Building bridges to healthier communities

By Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Faced with a local “food desert,” the Town of Zebulon this spring opened the Zebulon Farm Fresh Market to boost the local economy and to increase access to food for people in need.

Concerned about local “play deserts,” the Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources Department of the City of Raleigh is working with the Wake County Public School System to develop shared-used agreements that would give residents in neighborhoods with no space for outdoor recreation access to outdoor play areas at Vena Wilburn and Walnut Creek elementary schools.

Both initiatives are among a broad range of efforts by six Wake County municipalities that each is getting $210,000 over three years from the John Rex Endowment in Raleigh to boost healthy eating and active living, particularly among vulnerable families and children.

In a separate national initiative to improve access to healthy food and physical activity,  mainly for children in low-income communities, the New Jersey-based Robert Wood Johnson Foundation invested $34 million over five years in collaborative efforts in 49 U.S. communities, including Nash and Edgecombe counties and Moore and Montgomery counties in North Carolina.

Playing a key role in designing and supporting both funding initiatives has been Active Living By Design, or ALBD, a Chapel Hill-based project of Third Sector New England.

ALBD provides consulting and technical assistance to create healthier communities, with a focus on healthy eating and active living, and works to help community partnerships create environments that promote healthy eating and active living.

Sarah Strunk, executive director at ALBD, says its work is based on the idea that people are likely to make healthier choices not simply as a result of efforts to educate them and shape their behavior, but by also by changing policies, social settings and physical environments that affect health.

Formed in 2002 as a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and housed for 12 years at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, ALBD operates with an annual budget of $2.2 million, all of it from grants and contracts, and staff of 11 people.

Much of its work supports foundations directly, helping them develop initiatives to boost active living and healthy eating, typically to reduce child obesity, increase physical activity, reduce incidents of chronic diseases, or improve community safety.

Projects it has worked on represent a total investment of over $100 million in community partnerships, with $35 million of that going to ALBD to provide technical assistance, coaching, consulting, and support of learning by groups that are part of local collaboratives supported by foundations and other funders.

ALBD has worked in 35 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and supported about 200 community partnerships in cities, suburbs and rural area s.

Much of its assistance focuses on helping people advocate for policy change, such as a “complete streets policy” to design or retrofit streets to be safe and accessible to all types of users, or promoting changes in the built environment, such as the creation of playgrounds or greenway systems.

For the John Rex Endowment initiative to improve healthy eating and active living, ALBD identified and assessed local efforts in Wake County, and helped design a grant initiative for the Endowment. It now is providing technical assistance to the six municipalities the Endowment funded in response to a call for proposals for funding for local projects.

For the “Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities” initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, ALBD worked with the Foundation to develop the initiative and call for proposals; provided assistance to the 540 grant applicants; led national review teams that selected grant recipients; provided technical assistance to the grantees over four years each; developed a learning network of grantees, including workshops and annual meetings; worked closely with partners that evaluated the program; and developed case studies and “lessons learned” to share with the broader field of funders and other groups that focus on healthy eating and active living,

“We connect people who are interested in making their community better with those who are willing to invest in that work,” says Risa Wilkerson, associate executive director of ALBD, “and also with other resources and other communities who are doing the work, and with other national organizations.”

Strunk says ALBD also serves serves as a “bridge between organizations that have money and those that need money.”

ALBD, which has counted on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation for roughly 80 percent of its revenue of $1.5 million to $3 million a year, now is working to diversify its funding base to include other types of funders and nonprofits that contract for its services.

And it is expanding its definition of health to include “all of the factors that influence where people live, work and play,” such as crime and safety, transportation, housing, clinical care, and medical care, Strunk says.

Nonprofit news roundup, 07.24.15

Hitt leaving Community Link for Men’s Shelter

Randall Hitt, chief advancement officer at Community Link in Charlotte, will join the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte on August 5 as director of philanthropy.

Read to retire from Chatham County nonprofit

Dianne Read will be retiring from the Chatham Economic Development Corporation in Pittsboro at the end of February.

Wake Forest offers certificate in faith-based nonprofit leadership

For the second straight year, the School of Divinity at Wake Forest University is offering a certificate program in faith-based nonprofit leadership.

The course will be offered over five weekends from October to March, and participants may opt take some courses the School of Business at Wake Forest offers in nonprofit management.

October 2 is the deadline to register.

