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Community foundations team up

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By Todd Cohen

Assets at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro and the Winston-Salem Foundation grew in 2006 to record highs of nearly $103 million and over $287 million, respectively.

The growth in assets totaled nearly $14.5 million and roughly $15 million, respectively, and reflected in part the creation by donors of 54 new funds at the Greensboro foundation and 59 new funds at the Winston-Salem group.

Throughout the United States, assets and giving are growing faster at community foundations, which house funds created by donors and make grants to nonprofits, than at independent and corporate foundations.

And in a handful of states, including North Carolina, community foundations have been working with one another to better market their services to lawyers, accountants, estate planners and other professional advisers, and to donors.

Working through the 74-member North Carolina Network of Grantmakers, 14 of the state’s 28 community foundations two years ago formed a statewide marketing effort known as Community Foundations Serving North Carolina.

With funding from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation in Michigan, Wachovia, and the Southeastern Council of Foundations in Atlanta, and with fees participating community foundations have assessed on themselves, the group has run ads in statewide professional publications for lawyers, accountants and business executives.

“When we think about marketing, we’re talking about long-term relationships with professional advisers,” says Margaret Foster, director of marketing and communications for the Winston-Salem Foundation.

With community foundations in the state typically purchasing little advertising on their own, she says, the joint effort aims to “add more horsepower” than individual foundations otherwise would might have.

The North Carolina effort also has used marketing materials developed by Williams Group in Grand Rapids, Mich., that individual community foundations can customize and distribute to professional advisers to help them and their clients understand the services and value that community foundations can provide.

The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, for example, has used materials from a “tool box” developed by Williams Group that are geared for lawyers and accountants.

“The whole purpose of this marketing effort is to acquaint the advisers with the type of funds at community foundations that they can use to meet their clients’ needs,” says Patrick Weiner, vice president for development and planned giving.

The statewide marketing effort also operates a website at communityfoundationsnc.org, which includes links to its members and help in finding local community foundations.

And the group organizes quarterly marketing conference calls that let members share information, ideas and best practices.

Members also have staffed exhibit booths at conferences for professional advisers and have sponsored continuing-education workshops for advisers.

The Triangle Community Foundation in Durham, for example, teamed up with the N.C. Bar Association and the Financial Planning Association of the Triangle to host a five-hour workshop for their member and certified public accountants on structuring charitable gifts for clients.

Kristen Brown Smalley, gift planning adviser for the foundation, later talked with other community foundations about the value of the workshop in working with advisers, and she says other foundations now are considering holding local sessions of their own.

Professional advisers “have such power and influence with their clients, and their clients trust them,” she says. “And very often, the first really concrete steps towards philanthropy are taken as a suggestion of your attorney or your accountant.”

Bobbi Hapgood, executive director of the Chapel Hill-based North Carolina Network of Grantmakers, says the ultimate goal of the collaborative effort is to promote philanthropy.

“So you want to reach advisers to individuals who are thinking about estate planning or retirement,” she says, “or what to do with resources that could be used for the community.”

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