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Cumberland fund grows

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Community foundation’s assets quadruple in seven years.

By Todd Cohen

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. [06.16.04] — After raising $7 million in its first 17 years, the Cumberland Community Foundation has quadrupled its assets in the last seven years.

Driving that endowment surge has been the foundation’s board, which in each of the past three years has accounted for $9 or more of every $10 contributed to the foundation.

Those dollars include gifts donated by board members or by donors referred to the foundation by board members.

“Our board members give and get,” says Mary Holmes, executive director.

Formed in 1980 with a gift from a Lucile Hutaff, a former medical school professor at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, the foundation in the ‘80s received only one gift, consisting of two buildings donated by Cape Fear Bank, now part of BB&T, that the foundation now occupies.

After hiring its first professional staff in 1990, the board worked hard to raise unrestricted gifts and to raise endowment funds to support operations, says Holmes, who joined the foundation in 1997 as its second executive director after working as city executive in Fayetteville for First Union.

Today, just over one-third of the foundation’s assets are unrestricted, a share that Holmes says is unusually high for a community foundation.

And operating costs are covered entirely by a combination of income from the endowment earmarked for operations, grants from donors and foundations, and a small administrative fee for handling endowment funds, she says.

Grants by the foundation grew to nearly $1.3 million in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2003, from nearly $1.2 million a year earlier, and total more than $1.6 million in the fiscal year that will end in June.

The foundation’s staff grew to five in February with the hiring of Anita Alexander as its first full-time program officer.

Holmes, who credits an active board and aggressive communications strategy for the foundation’s recent growth, says the it now is working to diversify its donor base, in part by halving to $5,000 the minimum that donors must give over five years to create an endowed fund.

And stepping up efforts to market itself as an alternative it private foundations, the foundation now manages roughly 80 donor-advised funds ranging from $2,000 to $100,000, plus two of nearly $2 million each.

The foundation also has reactivated its Friends of African American Families Fund, which has grown to $25,000 from $10,000 two years ago, and is co-chaired by retired educators Ruby Murchison and John Griffin, and also has enlisted more donors outside Fayetteville, particularly in Harnett, Robeson, Sampson and Scotland counties.

And it has provided free training for nonprofits, which in turn have turned to the foundation to build their endowments, Holmes says.

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