DURHAM, N.C. — Fred Stang, who helped the Triangle Community Foundation grow from $10 million in assets and 120 charitable funds in 1994 to roughly $135 million and 750 charitable funds this year, is retiring as the organization’s director of development, effective July 2.
“I felt like it was time to shake it up a little bit,” says Stang. “Both kids are out of the house. It’s the worst economy since the Great Depression. So what better time?”
Stang, a long-time gardener, says he plans initially to spend time working with his wife, Claire Lorch, who is project coordinator for the Carolina Campus Community Garden in Chapel Hill.
“I just want to see what happens next,” he says. “I’m interested in using my skills in creative ways. After a short break, I hope to be out there talking to folks and networking.”
Stang says he was fortunate to have worked with the team that helped grow the foundation, including its former and founding president, Shannon St. John.
And he says he is grateful to have had the opportunity to work with a broad range of donors who shared their stories and made gifts to the foundation.
“Philanthropy usually ends up talking about what’s important to them and how they made their living and overcame challenges,” he says.
Philanthropy, he says, often intersects with people at difficult turning points in their lives.
“I am honored to play a role in folks’ lives when they’ve just gone through a tragedy, and helping folks with the grieving processes through philanthropy,” he says.
Developing gifts also can involve partnerships that create multiple benefits, Stang says.
In November 2000, for example, he worked with Durham resident George Newton, who donated to the foundation 400 acres of land in Durham and Orange counties straddling the Little River.
The Triangle Land Conservancy, which had identified the area as one it wanted to protect because the river feeds the region’s main watershed, helped raise money for the two counties to buy the land, with state funds also used for the purchase, at its appraised value and create what is now the Little River Park.
“It was a triple win,” Stang says.
“George Newton was able to take an asset he loved, but was costing him money, and donate it to the foundation, and proceeds of the sale went into a fund that met the Newton family’s goals,” he says. “Citizens now have a park. And organizations were able to reach out to new folks, educate more folks about the need to preserve land, and bring more people together. And hopefully it’s an inspiration for others.”
Stang says the foundation, even in the current difficult economy, is positioned for another big leap forward and “to be seen as a leader in the community dealing with significant issues that are facing our community.”
Key opportunities for the foundation, he says, are to encourage donors to give more funds that are unrestricted, and to involve more of the region’s increasingly diverse population in charitable giving.
Compared to big community foundations throughout the U.S. at which they account for a big share of overall funds, Stang says, unrestricted funds represent only 3 percent of funds at the Triangle Community Foundation.
And with a population that ranges from young people and aging Baby Boomers to long-time residents and a big influx of ethnic groups, he says, the foundation, like all nonprofits, should be working to “engage the whole spectrum of giving.”