Capital Community Foundation on the move

Jennifer Sullivan Munford
Jennifer Sullivan Munford

Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Just over two years ago, a family friend of Zoe Smith of Chapel Hill donated a goat in her honor to a family in Africa through Arkansas-based Heifer International.

Inspired by Heifer’s work, Zoe, then age 9, starting selling cupcakes and lemonade, and then jewelry she beaded herself, to try to raise $5,000 for the charity, enough to buy 15 pairs of animals, a group known as an “ark.”

But after a conversation with Don Munford, one of his partners at Raleigh law firm Smith Anderson, Zoe’s father learned she also could generate income for Heifer by creating a donor-advised fund that could receive tax-deductible contributions.

Zoe now has raised roughly $13,000 for Heifer, with at least one-fourth of those funds contributed to Zoe’s Ark, a donor-advised fund at the Capital Community Foundation in Raleigh.

Charitable status “makes it a lot easier for people to contribute to a good cause,” says Christopher G. Smith, Zoe’s father.

While it has kept a low profile since Munford founded it in 1995, the Capital Community Foundation has assisted donors like Zoe in giving over $10 million to charities.

In 2008, despite the onset of the recession, the foundation gave $960,000 to charities on behalf of its fund-holders, posting its best year ever.

In 2007, before the plunge in the capital markets, assets in donor-advised funds 135 donors had created at the foundation totaled over $12 million, a total that has declined to $11 million.

In addition, the value of pledges and deferred gifts the foundation knows about but has not yet received total $40 million.

While assets total $117 million at the North Carolina Community Foundation, a 21-year-old statewide philanthropy based in Raleigh, and $140 million at Triangle Community Foundation, a 26-year-old regional funder based in Durham, the Capital Community Foundation says it differentiates itself by its agility and by focusing mainly on Raleigh.

Because it is smaller than those other two community foundations, the Capital Community Foundation sometimes can provide more flexibility in meeting the needs of donors, says Jennifer Sullivan Munford, a lawyer and former social worker who serve as the group’s president and CEO.

“We are small and nimble and focused on Raleigh,” she says.

Don Munford, a lawyer and certified public accountant who is married to Jennifer Sullivan Munford, says the foundation works as a partner, not a competitor, with the North Carolina and Triangle community foundations.

He says he referred a significant donor to the North Carolina Community Foundation, for example, because he believed it could best serve the client’s needs, and referred to the Triangle Community Foundation a separate donor who created the largest charitable remainder trust he has worked on in his career.

And two years ago, the North Carolina Community Foundation referred a “very significant donor to us,” he says.

“Each community foundation has its own strengths and rules and policies and focus,” he says.

After operating the foundation on his own out of his law office, Don Munford two years ago persuaded his wife to leave her job as director of government relations for the North Carolina chapter of the National Association of Social Workers to become the foundation’s chief executive.

While the foundation mainly had worked quietly through lawyers, CPAs and other professional advisers who work with donors, under Jennifer Munford it now has redesigned its website, begun talking with local nonprofits about their needs, and published quarterly reports to keep donors informed about its work.

The foundation also plans to launch an effort to better inform donors about mental health, developmental disabilities and substance abuse.

And Smith says the experience of raising money for Heifer International has inspired his daughter, a sixth-grader at Grey Culbreth Middle School.

When she grows up, Zoe wrote in a recent letter to Jo Luck, Heifer’s president and CEO, “I would like to have your job,” Smith says.

“Zoe has a big heart,” he says, “and she wants to repair the entire world.”

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