Tomorrow Fund awards $128,000 in scholarships

The Tomorrow Fund for Hispanic Students has awarded $188,100 in scholarships to 18 Hispanic and Latino students across North Carolina, including seven new recipients, to attend 10 institutions of higher learning.

Junior Achievement of Central North Carolina gets $30,000

Junior Achievement of Central North Carolina has received a $20,000 grant from the Lincoln Financial Foundation and a $10,000 grant from the Bank of America Charitable Foundation.

The Lincoln Financial grant will provide funding for 30 classes serving up to 900 students and an intensive job shadowing program for high school students in Guilford County.

The Bank of America grant provide funding for middle school classrooms across the Junior Achievement of Central North Carolina service area.

Junior Achievement of Eastern North Carolina gets $15,000

Junior Achievement of Eastern North Carolina has received a $15,000 grant from the Duke Energy Foundation to provide financial-literacy, entrepreneurship and workforce -readiness programs to over 500 students in eastern North Carolina.

Corporate and community volunteers will share their personal and professional experiences in 20 classrooms, with each class receiving five to seven lessons. 

The grant also will provide job-shadow opportunities for high school students in the region.

Habitat Greensboro builds two homes

Through the Building on Faith Initiative at Habitat for Humanity of Greater Greensboro, volunteers  from 45 congregations helped build two homes for new Habitat homeowners.

Duke Children’s Hospital to benefit from event

Duke Children’s Hospital and Health Center will benefit from proceeds raised July 30 by Triangle Dairy Queen during its 10th Miracle Treat Day.

During the past nine years, Triangle Dairy Queen has raised over $100,000 for local children.

Duke gets $13 million commitment

Duke University has received a $13 million commitment for its Athletics Department from Steve Brooks, a 1970 alumnus and president and CEO of Phoenix American Insurance Group, and his wife, Eileen.

CASA to receive free video

Blueforest Studios selected CASA, a Raleigh nonprofit that provides housing to people who are homeless, to receive a free video worth over $5,000.

CASA was selected through a competitive application process.

Alzheimer’s Association getting $77,000

Blondes vs. Brunettes Raleigh raised over $77,000 during its fourth season to benefit the local chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association.

FaithAction ID program grows

The identification card program offered by FaithAction in Greensboro has added new partners that offer the card, expanded to Alamance County and now serves over 2,500 residents.

New partners include International Civil Rights Museum, Greensboro Children’s Museum, YMCA, Community Theater of Greensboro, Deep Roots Market, Scuppernog Books, Zaytoon’s Restaurant, Nazareth Bakery, Manny’s Cafe, Kiosco Mexican Grill, Chapman Law Firm, Santos Counseling and La Esperanza Tienda.

Other partners include local law enforcement and emergency services; city libraries; municipal credit union; water, housing, and parks and recreation departments; human relations staff; health centers; and schools. 

The card provides a valid form of identification, access to community services and opportunities, and special discounts or benefits to residents who otherwise may not have access to government-issued forms of identification.

O’Connor joins SECU Family House board

Maureen K. O’Connor, executive vice president of diversified businesses for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina, and president of Mosaic Health Solutions, a subsidiary that makes strategic investments in health care companies, has joined the board of directors for SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals.

Health Underwriters Association honored

The North Carolina Association of Health Underwriters has received the Blue Ribbon of Excellence Award from the National Association of Health Underwriters. The award recognizing excelling chapters.

North Carolina is home to seven local chapters of the association, and each chapter, along with the state association, have received Silver or Gold certifications to qualify for the award.

Auction to benefit Hirsch Wellness Network

The seventh annual “Art Lives Here” silent auction to benefit the Hirsch Wellness Network will be held October 9 in the gallery on the Revolution Mill campus.

The event will include an exhibition and auction featuring donated works by 100 local artists in a wide range of media.

Benevolence Farm receives $15,000

Benevolence Farm received a $15,000 grant from The Hayden-Harman Foundation in Burlington for general operating support.

School of the Arts receives flute archives

The UNC School of the Arts in Winston-Salem has received the archives of Louise Moyse, the late flutest, pianist and composer.

The Louis Moyse Flute Archives, a gift from Janet W. Moyse, Moyse’s widow, consists of his original compositions, editions and arrangements of music for flute and chamber ensembles, as well as recordings, photos, letters and other memorabilia.

National Folk Festival gets sponsor

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina will sponsor the Lawn Stage at the 2015 National Folk Festival in Greensboro.

Be smart in working with the news media

If you want the news media to run your news, be strategic in submitting and pitching your news releases.

