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Donor encouraging wealthy to give more

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By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A low-key Greensboro donor who provides modest support for a broad range of local and Jewish causes through his family foundation is expanding his focus to include a new initiative to promote greater giving among wealthy individuals.

Spearheaded by philanthropist Leonard Kaplan and his family’s Toleo Foundation, the initiative aims to provide an “infrastructure” to make it easier for wealthy donors to give, and plans to focus attention on particular problems and groups that address them, says Cathy Levinson, the foundation’s executive director.

Formed in 1982 as the Kaplan Family Foundation by Kaplan, who since has retired as president and CEO of Kay Chemical Co., a High Point family firm he sold in 1994, the foundation in 1996 became the Toleo Foundation, renamed for Kaplan and his wife, Tobee.

With the Kaplans serving as the only trustees and employing two employees, the foundation had $4.2 million in total assets at the end of 2006 and made grants that year totaling just over $168,000, according to the most recent annual return it filed with the IRS.

The foundation traditionally has been “eclectic” in its giving, says Levinson, giving a big share of its grants to Jewish causes and institutions locally, throughout the state and United States, and abroad.

It also has made a lot of grants to local organizations generally, providing support both for programs and operations.

Groups and causes the foundation has supported range from Kids Voting Guilford County and Triad Stage to the Mental Health Association of Greensboro and scholarships for Guilford County students who attend public colleges and universities in North Carolina.

The Kaplans and the foundation also were the primary supporters of a new building for the Women’s Resource Center in Greensboro, and have continued to provide operating support for the agency, Levinson says.

“We do a lot of different things,” she says. “We don’t have a particular focus.”

The foundation does not have a website or a formal process for submitting grants, although it does consider unsolicited requests for grants, Levinson says.

“We very much fly under the radar screen,” she says. “We pretty much self-select.”

Now, she says, the foundation tentatively plans to expand its focus through support of Kaplan’s new initiative promoting philanthropy among wealthy people.

While it will continue to provide the type of broad support it has in the past, Levinson says, the foundation likely will not be making grants to support as many new initiatives as it has in the past.

Kaplan still is developing details for the new philanthropy initiative, Levinson says.

“This initiative is focused on people in the highest echelon of wealth,” she says. “Leonard is one of these believers that the world is in just desperate trouble and, if all of us don’t step up to try to improve and change and solve some of our problems, that the world is in jeopardy.”

She says the foundation is not ready to disclose specific plans for the new initiative but that it will build on an effort Kaplan launched three years ago to better educate people “about the need for philanthropy and what needs there might be.”

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