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Deane Foundation 2018 Annual Report

I. Introduction

Incorporated in 2017, the John and Natasha Deane Foundation is an independent, not-for-profit organization, whose mission is to find and forge socially beneficial innovations for Tennessee communities. This Annual Report provides an overview of Deane Foundation activities during its first year of operations.

The Deane Foundation effectively began to operate in mid-April 2018 following the retirements of its founders and on boarding of Brittany Witt as a full-time Director. The balance of 2018 was a time of listening, learning and discerning as a predicate to establishing a definitive framework going forward. We knew we had much to learn about Tennessee communities, their opportunities, challenges and needs that would help us frame a plan to contribute through service.

At the outset we chose four areas of learning to focus on:

  • Civic Engagement;
  • Rural Community Development;
  • Health & Wellness; and
  • Social Justice.

Our aim was to begin an exploration using the above four focus areas as a guide with the expectation that our journey would lead toward development of a narrow focus for the future.

II. Digital Media Engagement

It was important to develop a dynamic digital media strategy that would enable us to communicate and inform our former colleagues, friends, family and supporters about Deane Foundation activities.

Email List and Website

Before launching our outreach efforts, we spent time perfecting an email list of over 7,000 contacts nationwide, including approximately 1,000 who reside in the State of Tennessee.

We contracted with a third-party vendor to build a website outlining our plans and areas of interest, which can be found at Our website served as a useful tool to publicly articulate our mission, vision and purpose, as well as a vehicle for publishing blogs and educational videos. As we continue to refine our mission and purpose, please continue to reference the website for updates.

Blog Posts

Brittany, Natasha and John created and published 20 blogs in 2018. By clicking on the blog topic below, you can access the full writing via the Deane Foundation website.

Blog Topic Focus Area Author Date
Resource Capture: A Solution to Middle Tennessee’s Waste Disposal Crisis Health and Wellness Brittany Witt December 3, 2018
The Great Citizen – Civic Saturday Cookeville Civic Engagement Kate Tucker November 8, 2018
A Pilgrimage of Engagement, Truth and Reconciliation Social Justice Natasha Deane November 5, 2018
And the Weather in Tullahoma Is … Blog John Deane November 5, 2018
A Chance to Start Again Social Justice Brittany Witt October 10, 2018
Advancing Socially Beneficial Innovations: Hytch Blog John Deane October 1, 2018
Mass Incarceration: Do the rising numbers of our prison populations add up to justice? Social Justice Brittany Witt September 19, 2018
Toward a More Equitable Democracy: Modernizing Voting Laws Civic Engagement Natasha Deane September 6, 2018
Deane Foundation partners with BriteHeart to host civic engagement events in Tennessee Civic Engagement Brittany Witt September 5, 2018
Have a Heart – Bridging the Gaps in Clarksville, Tennessee Health and Wellness Natasha Deane August 14, 2018
How Medicaid Expansion Could Lower your Health Insurance Premiums Health and Wellness Brittany Witt August 14, 2018
Closing the Coverage Gap in Tennessee Health and Wellness Brittany Witt August 14, 2018
What are Socially Beneficial Innovations and How is the Deane Foundation Uncovering them in Tennessee? Civic Engagement Brittany Witt June 27, 2018
Civic Engagement in the Era of Social Media and Global Connectivity Civic Engagement Brittany Witt June 27, 2018
Historical Justice: The Case for Truth-Telling in Tennessee Communities Social Justice Natasha Deane June 9, 2018
Advancing Socially Beneficial Innovations: Board Connector Civic Engagement John Deane June 5, 2018
Sarah Polk: First Lady (acting as Chief of Staff) Leads Bipartisan Initiatives Civic Engagement John Deane May 5, 2018
Amy Got Purged: How Systemic Purging of the Voter Roles Plays Out in Tennessee Civic Engagement John Deane April 6, 2018
Opioids: A Tennessee Crisis Health and Wellness John Deane April 5, 2018
Let’s Encourage Everyone in Tennessee to Show Up and Vote Civic Engagement John Deane

February 10, 2018

Educational Whiteboard Animation Videos

In addition to the above blogs, we found a useful and creative medium to communicate and explain examples of socially beneficial innovations. These educational whiteboard animation videos, typically under two minutes in length, were created through a partnership with Next Day Animations.

