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Getting in gear – Linking donors, causes

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By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — The Winston-Salem Foundation is retooling itself to handle rapid growth, recruit more donors and help connect people and groups in the community with one another.

“We have more relationships and more dollars going into the community,” says Scott Wierman, the foundation’s president. “That is why we put emphasis on our infrastructure.

In the five years through Dec. 31. 1999, the foundation nearly tripled its assets to $216 million – adding another $16 million in the first nine months of this year — and doubled the number of funds created by donors to nearly 800.

Assets at the end of last year included $35 million in future gifts created over the previous five years through charitable trusts.

And this year, annual gifts to the foundation are expected to exceed $30 million for the first time.

Grants also have grown, with the foundation handing out nearly $12 million last year, up from about $8 million five years earlier and $11.3 million in 1998.

To cope with rising demand for its services, the foundation has moved to strengthen its operations and expand its role in the community.

This year, for example, the foundation boosted its staff to 18 by adding four jobs, including the new position of marketing and communications director. It also is adding a 19th post by creating the position of MIS director.

As part of its marketing and communications push, the foundation has revamped the reports it prepares for donors on the investment and grant activities of their funds, and will include those reports on a new Web site that will be launched soon.

The site at www.wsfoundation.org, which was designed by Winston-Salem ad agency Pike Cassels and is in the process of being launched, also will feature information for professional advisers on how to set up charitable trusts.

It also will serve as a local franchise for the Charlotte-based Planned Giving Design Center, an online tool that helps prospective donors calculate the tax and income impact of setting up gifts through wills and other future gifts.

Another big move was the transfer of record-keeping for a $160 million account. Wachovia, which along with nine other investment managers continues to manage those assets, sold the record-keeping function to Boston-based State Street Bank, which has opened a Winston-Salem office.

And to tap into new products and services for community foundations, the foundation has subscribed to Community Foundations of America, a new buyer association in Louisville, Ky., that already includes more than 100 subscribers representing nearly one-fifth of U.S. community foundations.

The foundation also has undertaken a handful of big initiatives to expand its community impact.

“One of the big things we’re focused on is how do we continue to get the word out to promote philanthropy in all its forms in the community,” says Wierman.

The foundation, for example, is participating in a national study involving 36 community foundations that aims to measure the “social capital,” or civic connections, in each of their communities.

The foundation also created a $2.5 million community-building fund. By the end of the year, the ECHO Fund – which will operate for at least five years — will have made grants totaling $300,000 to $400,000.

The foundation also has launched an initiative to expand black philanthropy in the community, and is hiring a consultant to help form an advisory committee on black giving.

In the first quarter of 2001, the foundation will conduct its first extensive survey of donors. Kevin Bokeno, director of public relations and marketing at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, will work on the survey on a consulting basis.

Wierman says the foundation’s biggest challenges are to find ways to help strengthen the community through philanthropy, and to work more closely and share information with community foundations in other cities and town.

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