First, make sure your news release focuses on your news and why it matters, not on your organization and what your leaders say about your news.

Second, make sure you send your news release to the right person at each new outlet. Go to the group’s website; look for the staff listing; find the city, local or metro editor at a newspaper, or the assignment editor at a television or radio station; write down that person’s email address and phone number; and send the news release to that person.

If the staff listing on the website does not include the names and titles of the people you are looking for, find the main number, or the number for news, then call and ask for the name, email address and phone number of the person with the appropriate job title. Then send the news release to that person.

Once you have sent the news release, follow up with a phone call to make sure the appropriate person received the news release. And be prepared to make a pitch — in just a few short sentences — about why your news matters.

If the news organization runs your news, you should follow up with a thank-you note.

And create a spread sheet with the names of the news outlets, contacts and their contact information to use the next time you want to send out a news release.

The news media can be a great way to get your news to the audiences you want to reach.

So be smart and strategic in the way you work with news organizations.

Want professional help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

Alamance partnership serves homeless

By Todd Cohen

BURLINGTON, N.C. — Individuals and families in Alamance County at risk of homelessness are getting affordable housing, rental assistance and support services, thanks to a partnership among Allied Churches of Alamance County, United Way of Alamance County, and DeBoer & Gabriel Properties in Burlington.

Allied Churches, which operates a 102-bed emergency shelter that provides stays of 30 days to 90 days for homeless men, women and children, also subsidizes rent for eligible homeless people through a federally funded “Rapid Re-Housing Program.”

That program aims to provide safe, stable housing and case management for clients after they leave the shelter, including case management and, for the first four months, a rent subsidy.

To expand that program, DeBoer & Gabriel Properties has agreed to keep monthly rent stable and not increase it for as long as Rapid ReHousing clients have a lease.

Allied Churches will provide federal funding for four months to cover the fair market rent for each client until they establish themselves as tenants. After that, the clients are responsible for those costs.

And United Way will provide up to $20,000 a year to help cover the gap between the federal Rapid ReHousing dollars and the monthly rent.

Forty-eight percent of renters in Alamance County were not able to afford the fair-market rent for a two-bedroom housing unit, according to 2013 data from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

“We recognize that there is not enough available affordable housing, particularly near the jobs where people are working,” says Heidi Norwick, United Way president. “Without a public transportation system currently in our community, that’s even more important.”

To provide people in need with an affordable way to get to work or school or to appointments for health and human services, United Way recently announced it would give $100,000 to support the new public bus system the City of Burlington expects to launch in the spring of 2016.

A key goal of the new housing partnership is to help people living in emergency housing get “started and settled,” Norwick says. “After that, they are the tenants, and they will also take classes on financial counseling and how to be a good tenant.”

Allied Churches will provide those classes, she says, and United Way will provide its rent subsidies “as long as the tenant remains in good standing.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 07.17.15

ArtsGreensboro exceeds $1.2 million goal

ArtsGreensboro raised over $1.2 million in its 2015 ArtsFund drive, exceeding its goal by $16,000 and the total it raised last year by $13,000.

Co-chaired by ArtsGreensboro Board members Denny Kelly and Josephus Thompson III, the drive attracted nearly 1,300 individual, corporate and foundation donors, up seven percent from last year.

With funds it raises in the drive, ArtsGreensboro provides grants and other support annually to over 60 arts organizations, arts projects, teachers, and artists.

This year’s total includes $70,000 from Lincoln Financial Foundation, which will give another $70,000 to each of the next two annual ArtsFund drives.

Lincoln Financial Foundation also will give $10,000 a year for three years to the National Folk Festival, which will be in Greensboro for a three-year residency, starting this September 11-13.

Co-producing the Festival will be ArtsGreensboro and the National Council for the Traditional Arts.

This year, the Lincoln Financial also will provide the Festival with the use of its Market Street parking lot for a stage.

The Festival also announced that Natty Greene’s Brewing Co. and Foothills Brewing Company will serve as its craft beer sponsors this year, and that Triad McDonald’s Restaurants will sponsor the Family Stage.

Charlotte event to link nonprofits, young professionals

RAIN Young Affiliates and The Fillmore Charlotte will host the third annual Young Professionals Multi-Group Mixer on July 22 to connect professionals ages 21 to 40 with 21 local nonprofits.

Groups participating in the event, to be held from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m at The Fillmore Charlotte at 1000 NC Music Factory Blvd., include Opera Carolina, Isabella Santos Foundation, RAIN, Project One Scholarship Fund, Ronald McDonald House, Safe Alliance and #WTFwevote, among others.

