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Funder tops $10 million in grants

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Stephen Dillon

Stephen Dillon

Julia Vail

WILMINGTON, N.C. – The Community Foundation of Southeastern North Carolina has awarded a total of more than $10 million during its 21-year history of serving the region.

Since its inception in 1987, the Wilmington-based foundation has awarded over 5,000 grants to improve the quality of life in southeastern North Carolina. In each of the past three fiscal years, it gave a total of more than $1 million in charitable grants to religious institutions, schools and other nonprofits.

During the fiscal year ended Sept. 30, 2008, the foundation hit the $1.5 million mark for grants awarded, says Stephen Dillon, executive director of the foundation.

That’s up about $300,000 from the previous fiscal year.

And for the first time, the foundation this fiscal year reached $5 million in assets, he says.

Since the economic fallout has not had as big an impact on contributions of $10,000 or above, Dillon says, he has high hopes for the foundation, which draws most of its donations from high-net-worth individuals and families.

“We have been fortunate that most of the indicators are pointing in the right direction,” he says. “We just need to make the curves a little steeper and the progress a little faster.”

The majority of grants awarded by the foundation go to religious organizations and schools. Other grants go to nonprofits focusing on arts and culture, health services and the environment.

The foundation, which gets about 85 percent of its contributions from donor-advised funds, is looking to broaden its base beyond the very wealthy.

“In our coming year, we’re looking at rolling out some projects where everyone in the community can contribute whatever amount to causes they support,” Dillon says.

The foundation also is pushing for the creation of more endowments.

“Times aren’t as good as they have been,” he says, “but that doesn’t mean there are not very staunch and capable supporters that wouldn’t want to kick off a campaign now.”

The organization has made significant progress, he says, having spent its first 17 years as a volunteer effort.

Along with boosting the number and amount of donations, it aims to increase its board in the coming year to 16 members from 12.

This is all part of an effort to continue building the foundation’s presence and visibility in southeastern North Carolina.

“We have been a hidden jewel in the community for many years,” Dillon says. “We’re just beginning to shine a bit more.”

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