Focus on race – Duke Endowment expanding reach

By Cindy Stiff

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – The Duke Endowment wants to expand its impact beyond its traditional grantees by encouraging them to work with other community groups, particularly in the area of race relations.

The foundation started moving toward collaborative programs even before convening three panels to discuss the future needs of the Carolinas as part of the Duke Endowment’s 75th anniversary celebration, says David Roberson, director of communications.

The foundation, for example, helped fund $3 million in loans and grants for long-neglected Walltown as part of Duke University’s efforts to improve the 12 neighborhoods that surround its Durham campus.

While the grants were made through one of the endowment’s eligible institutions, Duke University, the money benefited such community organizations as Self-Help.

Self-Help received a $2.5 million loan to renovate houses, a school and grocery store.

The foundation also chipped in $288,000 for a neighborhood ministries program.

According to the foundation’s guidelines, created in1924 by James Buchanan Duke, the Duke Endowment is limited to supporting higher education, health care, children’s welfare and spiritual life.

Specifically, Roberson says, that means the United Methodist Church in North Carolina; nonprofit hospitals, adoption agencies and children’s organizations in the Carolinas; and four private educational institutions.

Those four schools are Duke University in Durham, N.C.; Davidson College in Davidson, N.C.; Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, N.C.; and Furman University in Greenville, S.C.

 “One of the strong things that came out of discussions was that there is still significant work to be done in the areas to which Mr. Duke directed his endowment in 1924,” Roberson says.

At the same time, he says, experts looking to the future of the Carolinas frequently talked about ways to encourage collaboration, particularly in areas that address problems of poverty and race relations. The foundation’s trustees heard the messages “loud and clear,” he says.

“We’re considering ways we might be able to do something with a more direct focus,” he says.

The foundation has been sending its anniversary book, “The Carolinas, Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow,” to libraries, government leaders and other charities.

The book explores social and economic trends between 1924 and 1999 and future needs in the two states.

In the book, a panel that included Julius Chambers, chancellor of N.C. Central University in Durham, and Tom Lambeth, retiring executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem, N.C., concluded that race issues have evolved but aren’t getting any easier.

“The race issue isn’t just whites discriminating against blacks,” says Chambers, former director the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund. “It’s everybody discriminating against anybody who is different.”

Lambeth says two critical issues facing the Carolinas are race and poverty — and education is the strategy for dealing with them.

“The nonprofit community needs to be as entrepreneurial as the for-profit community,” he says.

Bill Grigg, chairman emeritus of Charlotte-based Duke Energy Corp., says foundations have an opportunity to encourage collaboration.

“They are, I think, uniquely positioned to convene various elements of the community to deal with problems, and to experiment, to find solutions in ways that government simply can’t,” he says.

David Shi, president of Furman University, looks with excitement at Duke Endowment’s emphasis on multi-agency community initiatives, saying he hopes such programs as the one in Durham can be sustained perennially.

The Duke Endowment, one of the largest foundations in the U.S. celebrated its 75th anniversary in December. Since its founding, it has made grants of more than $1.4 billion and assets have grown to about $2 billion.

In 1999, the foundation contributed about $83.2 million in the Carolinas. The grants included $2 million for flood relief in eastern North Carolina in the wake of flooding from Hurricane Floyd, and a commitment for another $2 million this year and next for a total of $6 million.

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