Cemala website aims to engage extended family

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — With most of its grants supporting local nonprofits, but most of the family members on its board, and their children, living in other communities, the Cemala Foundation in Greensboro has launched new pages on its board website to engage family members and their children.

“I thought there might be some benefit in having something that would appeal to young children, and would be about Greensboro and about what the Cemala Foundation does,” says Susan Schwartz, the foundation’s executive director.

Founded in 1986 by Martha A. Cone and Ceasar Cone II, who was president and chairman of Cone Mills and a son of one of its co-founders, the foundation has assets of $48 million and makes grants of $2 million to $2.5 million a year, mainly to local nonprofits.

Its name taken from the first two letters of the first name of each of the Cones’ three children – Ceasar III, Martha and Laurence – the foundation has strived over the years to keep family members, particularly those living outside Greensboro, engaged in the community and informed about local activities and developments, Schwartz says.

Nine of the 11 members of the foundation’s board are children and grandchildren of Martha and Ceasar Cone II, she says, and most of them live outside Greensboro.

The new family pages on the board’s website are designed to appeal to the foundation’s founders’ 12 great-grandchildren, half of whom live in Greensboro, and to their parents.

Based on foundation policy, while the oldest of those great-grandchildren now is only 10 years old, all of them will be invited to join the board at age 21, Schwartz says.

The family web pages are part of a larger effort by the foundation to prepare the children for serving on the board, an effort that also includes inviting family members younger than age 21 to attend board meetings as observers.

The password-protected family web pages, designed by Sue Polinksy of TechTriad, include a range of features designed for children and families.

Each month, for example, based on information the foundation receives from groups it supports, the family pages will include a new story, possibly with photos, focusing on how the foundation’s grants affect people those groups serve.

The family section also will feature a resources page that provides information on family philanthropy and board training.

And it will include a “grant tree” that each month will feature photos, with short captions, illustrating grants the foundation has made, as well as a puzzles page featuring mazes involving Greensboro destinations, jigsaw puzzles depicting Greensboro landmarks or Cemala-funded projects, and word puzzles containing family names and words related to topics like giving, helping and community.

The site, which also will feature rotating pictures of family members, is designed to make meaningful to board members outside Greensboro the impact of the local grants the foundation makes, Schwartz says, and to connect family board members and their children with the “benefits and joys of philanthropy and to develop and enhance their love for Greensboro.”

As the children of board members get older, she says, the website “might be a way to really keep then involved and help them get interested and excited about what’s being done through the foundation.”

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