N.C. Community Foundation looks ahead

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — In its first 19 years, the Raleigh-based North Carolina Community Foundation has fostered the growth of 59 community-fund affiliates that raise money and support causes in 63 of the state’s 100 counties.

With nearly $114 million in assets spread among 1,200 endowment funds, the foundation makes grants of nearly $5 million a year in those communities.

And now, with a new chief executive, the foundation is looking to fine-tune the way it serves its local affiliates, as well as donors and nonprofits in communities the affiliates serve.

“I want to make sure we stay true to our roots,” says Jennifer Tolle Whiteside, who in January became the foundation’s second president and CEO, succeeding Elizabeth Fentress, who retired.

The foundation’s mission is to make it easy for North Carolinians “of all means to make lasting and meaningful contributions to their communities,” Tolle Whiteside says.

To do that, the foundation works with its affiliates to give diverse groups a range of options for giving and for assessing and addressing community needs.

With final approval from the statewide foundation’s 38-member board, each local affiliate’s board recommends grants to be made from a pool of contributed funds not restricted in their use, while donors recommend grants to be made from funds they have created and designated for a particular use.

Providing fundraising and back-office support for affiliates are the foundation’s 25 employees, some of whom work in offices or their homes in six regions throughout the state, with a seventh to be added soon for seven counties in the Sandhills.

The staff manages the investment of the foundation’s funds, including those of its affiliates, and handles record-keeping, compliance with tax regulations, and acknowledgements and reporting to donors.

Staff members are available to accompany affiliate board members on visits to donors and prospective donors, and to help affiliates plan fundraising events and workshops for donors and professional advisers.

In an effort to focus on how to best serve a market that is mainly rural, the foundation this summer and fall plans to retool the delivery of some of its services for donors and affiliates, Tolle Whiteside says.

Instead of asking each regional staff member to provide both fundraising and community-leadership support to local affiliates in their regions, for example, the foundation will split those responsibilities among separate staff members in each region.

One staff member in a region will focus on enlisting donors and working with their professional advisers, while another will help local affiliates develop their boards, make grants and plan special events.

Working with NC Gives, for example, the foundation will expand to Wilkes County the youth-leadership program it has developed in Vance County.

The foundation also plans to help women create new funds in three additional counties, adding to the network of funds it has helped women create in Wake, Bertie/Hertford and four counties north of the Albemarle Sound.

In addition to the fundraising support it provides to affiliates, the foundation aims to educate donors and nonprofits in their communities about issues facing the state, and engage them in efforts to address those issues.

To do that, the foundation likely will use the web, email and workshops to provide training and information.

Key to the foundation’s future, Tolle Whiteside says, is the development of its board and the boards of its affiliates, which have a total of roughly 600 board members.

The foundation’s board has reorganized its nominations committee as a board-development committee that will focus on educating board members, setting expectations for them and addressing issues like governance.

“Board development,” says Tolle Whiteside, “is probably the most critical piece in terms of an organization’s success.”

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