Video Topic Focus Area
Project Register Civic Engagement
Closing the Coverage Gap Health and Wellness
Project Return Social Justice
Resource Capture Health and Wellness

Digital Media Advertising

We relied upon various forms of digital advertising (primarily Facebook and Google Adwords) to disseminate our blogs, videos and other relevant information. We focused our advertising on more specific issues like Medicaid Expansion and criminal justice reform, which created higher engagement. In total, we were able to reach more than 670,000 people via Facebook ads and optimized Google searches.

III. Tennessee Listening Tour

Our listening tour took us to 30 Tennessee counties and 20 cities and towns, including the five cities of Chattanooga, Clarksville, Knoxville, Nashville, and Memphis, as well as smaller rural communities such as Camden, Columbia, Fayetteville, the Tri-Cities (Bristol, Kingsport, and Johnson City), and Tullahoma, just to name a few. During our journey, we met with more than 300 stakeholders.

We were graciously received for in-person meetings with elected officials, including mayors and their senior staff members; chamber of commerce and local corporate leaders; colleges and universities, as well as other not-for-profits ranging from United Way executives to leaders of charitable outpatient clinics to organizations such as Project Return that facilitates re-entry of formerly incarcerated people into the work force.

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IV. Civic Engagement

A key focus area for the Deane Foundation has been civic engagement. We were alarmed to hear that Tennessee was ranked 50th in voter turnout among the 50 states and the District of Columbia (only Texas was worse) and 36th in voter registration. We wanted to understand why citizens in Tennessee do not vote and identify socially beneficial innovations to improve voter engagement.

The 2018 midterm election cycle included competitive statewide races for both the U.S. Senate and Governorship which enabled the Deane Foundation to play a role in promoting civic engagement by amplifying innovations and directly sponsoring voter engagement events and activities.


Deane Foundation Partnership with BriteHeart

In early 2017 Chase Cole, his brother Bill, and Nashville singer-songwriter Kate Tucker formed BriteHeart, a Nashville-based organization whose mission is to engage, connect and empower citizens for positive change through artivism, voting and civic participation. BriteHeart’s core innovation was its ability to fuse together activism with the arts; thus the term “artivsm” was coined as the primary driver of its mission.

In the 2018 midterm election cycle, the Deane Foundation partnered with BriteHeart to produce 21 events in the greater Nashville area focused on voter registration and voter turnout. These events, listed below, engaged 4,755 participants.

Date Event
8/23/18 Live On The Green Voter Registration
9/3/18 Artivist Civic Engagement Workshop at Vanderbilt
9/8/18 Barista Parlor Fuel Up to Vote
9/13/18 Queer Roots – Americana Fest Showcase
9/15/18 Americanarama at Grimey’s
9/22/18 We Are Seeds – Artivist Mural Painting Block Party
9/24/18 When We All Vote – Faith Hill Rally
9/27/18 #GetCivic Get Happy at Henrietta Red
9/29/18 #GetCivic BriteHeart Benefit Show
9/29/18 Barista Parlor Fuel Up to Vote
10/3/18 East Nashville Get Out The Vote
10/6/18 Barista Parlor Fuel Up to Vote
10/7/18 Madison Kroger Voter Registration
10/8/18 Madison Kroger Voter Registration
10/5-10/9 Hustle Texting Campaign
10/20/18 Party At The Polls at Ascend
10/27/18 #VoteTogether at Azafran Park
10/27/19 Halloween GOTV Party at Center 615
10/27/18 Civic Saturday Nashville
11/3/18 Civic Saturday Cookeville
11/6/18 #VoteTogether at Elmington Park
11/6/18 #VoteTogether at Jefferson St Cafe
BH Photobooth Seeds

V. Issue Advocacy: Closing the Health Care Coverage Gap

In 2018 the Deane Foundation chose to take a stand advocating to close the health care coverage gap for Tennesseans. Tennessee is one of 14 states that has not yet elected to participate in Medicaid Expansion, which would provide coverage for approximately 300,000 people, including 24,000 veterans. We chose the whiteboard animated video as a tool to advocate for this issue and inform the general public about why it is so important to close the health care coverage gap in Tennessee.

