Warner suspends funding

By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — The $8.8 million-asset Warner Foundation in Durham is suspending its grantmaking for about six months to assess its first four years and map its future.

The foundation, which works to improve economic opportunity and race relations and typically awards $1.2 million a year in two grant cycles, will not accept grant requests that would have been due Feb. 15 or make grants it would have awarded in June.

Instead, its board and staff will hold meetings and focus groups throughout the state with community members, grant recipients and other funders, and will conduct surveys and studies to measure the impact of its grants.

The goal is to build on the foundation’s work so far and tighten its grantmaking focus to have a greater impact, says Tony Pipa, executive director.

“Our grantmaking until now has allowed us to learn about a wide range of issue,” he says. “We want to take the opportunity to see what’s been working, what’s been working well and how we can strengthen that.”

Created by Michael Warner and his wife, Elizabeth Craven, with proceeds from the sale of Warner’s scheduling-software firm Atwork Inc., the foundation – which had assets of nearly $10.5 million in January — has given more than $5.3 million to more than 145 groups in the state.

With grants averaging nearly $27,000 and totaling as much as $40,000, Pipa says, the foundation has focused its funding on increasing income and wealth; boosting educational achievement and access; helping people “find their voice;” and looking for ways to “build sustained relationships” among people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

Grants, which initially were made mainly in the Triangle, most recently have focused on rural areas in northeastern North Carolina and, to a lesser extent, Western North Carolina.

The foundation will continue to back collaborative efforts to create a statewide funders network, boost Latino philanthropy, promote racial justice and expand the role of philanthropy in the state.

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