Reynolds Trust suspends local grant requests

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In the five fiscal years that ended last August 31, the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem made nearly $32 million in total grants to programs serving financially-needy people in Forsyth County.

In that same period, funding requests to the Trust’s Poor and Needy Division grew on an annual basis and totaled nearly $40 million.

“Need in the community continues to outstrip all available financial resources,” says Karen McNeil-Miller, president of the Trust. “We have been trying to respond to that continuing need.”

Now, based on existing commitments for the fiscal year that begins September 1 to invest roughly $5.5 million in programs for the financially needy in Forsyth County, the Trust’s Poor and Needy Division has decided not to solicit additional grant requests during that 12-month period.

The $559 million-asset Trust, one of the biggest sources of private support for groups that serve needy people in the county, will resume review of new applications for support in July 2007.

Previously-committed funding plus recurring grants to 11 groups for which the Trust provides operating support will continue throughout 2006 and 2007.

“The fact that we are not going to accept applications beyond the 11 organizations we currently fund on an ongoing basis doesn’t mean our commitment to the community or our investment in the community is going to be diminished in any way,” McNeil-Miller says.

She says a new strategic direction for the Trust, to be announced in June after a year-long planning effort, will not change the Trust’s mission of improving “the quality of life for people who have the least,” or the share of its totaling funding the Trust distributes in Forsyth County.

The Trust typically makes grants each year totaling at least 5 percent of its assets, and earmarks one-fourth of that funding to serve the poor and needy in Forsyth County, and three-fourths to address the health-care needs of the financially needy throughout the state.

McNeil-Miller says requests for funding in recent years have been unprecedented and have included proposals to finance capital projects, address current needs and prepare for future needs.

In trying to respond to those requests, she says, the Trust has “already committed everything that we anticipate having as our expenditures next year.”

Joyce Adger, director of the Trust’s Poor and Needy Division, says that, despite modest improvement in the economy in recent years, the ranks of the poor have continued to grow, increasing pressure on agencies that serve them.

Those agencies have been submitting larger funding requests, she says.

And while the Poor and Needy Division has set as its top priority funding to address basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter and health care, Adger says, agencies are “starting to think more about prevention and long-term solutions.”

In March, for example, the Trust approved over $2.9 million in grants for operating expenses and capital projects at 16 nonprofit human-service agencies in Forsyth County.

Of the total, nearly $1.5 million was awarded to programs that address basic needs, while $1.4 million is going mainly to programs that help individuals and families reduce their reliance on support services, and boost their self-sufficiency.

United Way of Forsyth County, for example, was awarded $172,500 over three years to help lead and coordinate the proposed 10-year plan to end chronic homelessness in the county by providing stable           housing to meet emergency needs, and then providing support services to address the underlying causes of homelessness.

“We will see more of that,” Adger says, “organizations saying, ‘Let’s not put a band-aid on the problem, but let’s address the root causes.’”

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