Philanthropic catalyst

By Todd Cohen

North Carolina is losing a leader who has helped transform and shape the future of the Raleigh-Durham area by persuading people to share their wealth.

Shannon St. John, who will step down this summer after 21 years as its founding chief executive, has built the Triangle Community Foundation into a $100 million pool of permanent philanthropic assets supporting causes donors care about.

And through the “Catalyst Project” it launched in 1996 to triple the region’s permanent philanthropic assets over 20 years, the foundation already has identified more than $245 million in new charitable funds.

Whether talking to donors, financial-services professionals or nonprofit executives, St. John has spread the simple yet urgent message that the region’s vitality and growth depend on using charitable planning to help map the future.

Donors can reap tax benefits from charitable planning and use their giving to strengthen civic life. And by involving kin in their giving, donors can bring their families closer to together and engage them in the life of the community.

As St. John sets her sights elsewhere, Triangle residents can only hope her successor will provide the same passionate and professional leadership that has built a legacy of community generosity and caring.

Todd Cohen is the Editor and Publisher of the Philanthropy Journal.

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