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Funder challenges nonprofits

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By Solja Nygard Frangos

GASTONIA, N.C. – Stung by the weak economy and stock market, the Community Foundation of Gaston County has earmarked $250,000, or nearly 10 percent of its grants budget, for challenge grants to local nonprofits.

The foundation, which last year suffered a decline in assets and in gifts from donors, will give up to $10,000 to individual nonprofits, based on how much they raise in the foundation’s Run for the Money road race March 29.

The event, which celebrates the foundation’s 25th anniversary and includes a 5K run and 2K walk, already has raised more than $170,000. Roughly 60 nonprofits are expected to take part and will be eligible for prize money donated by race winners.

Participation in the race also can increase nonprofits’ visibility, says Nan Murphy, executive director of the Gaston School of the Arts, a race participant.

The school, which serves about 500 students a year, will have an information booth at the event site, and students and teachers will take part in the race.

The school’s goal is to raise at least $10,000, Murphy says.   

Established in 1978 with $726,000 in assets from a private hospital  that closed, the foundation serves a region of about 180,000 inhabitants.

Last year, its assets fell 6 percent to $60 million, and gifts from donors foundation fell to $2.9 million from $18.2 million in 2001, when the foundation received most of a $16 million gift from the estate of an anonymous donor.

Even without that big gift in 2001, gifts still exceeded those in 2002.

The foundation, which manages about 200 charitable funds, last year made grants totaling roughly $2.7 million in grants, down from nearly almost $3 million a year earlier.

Many donors did not add to their funds, which gave only their investment earnings to nonprofits, Edgerton says.

This year, he says, the foundation expects grants to decline again.

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