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Community funders target underserved givers

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Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Local groups in North Carolina with an estimated combined membership of over 1,200 women are expected to give over

$1.2 million this year to causes throughout the state, mainly those addressing the needs of women and children.

That aggregate effort, which includes women’s funds and women’s giving circles, represents one of the fastest growing sectors in the charitable world.

Giving by women also is part of the focus of an initiative by 14 community foundations throughout North Carolina to better engage givers who traditionally have operated outside organized philanthropy.

Spearheading the community foundations’ initiative, which is supported by NCGives and also is targeting young people and communities of color, is the North Carolina Network of Grantmakers.

The initiative can “translate into greater community engagement and a movement from transactional work to transformational work in the community,” says Bobbi Hapgood, executive director of the Chapel Hill-based network.

Donna Chavis, executive director of NCGives, says the community foundations are “paying attention and being intentional” about diversifying the “giving of time, talent and treasure” to address local needs throughout the state.

NCGives, a fund at the Raleigh-based North Carolina Community Foundation, works to promote and strengthen the effectiveness of giving by the same constituencies community foundations are targeting through the grantmaker-network’s initiative.

Launched three years ago with a $61,000 grant from NCGives and known as “Community Foundations Serving North Carolina,” the collaborative effort has focused on helping participating community foundations better market
themselves to a pool of givers that is more inclusive and diverse.

Each foundation has assessed its own efforts in engaging its community, while its staff, board, volunteers, donors and community members have participated in visits with consultant Gita Gulati-Partee.

Key goals have been to help the foundations understand their marketing and the demographics of their communities, and to create a “learning environment” in which they can share “best practices,” Hapgood says.

The effort included development of tools community foundations can download from ncgrantmakers.org such as suggestions for hosting community forums and focus groups with givers, staffs and boards.

Now, with a second NCGives grant totaling $125,000, the community foundations will work with Gulati-Partee to build on what they have learned so far and put it to work.

In separate conference calls every three months, for example, foundation CEOs will talk with one another, while foundation officials focusing on each of the initiative’s target populations will talk about ways to better engage givers.

Beth Briggs, president of Raleigh consulting firm Creative Philanthropy and an NCGives’ partner who works with women givers, says a key strategy for community foundations is to learn from one another so they can better address
the key challenges of retaining and communicating with new givers.

Individual community foundations also will be eligible for mini-grants from the North Carolina Network of Grantmakers to host community meetings focusing on engaging more diverse givers.

Hapgood says the Network of Grantmakers also will seekfunding from national foundations to extend the program another five years and develop it as a model for community foundations throughout the United States.

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