Expansion plans – Weathering the downturn

By Todd Cohen

Despite the economy’s slide, the Triad’s three big community foundations are geared for growth.

While assets at The Winston-Salem Foundation fell to $210 million at the end of 2001 from $227 million a year earlier, grants climbed to a record high for the second straight year, totaling nearly $18.2 million, up from $14.1 million in 2000.

Gifts fell to $18 million from $30 million a year earlier, when the foundation received two one-time gifts totaling $12 million, but the number of families advising the foundation on funds they created reached an all-time high of 450.

And the foundation already has met 40 percent of its goal – set by its board in 1999 – of raising at least $100 million in new endowed funds by 2009 for its 90th anniversary.

The foundation is advertising using radio, newspapers and billboards, and continues to work closely with donors and professional advisers.

“While we’re obviously waiting for the economy and the markets to rebound, we believe we’re doing the right things to position the foundation for future growth,” says Scott Wierman, the foundation’s president.

Assets at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro grew slightly – to $65 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2001, from $64 million a year earlier – mainly because contributions to the foundation doubled to $12.8 million from $6.4 million.

In the six months through December, contributions grew to $5.5 million from $4.8 million in the same period in 2000.

Grants grew to $7.5 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2001, from $5.6 million a year earlier.

The foundation has dropped its limit on the number of successors a donor may designate to advise a fund he or she creates, and has cut to about eight days from 60 the time it takes to process request for grants from donor-advised funds.

“For the last two years, we’ve worked on evolving our organization into being a center for philanthropy that is focused on building relationships,” says Walker Sanders, the foundation’s president.

Thanks to a $5 million pledge in the fall of 1997 from donors Jim and Jesse Millis, the High Point Community Foundation last year reached the goal it set in 1998 of securing $20 million in gifts and pledges by 2003.

The foundation, formed in 1990, now has $10 million in assets, plus another $10 million in deferred gifts. That’s up from $5.8 million in total assets in 1998, when the foundation hired its first full-time executive director, Paul Lessard.

Because it has met its goal ahead of schedule, the foundation’s board has set a new goal of $50 million in gifts and pledges by the end of 2007, or $4 million a year.

“A community foundation grows by establishing trust and confidence in the community for what we do,” Lessard says.

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