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Triangle funder weathers slump

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By Todd Cohen

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — The sliding economy last year dampened the creation of new funds at the Triangle Community Foundation, but existing donors stepped up and continued to contribute.

Total contributions in the first half of the foundation’s fiscal year, through December 2001, fell to $8.1 million from $10.3 million a year earlier, when the economy still was growing. Differences in contributions from year to year also can reflect big one-time gifts from donors.

Yet the share of contributions from new funds during the period, typically the foundation’s busiest, fell to 15 percent in 2001, compared to 35 percent in 2000 and 50 percent in 1999.

Grants awarded by the foundation in the six months through December totaled $5.7 million, compared to $8.3 million a year earlier and $3.1 million in the same period in 1999.

Most grants awarded by the $86 million-asset foundation are from “donor-advised” charitable funds, with donors actively involved in recommending grant recipients. Not all funds make grants ever year.

“People who had not already started with us were holding back,” says Fred Stang, director of development. “But people who had already created funds with us were still involved with their philanthropy, still making new contributions.”

Continual giving by donors is a key goal, he says.

“Our primary game plan is to meet the needs of fundholders here,” he says. “Asset development will follow in kind from that.”

Stang’s job is to find new donors, who then are assigned to one of the foundation’s five staff members who serve as philanthropic advisers.

“We’re putting a lot of effort into getting to know the people who have donor-advised funds better, getting to know their charitable goals better, so that we can match them up with grant opportunities,” Stang says.

The foundation also aims to work more closely with donors on creating future gifts through estate plans, including bequests and charitable trusts, and helping them better connect their philanthropy with their personal values and goals.

Deferred gifts that the foundation expects to receive total an estimated $93 million.

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