By Todd Cohen
A new institute at N.C. State University is gearing up to prepare and spur students, faculty and nonprofits to take on critical social issues and help shape social change, school officials and institute supporters say.
The institute, which is poised to hire a director, announced May 21 it will get $1 million over four years from the A.J. Fletcher Foundation if it can raise another $1 million privately.
NCSU also said North State Bank in Raleigh had made the first matching grant, which its chairman and CEO, Larry Barbour, said totaled $15,000.
Officials of NCSU and Fletcher, which publishes the Philanthropy Journal, said they wanted the new institute to develop more businesslike and entrepreneurial nonprofit leaders and help shake up philanthropy.
“The role of nonprofits has to change,” said Barbara Goodmon, a Fletcher director who first proposed the idea for the institute. “They’re in a mess. They don’t have the skills or know where to get them to make decisions they have to make.”
Those decisions, she said, include breaking out of “a certain way of doing things” and also finding partners to do the work that government no longer can do alone.
The institute “moves the nonprofit world into a business arena,” she said.
Linda Brady, dean of NCSU’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, which will house the institute, said it could be a “flagship” program “showing how we can help society deal with the challenges we face.”
The institute, she said, should be a “social barometer” that will “raise the flag and raise concerns when we’re not making progress” in tackling social problems.
Jim Goodmon, CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Co. and president of the Fletcher Foundation, said he hoped the institute will develop nonprofit leaders who will push for change in North Carolina.
“”We are a lower-tier southern state and we’re getting lower,” Goodmon said, adding that the state ranks poorly in a broad range of social and economic indicators, yet has “no plan to move us from where we are to where we want to be.”
“It’s not that government can’t do it, it’s that they won’t do it,” he said. “It’s the nonprofit community that needs to hold our elected officials accountable.”
Chancellor Marye Anne Fox said the institute would build on NCSU’s traditional “outreach” mission as a land-grant institution by supporting nonprofits through research, education and public service it develops in partnership with them.
“The nonprofit sector in North Carolina has not received the attention in academia that it really has deserved,” she said.
Brady said the institute would work closely with nonprofits to identify needs and priorities to help drive development of its curriculum, research and “engagement,” or public service.
She said 130 people had applied to be the institute’s director, and she had interviewed four of them – all from outside North Carolina.
She said she planned to offer the job to her top choice in about a week, and hoped to have the job filled by July 1.
“We’re not looking for a traditional faculty member,” she said. “We want someone with an advanced degree who will have credibility with the faculty but also with the nonprofit sector.”