entirely of middle and high school students. Additionally, KidsFest has a dedicated art tent that urges young people to try their hand at woodwork, painting, and ceramics.

Revenue from the AthFest Music & Arts Festival is used to support the organization's annual grant-making efforts. As of May 2020, AthFest Educates has awarded over $414,000 in grants to local schools, nonprofits, and government programs to support:
- music and arts non-consumable equipment
- music and arts programs and experiences
- art-based and music-based professional development for educators and/or youth development specialist

AthFest selects organizational partners that help advance the quality of the visual and performing arts of the area. We ask these partners to connect us with their networks and make connections to other stakeholders, both locally and regionally. Partners are selected based on their enthusiasm and willingness to sponsor or promote the festival and its mission to celebrate the local music and arts culture. AthFest also selects partners based on their connection to undeserved and minority populations in the area. We ask these organizations to help AthFest recruit talented musicians and artists from these areas and to help AthFest promote the free festival to these communities. The festival requires over 200 volunteers to operate effectively, so we also partner with organizations that help us recruit interested volunteers.

The AthFest Music & Arts Festival Planning Committee is made of 16 individuals, many of whom have served on the committee since the beginning, and all of whom are passionate about Athens, GA and its vibrant music and arts culture. Planning Committee members are selected based on their professional and/or volunteer experience in key areas. The Planning Committee members are experts in: band booking, event planning, sponsorship and vendor sales, merchandising, stage management, food and beverage management, volunteer management, youth art and music education, budget and finance operations, and nonprofit management. Planning committee members are asked to serve a minimum of 3 years to maintain consistency in event planning; thankfully most members decide to serve on the committee for an average of 5-7 years. The AthFest Educates Board of Directors provides fiscal and strategic oversight of the organization and its events, including the AthFest Music & Arts Festival.

The target audience for the AthFest Music & Arts Festival includes all local and regional residents and visitors. Athens, Ga. has a 35% poverty rate, one of the highest in the country, so the festival aims to attract all community members, including those from low-income families who typically do not have the resources to attend live music performances and artist showings in private venues and galleries. Over the past 5 – 7 years, Athens has seen an influx of Latinx residents, which has enabled the festival to add talented Latin musicians to the line-up and include a Latinx Showcase in the Club Crawl. Additionally, local LGBTQIA, black, and LatinX community leaders joined our committees in recent years to assist AthFest in bringing in more diverse talent to the festival to better celebrate the creativity and cultures of Athens.

While AthFest attendees come from all over the country, the vast majority of festival goers live within a 150-mile radius of Athens, Ga. AthFest caters to those who have the capacity to travel to Athens on a fairly regular basis – those who will be inspired by AthFest and return to Athens to listen to live music and support local galleries and other artistic offerings. Peak crowds of approximately 6,000 people attend the Friday and Saturday night headliner performances with a total three-day attendance of nearly 30,000.

AthFest promotes artistic collaboration and appreciation. Musicians and visual artists, and those who value music and the arts, come together and interact with each other over the course of these three days which creates a sense of artistic experimentation, creativity and freethinking.
AthFest is proud to dedicate an area of the festival to KidsFest to encourage the music and artist development of our young residents. We take great pride in the $414,000+ in grants we have awarded to local schools to support music and arts education and we feel the KidsFest area, and all of AthFest, is a continuation of that dedication.



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The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.


Connect with nonprofit leaders


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Connect with nonprofit leaders


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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
  • Access beautifully interactive analysis and comparison tools
  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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Board of directors
as of 8/26/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board chair

Michelle Davis

University of Georgia

Term: 2017 - 2023

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Yes
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? Yes
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 08/26/2021

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.


The organization's leader identifies as:

Race & ethnicity
Gender identity
Female, Not transgender (cisgender)
Sexual orientation
Heterosexual or Straight
Disability status
Person without a disability

Race & ethnicity

Gender identity


Sexual orientation


No data

Equity strategies

Last updated: 08/26/2021

Policies and practices developed in partnership with Equity in the Center, a project that works to shift mindsets, practices, and systems within the social sector to increase racial equity. Learn more

  • We ask team members to identify racial disparities in their programs and / or portfolios.
  • We analyze disaggregated data and root causes of race disparities that impact the organization's programs, portfolios, and the populations served.
  • We disaggregate data to adjust programming goals to keep pace with changing needs of the communities we support.
  • We employ non-traditional ways of gathering feedback on programs and trainings, which may include interviews, roundtables, and external reviews with/by community stakeholders.
  • We disaggregate data by demographics, including race, in every policy and program measured.
  • We have long-term strategic plans and measurable goals for creating a culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.
Policies and processes
  • We seek individuals from various race backgrounds for board and executive director/CEO positions within our organization.
  • We have community representation at the board level, either on the board itself or through a community advisory board.
  • We help senior leadership understand how to be inclusive leaders with learning approaches that emphasize reflection, iteration, and adaptability.
  • We engage everyone, from the board to staff levels of the organization, in race equity work and ensure that individuals understand their roles in creating culture such that one’s race identity has no influence on how they fare within the organization.