By Ret Boney
RALEIGH, N.C. — Elizabeth Fentress, founding president of the North Carolina Community Foundation, announced she will retire effective November 30.
Fentress joined the foundation in 1988, when it was established with the goal of building philanthropic resources in communities across the state that are often outside the mainstream of philanthropy.
“It’s a good time,” says Fentress. “We’re getting ready to adopt a three-year plan that is action-packed. We’ve laid the groundwork and we have the franchise. We’re in such a good place.”
She will continue to work with the foundation as a consultant, she says, helping her successor get acclimated, and taking on special projects.
Over the past 18 years, Fentress led the Raleigh-based foundation as it grew to more than $105 million in assets and spawned 59 affiliate foundations serving about 64 counties across the state.
The foundation administers more than 1,000 charitable funds that make grants totaling more than $3 million a year to charitable causes including arts festivals, scholarships and 4-H clubs.
“It’s been fun to see philanthropy evolve outside an urban area, at its most local area, not the city club,” says Fentress. “We go where the people are and that’s been a highlight.”
She says she is also proud of the work the foundation has done to bring people in communities together, she says.
“The North Carolina Community Foundation is apolitical and has come to be a binding force for people to rally around in many communities,” she says. “That has truly been a highlight.”
A search committee chaired by board member Sherwood Smith, former chairman of Carolina Power & Light Co., will begin recruiting for Fentress’ replacement immediately, with the help of consultant Beth Briggs, president of Creative Philanthropy in Raleigh.
The committee will conduct its search primarily in North Carolina, Fentress says, and is looking for someone with solid fundraising experience and an entrepreneurial spirit and who can represent the foundation to all walks of life.