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Cumberland fund on move

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By Todd Cohen

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. — After focusing initially on making grants and later on recruiting donors, the Cumberland Community Foundation now aims to cultivate donors by involving them in grantmaking.

Formed in 1980 with a gift of $576,000 from Dr. Lucile Hutaff, a Fayetteville native who taught medicine at Wake Forest University, the foundation has built its assets to $21 million, and expects to get at least $24 million more through bequests and planned gifts it knows about.

Mary Holmes, who joined the foundation as executive director in 1997 after serving as city executive in Fayetteville for First Union, says her goal is to build the endowment to $100 million by 2015.

This month, the foundation will start holding monthly meetings to introduce members of the community to its work, and invite them to get involved as donors.

Key goals, Holmes says, are to help donors understand they can set the philanthropic focus of funds they create, and that making a gift now through a will or estate plan can have a big impact in the future.

In its fiscal year ended June 30, for example, the foundation received more than $1.5 million from the estate of a couple who held modest jobs and created the gift in their will in 1982 after the foundation publicly announced its startup.

The bequest was one of 1,316 gifts totaling $4.1 million the foundation received in its just-ended fiscal year, when it made $1.2 million in grants.

Grants, drawing on 266 funds created by donors, support causes ranging from scholarships, civic education and neighborhood programs to helping nonprofits strengthen their internal operations.

The foundation reaches out to donors through professional advisers and its 21-member board of directors, chaired by Leslie Griffin, president of Cape Fear Financial Services.

Donors also are referred through a committee of 25 retired teachers and educators advising the foundation on scholarships it awards, and a 17-member committee advising it on small grants to neighborhood programs.

While its bylaws say it serves 13 counties, most foundation donors so far have been from Cumberland County, plus a handful in Harnett, Robeson and Scotland counties.

The foundation, which aims to reach donors in other counties, refers prospective donors in Chatham, Hoke, Moore and Richmond counties to community foundations already serving those markets.

BB&T and Merrill Lynch currently manage investments for the foundation, which also lets local brokers who steer clients to it invest their charitable funds with American Funds and MFS Mutual Funds.

The foundation allocates 60 percent of its assets to blue-chip stocks and 40 percent to high-grade bonds.

Its assets lost 8 percent in 2002, but grew 11 percent in the first eight months of this year.

“Market performance and the economy are out of our control,”
says Holmes. “What is in our control is the extent to which we include the community in the good work of the foundation from the standpoint of grantmaking and donor services.”

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