Working for children

Marshall Bass offers management boost for nonprofits focused on kids.

By Laura Moretz

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — With the Marshall B. Bass Children’s Fund, philanthropist Marshall Bass combines his passions for helping children and managing organizations.

Bass built his management skills in a 23-year Army career and retired as an officer.

He followed with a career at R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., where he retired as a senior vice president in 1991.

In both the Army and at Reynolds, Bass spearheaded efforts to integrate organizations at all levels.

Bass says it only makes sense to use his extensive management experience to help nonprofits that support children.

He succeeded in his life despite “difficult circumstances,” he says. “I didn’t know it at the time, but I know it now.”

Now, he wants to find ways to help children succeed, he says.

“It’s a good feeling to participate in the lives of young folk,” he says. “I enjoy trying to make opportunities for them.”

The goal of the fund is to help Forsyth County nonprofits that serve children sharpen their ability to manage programs, volunteers and money. Its grants do not support operations.

“I believe that one of the most critical parts of any organization is the capability to manage,” Bass says. “That has been a part of my life’s work. I feel very strongly that organizations can effectively do what they are required to do if they are well managed.”

When he was setting up the fund, Bass consulted with Ron Drago, president of United Way of Forsyth County, who agreed an emphasis on management was sorely needed.

“I hate to say it, but a lot of times that’s one of the things that really gets overlooked,” Drago says.

“We’re always feeling pressured to put the dollars into programming,” he says. “As a result, training and development gets overlooked. Not only is it providing a valuable service, but he’s filling a pretty significant gap that none of us could say we’re really doing a good job with.”

In its large grant program, the fund offers up to $22,500 over three years.

Organizations accepting the grants are required to engage in a self-evaluation and planning process to improve management of their programs.

Each year they are required to report back to the fund on their progress.

The fund’s board members volunteer as consultants to the nonprofits that receive grants and to those that consider applying.

Board members “have a good nurturing process where a committee will meet with people even in advance of submitting an application,” Drago says. “They try to align what they are proposing so it sits very nicely with what the fund wants to do.”

And instead of “some large funding organization where everything is done blind,” he says, “this is a very helping approach, and the fund might be able to give them some direction.”

The fund also offers small grants of up to $1,000 to pay for management training, and it sponsors training seminars twice a year on such topics as fundraising.

Bass says the fund has received many requests for grants from outside Forsyth County and may expand its service area in the future.

He also has endowed scholarships at Winston-Salem State University and Voorhees College in South Carolina.

“There are so many good causes out there to help people,” he says. “I have focused on children and education. That’s my niche.”

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