Jill Warren Lucas
Eight years after her kitchen table served as the launch pad for a new collaborative group of funders and nonprofits, Bobbi Hapgood is stepping down as executive director of the influential N.C. Network of Grantmakers (NCNG).
“I think many nonprofits can benefit from a change in leadership,” says Hapgood, who has grown the organization to 102 members representing the diverse scope of North Carolina nonprofits. “I needed to pick the time that was right, when we were stable and I was effective.”
That time is this week. Hapgood remains on board through Friday to provide transitional support to her replacement, Ret Boney, who starts today.
NCNG was created as a statewide forum for sharing information and promoting cooperation among North Carolina’s grantmakers. Among its goals was to level the playing field for nonprofits seeking grant funding for effective plans to address constituent problems, and to help organizations with similar missions collaborate to leverage resources and increase impact.
“The philanthropic sector in North Carolina is great. There was dedicated leadership that wanted to form the Network and share resources,” she says. “I have seen a true movement and intention in working together for the common good.”
Hapgood is especially proud of the collaborations that NCNG helped to facilitate between philanthropists and educators to improve opportunities all North Carolina schoolchildren – it was a key player in the state’s successful campaign to receive a $400 million Race to the Top grant – and ongoing work to ensure that at-risk families have access to basic healthcare.
Hapgood has enjoyed playing matchmaker between hard-working nonprofits and funders dedicated to supporting positive social change, which in turn created countless occasions for both sides to engage, interact and learn. Under Boney’s direction, the organization will continue to provide the tools, tips and training that practitioners need to meet community needs while keeping nonprofits afloat. Hapgood says Boney will travel extensively in upcoming months to meet with members and partners.
NCNG members range from executive directors of large agencies to emerging leaders volunteering with small ones. “When you have that kind of depth, meaningful projects and great ideas emerge,” Hapgood says. “We’re always looking for ways address common problems and capacity needs among grantees.”
For example, NCNG recently performed an assessment of youth-serving organizations to identify both gaps and overlaps. “We realized that if we bring all youth-serving organizations together, maybe we could help to help foster increased efficiencies through collaboration,” she says. “When you bring people over and say, ‘You’ve got a world of possibilities here’ – and they make it work – that’s made the job really rewarding.”
Another Hapgood signature is the NCNG Foundation Fair. The annual event alternates between eastern and western locations to give local agencies a chance to rub elbows with decision-makers at grantmaking foundations. More than 200 nonprofit representatives participated in the fair held last October in Wilmington.
“Many nonprofits located inside the Raleigh Beltline and in the urban areas have more access to funders, who they see at meetings and events,” she says. “What we do is almost like a college fair, with hundreds of people showing up with their elevator speech. Sometimes, people get matched on the spot; others who didn’t get matched tell us they still found it interesting because it gave them the practical experience of asking.”
While looking forward to time off to enjoy her family, play some golf and assist her husband’s business, Hapgood won’t stray too far from NCNG. She will remain involved to manage a family foundation as well as join the ranks of other actively engaged members.
“I’m excited about being on the other side and coming up with some of those great ideas we hear about from our members,” she says. “A caller recently suggested that we should create a ‘conflict of interest panel’ for funders to go to for guidance or throw ideas out for discussion.
“We didn’t move forward on that one, but it is a great idea. You have to think, if one person needs it, others probably do as well,” she adds. “After all, that’s what the Network is here for.”