Web links donors, nonprofits

By Todd Cohen

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — The Triangle Community Foundation has reworked its Web site and launched a new “Philanthropy Central” portal for community giving that aims to help connect donors and nonprofits in the region.

The new portal is part of a larger foundation effort to revamp its grantmaking to better serve donors and increase the impact of its grants.

The portal will let nonprofits fill out profiles about themselves and provide information about programs that need funding.

Using information donors can submit starting Oct. 1 to identify their philanthropic interests, the portal will connect donors to nonprofits whose profiles seem to match those interests.

Starting Nov. 1, any visitor can use the portal to make donations to local nonprofits.

A new “find-and-give” feature will let visitors to the site search or browse for programs to support, while a secure section will let donors check the balance and grantmaking history for charitable funds they create at the foundation.

The site also will provide resources for donors and professional advisers.

“We’re trying to build a bridge between donors and nonprofit organizations in the area,” says Jodi Hubble, the foundation’s director of communications and former marketing and communications manager in Research Triangle Park for T3, a technology subsidiary of Trinity Consultants, an environmental consulting firm in Dallas, Tex.

.The Triangle Community Foundation and the Arizona Community Foundation together have invested more than $1 million in the new Web technology. Both foundations will use the technology, which is being developed by ephibian, a tech firm based in Tucson, Ariz.

In recent years, nonprofits seeking foundation support competed for roughly $475,000 a year in discretionary funds, with grants limited to $10,000, and one grant per nonprofit.

The foundation expanded the funding pool by trying to match grant requests with the interests of donors who had created funds at the foundation that make annual grants totaling another $336,000.

But that approach did not have the impact it might have because it focused on nonprofit needs rather than donor interests, says Shannon St. John, the foundation’s president.

So starting last December, all 500 funds that donors have created at the foundation – and which made $15 million in grants last year – have been available for grants, with no limit on the size of grants or number of grants per nonprofit.

So far, the new approach has resulted in 125 grants totaling nearly $1.1 million.

“The unique resource a community foundation has that no other grantmaking entity has is hundreds of donors,” St. John says. “And we were failing to capitalize on that unique resource,” including donors’ know-how, networks and interests.

“This allows us to bring all of that to the table in addition to their financial resources,” she says.

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