Study ties poverty to low academic performance

Poverty and low academic performance in North Carolina are closely connected, with counties that are home to few jobs and little economic development typically experiencing poor outcomes in health and wellness, and low educational attainment, a new white paper says.

Released by MetaMetrics and based on an analysis of the Roadmap of Need, a report from the Center for After School Programs at the Public School Forum of North Carolina, the white paper says poor counties offer little economic opportunity and generally score poorly on the variables in the Roadmap of Need.

The Roadmap tracks a broad range of socioeconomic, educational, and health and wellness metrics that affect young people.

The white paper also says that over the past two years, when North Carolina substantially raised academic standards, declines in the share of third graders who performed well on end-of-grade assessments reflect elevated academic standards and not a drop in students’ actual reading abilities.

Duke gets $20 million from Gates Foundation

Duke Global Health Institute has been awarded a $20 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help educate a new generation of leaders and experts, and build research capacity to address global health challenges, including Ebola and MERS.

The grant includes $10 million in endowment support for the Institute, and $10 million to support a challenge that will match one dollar for every dollar given — making the total impact of the grant $30 million.

Sisters of Mercy Foundation gives $1.85 million

Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina Foundation awarded 17 grants totaling over $1.85 million to 37 nonprofits.

The grants included 18 totaling $821,504 for education; 11 totaling $616,960 for social services; and eight totaling $415,595 for health care.

Grants were awarded to organizations in Buncombe, Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Guilford, Jackson, Lincolnton, Macon, Madison, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Rowan, and Rutherford in North Carolina, and York in South Carolina.

John Rex Endowment awards $803,000

John Rex Endowment in Raleigh awarded a four-year grant of $769,271 to support new programs to increase the capacity of WakeMed Physician Practices – Pediatrics to promote the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive health of children, and $34,055 to Triangle Family Services to build its organizational capacity.

Teach for America gets $50,000

Duke Energy Foundation is giving $50,000 to Teach for America to help it expand access to science, technology, engineering and math teaching in local schools in North Carolina, particularly in rural communities.

Comedy event to benefit Different Roads Home

Different Roads Home in Charlotte will benefit from “A Sordid Affair,” a comedy event September 26 the McGlohon Theater in Charlotte.

Sponsored by Rosedale Infectious Diseases, the event will feature writer and producer Del Shores, actress Caroline Rhea and actor Leslie Jordan.

Dental-education grants available

The Delta Dental Foundation through its Smiles for Kids grants program will award a total of up to $35,000 in grants of up to $5,000 each to nonprofits to support dental education initiatives and programs designed to promote children’s oral health, especially to those in underserved areas.

The deadline for submitting grant applications is September 30.

Event to support mammograms at Women’s Hospital

The 23rd Women’s Only 5K Walk & Run will be held October 3 at the Women’s Hospital in Greensboro, with proceeds used to be used to provide screening mammograms through the Mammography Scholarship Fund to women who otherwise might not be able to afford them.

The event, one of the largest races of its type in the Southeast, last year attracted over 2,500 women raised $110,316.

Bailey joins United Arts Council board

Kay Bailey, manager and regional human resource consultant for First Citizens Bank, has joined the board of directors of United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County.

Foundation hosts summer camp

The David Amerson Defending Hands Foundation held its second annual football camp on July 11 at Dudley High School in Greensboro for over 100 young men.

On behalf of the foundation, David Amerson’s family awarded 15 scholarships to the Salvation Army Boys & Girls Club of High Point for members to attend the camp at no charge.

Fidelity Charitable makes nearly $1.5 billion in grants

Fidelity Charitable made over 310,000 donor-recommended grants totaling nearly $1.5 billion in the first six months of 2015, up 33 percent from the same period last year. Those grants supported 69,000 charities.

Schwab Charitable awards $1 billion in grants

Schwab Charitable awarded $1.06 billion in grants for its donors in fiscal 2015, up 30 percent from the previous fiscal year. Those grants supported over 42,000 charities.

Appreciated investments or assets represented 69 percent of contributions to donor-advised-fund accounts at Schwab Charitable.

Make the most of your nonprofit’s stories

The stories your charity tells can be a powerful way to raise awareness about community needs and to enlist the supporters and other partners you need to address those needs.

So make the most of your stories.

If you write a basic narrative about your charity — who you are, the need you address, the people you serve, what you do, the difference you make — you can use it in many ways.