Using Facebook, Google Adwords and other advertising vehicles, more than 1,500 viewers watched our “Closing the Coverage Gap” video; and ads regarding the video reached more than 82,000 people.

VI. Rural Community Development

The Tennessee Economic and Community Development (“TNECD”) Commission considers development across eight districts: Southwest, Northwest, Mid-Cumberland/Greater Nashville, South Central, Upper Cumberland, Southeast, East and Northeast. In order to better understand key issues of rural economic development, we used the TNECD county profile tool to compare and contrast the 14 county Upper Cumberland (rural) with the Greater Nashville (model) regions in measures of economic well-being.


Rural Communities are Non-Competitive

We found that slow population growth and increased property consolidation in the region translates to maintenance of a quiet, rural, mostly undeveloped and attractive character. However, with 18% of the regional population over 65 years of age, a lack of modern infrastructure, and low educational achievement (79% hold high school diplomas, 13% hold bachelor’s degree or higher), the environment for jobs with good pay, businesses and manufacturing is non-competitive.

Regional commerce is centered in regional micropolitan areas, such as Cookeville in the Upper Cumberland region and Tullahoma in the South Central region. Thus, the tax base for rural counties remains flat. Coupled with inflation, this means that the majority of counties lose purchasing power over time, resulting in reduced investment in schools, libraries, parks and infrastructure. As services decrease, poverty increases in a vicious cycle of economic depression.

Severe Economic Distress Correlates with Health Burden

Typical of other rural regions, four counties in the Upper Cumberland (Clay, Dekalb, Fentress and Jackson) were among the most economically distressed counties in the nation, with poverty levels above 20% (Appalachian Regional Commission). Several counties in the region are at risk for economic distress (poverty rates 15-20%); and due to an opioid epidemic, also at risk for epidemic levels of Hepatitis C and HIV infection according to the Center for Disease Control (“CDC”). The median annual household income is $36,297 compared to $46,574 statewide and $50,484 in the Greater Nashville region. Further, 12% of the population in the Upper Cumberland region lack health insurance and 14% report a significant disability.

Success being Experienced in Micropolitan Areas

The lack of economic development in the Upper Cumberland region and other rural areas will require regional solutions, centered on growth in regional micropolitan areas, such as the city of Cookeville and Tullahoma in the South Central Region. The health and recreational value of rural counties is significant, but the ability to realize economic development is severely hindered by lack of modern infrastructure, in particular rural broadband.

The Deane Foundation will continue work to identify potential solutions for rural community development in Tennessee.

VII. Historical Justice

Part of our listening tour involved intentional listening with marginalized communities across the state. In 2018, the Deane Foundation worked with academic and faith-led institutions in middle Tennessee to learn about our shared history that has caused lasting racial wounds.

Tennessee Historical Justice Coalition & the Tennessee Cold Case Act

In 2018 Natasha was named co-chair (along with John Ashworth Lynching Sites Project Memphis) of the reconciliation arm of the Tennessee Historical Justice Coalition (“THJC”). THJC is a newly forming entity representing stakeholders from across the State pursuant to the Tennessee Civil Rights Cold Case Act of 2018. This Act creates the Tennessee Civil Rights Crimes Information, Reconciliation, and Research Center housed within the Office of Minority Affairs. It serves as a civil rights crime’s remembrance and reconciliation repository; functions as an informational clearinghouse on unsolved civil rights crimes and cold cases in the state; and coordinates volunteer activities around education and remembrances. Supporters of historical justice believe that truth-telling around racist acts from our state’s history is essential for our communities to rise above the past and never repeat the injustices that have occurred.

The first is the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice by the Equal Justice Initiative (“EJI”) in Montgomery, Alabama, which is a solemn memorial to lynching’s that have occurred throughout the Southern states. Community leaders in the historical justice movement throughout Tennessee are seeking to claim their monuments from the National Memorial by establishing a permanent memorial in their communities and seek to learn from each other best practices for how to accomplish that.

