NCGives aims to transform giving

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. –- Changing the way philanthropy works and is perceived in North Carolina by celebrating and promoting giving and leadership among people of color, women and young people is the focus of a new statewide initiative.

Known as NCGives and supported through a $6 million donor-advised fund at the North Carolina Community Foundation, the effort will kick off publicly March 20 and 21 with a conference in Research Triangle Park.

Up to 300 donors outside mainstream philanthropy will get together at the conference to talk about how they are giving and volunteering in their communities, what they have learned, and what they might need to fill gaps in their philanthropy.

Based on feedback at the conference, organizers say, NCGives will look for ways to invest in helping those donors become more effective and connected with one another and with more traditional donors.

That investment could include the underwriting of workshops, hiring consultants to work with non-traditional donors, providing matching funds to spur their giving, or exploring partnerships with other funders such as community foundations.

Whatever strategies it opts to support will grow out of the work and ideas of donors outside conventional philanthropy, giving them “an opportunity to help us create a vision of where those funds need to be invested,” says Ivan Kohar Parra, a member of the advisory committee for NCGives and executive director of the Durham-based North Carolina Latino Coalition.

“The larger vision is to contribute to the transformation of the field of philanthropy in North Carolina,” he says.

Unlike traditional philanthropy, often perceived as big foundations or wealthy individuals giving money to low-income communities, organizers of NCGives say, the philanthropy it will support consists of individuals already giving “money, time and know-how” in their communities.

“It’s giving that has a lasting social impact because it’s done by the leaders of their own communities who invest their own time, their own money and their own know-how to change things in the community,” Parra says. “The most important source of philanthropy is those leaders in those communities who are already doing that work.”

NCGives builds in part on a statewide effort, known as the North Carolina Discovery Alliance, that spent two years talking to North Carolinians and identifying diverse ways in which philanthropy is practiced in the state.

That effort was funded through $1.1 million in funds created at the Triangle Community Foundation in Research Triangle Park and the N.C. Community Foundation by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Mich.

Kellogg now has created the donor-advised fund at the North Carolina Community Foundation to support NCGives.

NCGives, in turn, has teamed up with five initial partner groups that are identifying and documenting giving by people of color, women and young people.

“Giving is not always the same for all of the citizens of our state,” says Pat Smith, chair of the NCGives advisory committee and president of the Community Foundation of Western North Carolina in Asheville. “People don’t give in the same ways.”

Tom Reis, an advisory committee member and Kellogg program officer, says key goals of NCGives are to “make clear to everybody, and to illustrate by action, what philanthropy really can be, and by that I mean a much more inclusive philanthropy,” and to “change the practice of philanthropy.”

Dan Moore, a former Kellogg program officer who serves as senior consultant to NCGives, says the people who will be involved in the effort will “get a chance to make decisions about how the money and time are used, and how it can be used to leverage other private giving.”

Calvin Allen, another advisory committee member and deputy director of the Southern Rural Development Initiative in Raleigh, says the populations that NCGives aims to support often lack the “institutional power that’s been prevalent with more conventional philanthropy.”

NCGives wants to help those groups “recognize that they are philanthropists” and can make a difference, Allen says.

“Recognizing the fact that there are greater resources available through local givers,” he says, “is the next frontier in giving.”

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