Teaming up – Funding pool in works

By Todd Cohen

North Carolina foundations are aggressively looking for ways to work together.

In a series of meetings, executives of a dozen or so private, community and corporate foundations have talked about finding ways to share information, exchange ideas and launch collaborative funding initiatives.

Options range from informal get-togethers to creation of a statewide membership organization.

“There’s genuine, fairly broad, specific interest in thinking through ways we can take advantage of each other’s knowledge and wisdom, and improve our grantmaking, improving how we do our work,” says Tom Ross, executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation in Winston-Salem.

The growing momentum for greater collaboration, which follows a more modest effort several years ago, reflects changes in the leadership of some foundations, the creation of new foundations and growing concern over shrinking endowments resulting from the weakening economy and stock market.

“The nonprofit sector is going to be under a lot of stress,” Ross says.

Reynolds’ assets, for example, have declined 12 percent to 15 percent from $500 million when Ross joined the foundation in January, he says.

Options for collaboration among foundations include a creating list-serve to improve communication and share information, teaming up to seek matching funds from national foundations and convening foundation officials to focus on particular issues, including a possible meeting in January.

North Carolina foundations, for example, plan to pursue two separate initiatives in which national foundations are pooling funds to match dollars pooled by state and local foundations.

One of those initiatives aims to expand Latino philanthropy and support groups serving Latino communities, while the other will focus on expanding the role of lawyers as partners in social-justice causes.

Richard L. “Skip” Moore, president of the Weaver Foundation in Greensboro, says the emerging foundation group does not plan to offer professional development for foundation officials because they could get that from trade groups.

He says he hopes the emerging group can serve “as a platform to get good information about issues we are confronting, and share people’s strategies about how to confront them and how to pool resources and efforts.”

In Greensboro, for example, six foundations have invested $500,000 to support an economic-growth initiative, he said, including a study by McKinsey & Co. and creation of Action Greensboro, a nonprofit examining local issues.  

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