Foundation Fair creates networking opportunities for local nonprofits and statewide grant-makers

By Jill Warren Lucas

Leaders of nonprofits that serve clients in small communities can find themselves at a geographic disadvantage when competing for funding dollars with their big city counterparts. Since grant-makers tend to locate in those same urban areas, there are few organic networking opportunities to demonstrate how responsible stewardship generates measurable results.

This is a problem nationwide, but the North Carolina Network of Grantmakers (NCNG) has created a replicable model that aims to level the playing field by bringing representatives of major regional and statewide foundations to local communities. Events alternate annually between the coast and the mountains.

The fifth annual Foundation Fair will be held Oct. 11 in Thomas Auditorium at Blue Ridge Community College in Flat Rock. The Raleigh-based organization will facilitate meetings between nonprofits and decision-makers from more than a dozen of the state’s most influential and generous foundations.

“This is an intentional effort to bring funders outside of their usual circles to come in contact with small, community-based groups they might not even know about,” says Ret Boney, NCNG Executive Director. “The goal is to deepen the understanding the nonprofits have of the funders and for the funders to learn about efforts going on in communities to benefit the people and places.”

While confident that the event has facilitated beneficial connections between many small nonprofits that had been under the radar of large foundations, Boney says NCNG does not track agencies that participate and whether they receive grant awards.

This year’s event is in the western mountains but is open to all North Carolina nonprofits. There is no fee, but registration is required:

Boney strongly encourages participating nonprofits to do their homework before signing up to meet with specific funders during two-hour sessions that will be offered in the morning and afternoon. Review the information packet provided by NCNG, as well as the funder’s website, to learn about each grant-maker’s priorities.

“It’s important for nonprofits to understand where their efforts will be best spent,” Boney says. “It’s the same for funders, which receive more requests than they can fulfill, especially with the budget cuts at the state level. That will increase the number of grant requests that are received. The more that a nonprofit can look at its own mission and programs, the more compelling case they can make to a funder with a similar mission.”

As of today, the following organizations are planning to exhibit at NCNG’s Foundation Fair: 

  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation
  • Burroughs Wellcome Fund
  • The Cannon Foundation
  • Community Foundation of Henderson County
  • Community Foundation of Western North Carolina
  • The Duke Endowmen
  • Golden LEAF Foundation
  • Hispanics in Philanthropy
  • Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust
  • Mary Duke Biddle Foundation
  • North Carolina Community Foundation
  • North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation
  • Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina Foundation
  • Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation 

For additional information, please contact NCNG at or 919-967-7410.

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