Post it on your website on your main page and in your “About us” section. Include it or a shorter version of it in your newsletter, annual report, marketing materials and case for support. Use it to develop talking points your staff and board can use in speaking to donors. Boil it down to a short paragraph you can use to describe your nonprofit at the end of your news releases.

Take the same approach when you write stories about gifts, grants, new programs, new partnerships, new staff and board members, awards you receive, and other news.

Post those items on your website and distribute them through your social media channels, and then publish or summarize them in your newsletter and possibly in your annual report.

Your stories are your lifeline to your donors, constituents and other partners. So use all your media channels to distribute your stories and keep your supporters and constituents informed about your work and your impact.

Want professional help?

Philanthropy North Carolina is a consulting practice that provides writing and strategic communications support for nonprofits, foundations, colleges and universities, and others working for social good.

To find out more about hiring Philanthropy North Carolina to work with your organization to improve your communications, contact Todd Cohen at 919.272.2051 or

Banding together to make a difference

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — When five Raleigh friends got together on Sept. 11, 2001, to watch the news about the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., they decided to try to do something to support survivors’ families.

Their solution was Band Together for Our Heroes, a live concert in downtown Raleigh two months later that featured four bands, included two firefighters from New York City, attracted 1,300 guests and raised $56,000 for the Survivors Fund.

A year later, the friends formed Band Together, a nonprofit that would use live music to raise money, particularly from the business community, to support disaster relief and local nonprofits.

Typically partnering with a single nonprofit each year, Band Together has donated nearly $5.5 million to local nonprofits and become the largest charitable music event in the Southeast.

In 2005, it raised $175,000 for Raleigh-based Stop Hunger Now to provide relief for victims of the tsunami in South Asia, and $47,000 for the Raleigh-based Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina to provide relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

In recent years, it has developed a strategy it calls “partnership philanthropy,” working closely with an annual partner to raise money together and strengthen their respective organizations.

“We invest ourselves into that organization, and they invest themselves into ours, working for a year in a major campaign that ends in a massive concert,” says Danny Rosin, a co-founder of Band Together and owner of Brand Fuel, a promotional advertising firm in Research Triangle Park.

The goals each year for both partners are “not only to raise funds and awareness, but also to learn better nonprofit skills,” says Rosin, a self-described “uber fan of live music,” who served until four years ago as Band Together’s volunteer director and until a year ago as its board president. He now heads its advisory board, which raises over 60 percent of its funds.

This past year, Band Together’s partnership with StepUp Ministry in Raleigh — the two groups also partnered in 2010 — raised $2 million.

Band Together raised $500,000 of the total through a series of fundraising activities, including a live concert on June 27 at the Red Hat Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh, and StepUp raised $1.5 million. Each had challenged the other to raise those totals.

StepUp, an interfaith nonprofit founded in 1988 that works to equip low-income and homeless people with skills to live independently, plans to use the funds to open a Durham operation in August, to create StepUp North Carolina to oversee the startup of new StepUps throughout the state, and to support the original StepUp in Raleigh.

The partnership with Band Together helped boost awareness of StepUp throughout the Triangle and helped it raise money by treating the partnership like a capital campaign with a specific focus, in this case expanding to Durham and eventually other communities, says Linda Nunnallee, executive director of StepUp Raleigh.

Band Together, which counts on volunteers to handle most of its fundraising and concert planning and logistics, is an “open-source” nonprofit, Rosin says, sharing donor information with its annual partner, visiting prospective donors together, and co-branding marketing materials.

Rosin, for example, brought Nunnallee on a fundraising visit to Cargill, a Band Together funder, which agreed to give $10,000. Band Together gets 15 percent of the net proceeds of funds the partnership raises to support its operations, and StepUp receives the remainder.

“Together we’re better,” Rosin says.

Band Together picks its annual partner based on an intensive vetting process, operates rent-free in its partner’s offices, and works with its partner to strengthen the leadership of their respective organizations.

“We want to leave our partners better than we found them,” says Matt Strickland, who became Band Together’s first executive director and paid employee in 2011.

Now, Band Together aims to increase the value of its annual concert for donors and sponsors, such as improving VIP networking opportunities for their clients, employees and vendors.

And it is looking for ways to provide smaller nonprofits with some of the funds its annual partnerships raises, and possibly help build those smaller groups’ organizational “capacity,” Rosin says.

“There are smaller agencies doing great work that we want to support,” he says.