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Cultural Trust focuses on planned giving

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By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A foundation formed nearly four years ago to help cultural groups raise endowment funds through planned giving has a new name, a new executive and a new direction.

With $77 million in assets, The Greater Charlotte Cultural Trust, formerly known as the Foundation for the Arts & Sciences, is working to help the 24 affiliates of the Arts & Science Council develop their planned-giving programs, says Chris McLeod, the Trust’s new vice president.

McLeod, a lawyer and former director of corporate and foundation relations at UNC-Charlotte, says her initial focus will be helping the affiliates develop and communicate their long-term plans, and engage their donors in their vision.

“Donors give when they’re inspired about their ability to be part of a solution and making an impact,” McLeod says. “But people in planned giving talk so much about tax benefits and planned-giving vehicles, and they fail to understand that that is not what inspires people to give.”

Launched in 2002 with $40 million in assets transferred from the Arts & Science Council, the Trust is housed at Foundation for the Carolinas and is expected to double its assets to roughly $140 million at the conclusion of the council’s campaign to generate support for cultural facilities.

McLeod, who started her new job Aug. 28, has been meeting with executive directors and sometimes also with board chairs of affiliates to learn about their development efforts, their donors and their relationships with donors.

She also will be attending meetings of affiliates’ boards to talk about planned giving and its potential for “securing the future of their organizations,” she says.

While planned giving can involve bequests or complex transactions involving deferred gifts and assets other than cash, McLeod says, nonprofits can begin laying the groundwork for gifts by improving communication with donors.

That could involve sharing the nonprofit’s vision and creating enthusiasm among donors for providing for the organization in their will or estate plan, she says.

Engaging donors in thinking about helping a nonprofit achieve its long-term goals, McLeod says, also can benefit its short-term fundraising.

“One of the biggest myths of planned giving is that people are concerned it’s going to hurt annual giving,” she says. “Most donors, when they make a planned gift, become more committed to an organization.”

Colleges, universities and religious congregations in Charlotte have done a good job educating donors about planned giving and its impact, McLeod says, and the challenge for The Greater Charlotte Cultural Trust is to better educate donors about the role planned giving can have for cultural organizations.

In addition to meeting with affiliates, McLeod will be convening their executive directors and development directors, probably every other month, to share ideas and best practices, talk about their efforts to improve their development programs, hear from guest speakers, and even “vent some of their frustration,” she says.

“When you’re a sole development person, it can be a lonely job,” she says. “We’re trying to develop a sense of community and professional development.”

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