Weaver focuses on impact, collaboration

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Mission Possible, a one-year-old collaborative effort to improve math teaching in underperforming high schools in Guilford County, is holding is first institute for math teachers this summer.

The Welfare Reform Liaison Project, in partnership with the Guilford Education Alliance and Leadership Greensboro, this fall will open a “School Supply Warehouse” that will stock classroom items for teachers in county schools with high concentrations of low-income children.

And Action Greensboro, a collaborative effort to revive Greensboro’s economy, is gearing up to develop and launch a second phase of initiatives that could cost roughly $35 million, and likely will ask government to play a greater role in financing and developing them.

Working behind the scenes on all those efforts is the Weaver Foundation, a 40-year-old grantmaking foundation that in recent years increasingly has teamed up with other foundations and organizations on community projects.

“We’ve worked together so long, we just naturally tend to talk to each other about projects and activities, particularly if they have any size to it, so we can put together a consortium,” says Richard L. “Skip” Moore, the foundation’s president.

With nearly $30 million in assets, the foundation awards $1.3 million to $1.5 million in grants a year in the greater Greensboro area, mainly to support children and youth, community development, education, and building the “capacity” of nonprofits.

Formed by W. Herman Weaver and his son, H. Michael Weaver, chairman of The Weaver Group, the foundation does not set deadlines for grant applications but either submits grants to its own board for special consideration or invites specific nonprofits to submit grant requests.

The foundation generally does not award grants under $10,000, although it does give $50,000 a year to a fund at the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro that awards smaller grants to nonprofits.

In addition to making grants to individual nonprofits to support their programs, the foundation also makes grants to help nonprofits strengthen their operations.

Through its capacity-building grants, for example, the foundation might help a nonprofit develop a strategic plan, hire its first development director, develop a master plan for a new facility or buy software or computers.

The foundation also spearheaded formation in 2003 of the Guilford Nonprofit Consortium, a mutual-support network that brings nonprofits together to share ideas, expertise and resources, and operates a website at www.guilfordnonprofits.org that lets individuals make contributions to individual nonprofits.

The foundation also has played a key role in the creation of collaborative efforts to boost the region’s schools and economy.

Mission Possible, for example, is a collaborative project among the Guilford Public Schools; the University of North Carolina system and its campuses at UNC-Greensboro and N.C. A&T State University; and four local foundations, including the Weaver Foundation.

And Action Greensboro raised $32 million to finance its first three years of work, including a total of $20 million from the Weaver Foundation and five other foundations.

That effort has spawned construction of First Horizon Stadium and Center City Park; investment in downtown housing and marketing; and the merger of Action Greensboro with the Greensboro Chamber to form the Greensboro Partnership.

Now, with funding from Weaver and other foundations, Action Greensboro has hired UNC-G and Cooper & Secrest Associates in Arlington, Va., to conduct research that planning teams will use later this to develop new initiatives to begin next year.

Action Greensboro will raise money and enlist partners to undertake those initiatives, which could cost $30 million to $35 million, Moore says.

“We will be emphasizing more public-private partnerships this time than last time,” he says, “so we’ll be expecting more public participation.”

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