2018 Pilgrimage to EJI

The Deane Foundation participated in and subsidized box lunches for a day-long pilgrimage for over 112 students and community members from across middle Tennessee to the EJI’s Memorial for Peace and Justice. The Memorial is a central repository for artifacts and research from over 4,000 racial terror lynchings that occurred throughout the South in the period between 1877-1950.

Participants in this pilgrimage are engaged in conducting Community Remembrance Projects in their various local communities. Some groups will work to claim uniformly designed, regionally specific columns from the National Memorial as permanent historical markers for their local communities. All seek to learn from each other best practices for how to accomplish and engender constructive community learning from the process.


2018 Walk in Love

The Deane Foundation participated in and sponsored thematic T-shirts for this annual silent march that commemorates the bombing of Alexander J. Looby’s home in Nashville; celebrates Looby’s accomplishments in ending segregation practices across the state of Tennessee; and proclaims that there is still work to be done. T-shirts went to students from area high schools and colleges in an effort to engage them in the march and in the Civil Rights history of the city. The 2018 march attracted over 100 participants.

2018 Big Payback with One Voice Nashville

The Deane Foundation sponsored a fundraising match with a local non-profit, One Voice Nashville (“OVN”), that teaches marginalized area middle and high school students the value of story as a means to achieving personal and community empowerment. As a result of our efforts, 15 scholarships for summer programs were awarded to students who otherwise would not have had the opportunity to participate.

VIII. Looking Forward: AmplifyTN

After eight months of listening, learning, exploring and discerning, we have concluded the Deane Foundation will engage with other not-for-profit organizations on a selective basis to amplify their efforts and enhance impact. Drawing upon the extensive consulting expertise of Founder John Deane, the Foundation is establishing an innovative consulting model that provides a platform for the Deanes’, as well as other seasoned professionals to apply their gifts and talents for good.

AmplifyTN, a program of the Deane Foundation, partners with non-profit leaders across the state of Tennessee to help organizations tackle their biggest challenges. By providing consulting services, including strategy development; performance assessments; and executive advising, among other offerings, AmplifyTN assists non-profit organizations grow, scale and enhance effectiveness.

Through our innovative consulting model, we partner with other non-profit organizations to provide professional services for a drastically reduced fee. Our service model allows us to provide professional consulting services at a heavy discount from market rate and enables us to collaborate with other non-profit partners to transform Tennessee communities.

Through AmplifyTN, we are currently assisting two non-profit organizations with strategic endeavors. Below is a brief summary of our current clients and corresponding projects.


Nashville Organized for Action and Hope (“NOAH”) – Partnering with NOAH Affordable Housing Task Force to conduct 100-day assessment and develop Strategic Action Plan to address the affordable housing crisis


Project Return – Partnering with Project Return to develop and refine definitive strategic growth plan enabling the organization to serve a larger population

IX. Director’s Reflection

2018 was an exciting year for the Deane Foundation, filled with many new experiences and opportunities for learning. It was a unique privilege for us to embark on the Statewide Listening Tour and share time with fellow citizens and leaders to understand the important problems facing our state.

In the span of nine months, we immersed ourselves in a learning environment in order to guide our future service efforts. Along the way, we partnered with various non-profit and socially responsible organizations to produce events, provide education on important issues, and promote voter engagement in the historical mid-term elections. As recounted in this Annual Report, we celebrated many successes with these partners, as well as implementing Foundation infrastructure that will be integral to our ongoing operations.

Looking ahead in 2019, there are numerous exciting goals on the horizon; and we are eager to continue our journey of service. Thank you all for your support and encouragement during our inaugural year; and we look forward to sharing the successes of 2019 with you.

Published on February 11, 2019 11:42am

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Brittany Witt

Brittany Witt has more than 10 years of professional experience, and throughout her career has held multiple dynamic roles enabling her to hone a diverse and unique skill set. In her most recent role as Consultant with the Advisory Board, Brittany was involved in a variety of initiatives across the firm’s physician services and value-based care terrains, emphasizing client service, subject-matter expertise and data-driven solutions to address Advisory Board members’ most pressing healthcare challenges.

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