Nonprofits, funders looking for community partnerships

By Todd Cohen

[Note: This was written for Triangle Community Foundation.]

DURHAM, N.C. — Fixing local problems can be tough.

Charities that focus on community issues can find their work slow, messy and fragmented. With limited resources, charities face growing competition for funding, as well as rising demand from donors to show and measure their impact.

And because they often focus on a single issue or group of issues, many charities are not positioned to address the underlying and interconnected causes of the broad range of complicated problems in their communities.

The way charities operate, however, is beginning to change. A small but growing number of charities and funders are starting to work together to make a “collective impact” on local problems.

The challenges facing charities and funders working on the issue of community development, and the solutions they are developing to address those challenges, was the focus of a recent meeting of Triangle Donors Forum.

“Nonprofits don’t work in silos,” said Katie Loovis, director of U.S. community partnerships and stakeholder engagement for GlaxoSmithKline, and a panelist at the Donors Forum, which was hosted by Triangle Community Foundation on November 20. Building healthy communities “requires each [nonprofit] working together,” as well as sectors working together, Loovis said.

Moderated by Farad Ali, president and CEO of the North Carolina Institute of Minority Economic Development and a member of the board of directors of Triangle Community Foundation, the Donors Forum was held at the Holton Career and Resource Center in Durham.

Building capacity

Strengthening the organizational capacity of nonprofits is the focus of a “People and Places” initiative Triangle Community Foundation launched this year that focuses on groups working on the issues of community development, youth literacy, land conservation, and the arts.

That initiative grew out of a two-year effort by the Foundation to assess its grantmaking with advice from donors, nonprofits and civic leaders from throughout the region. A key goal was to identify “community benchmarks” the Foundation could use to find ways to make a greater impact with the limited discretionary funds it invests in the community.

As a general funder that is a “proxy for so many donors, and a vast number of nonprofits,” and with “limited resources and a vast region and many microcosms of communities,” the Foundation wanted to find “that sweet spot of funders and nonprofits and volunteers where we start to chip away” at addressing pressing community needs, Lori O’Keefe, the Foundation’s president, told the Donors Forum.

While the Foundation’s community conversation initially focused on finding ways to improve the delivery of services, she said, it eventually shifted to the organizational capacity and infrastructure of nonprofits.

Recognizing the widespread need of local nonprofits to strengthen their operations so they could make a greater impact through the services they deliver, the Foundation decided to make capacity-building the focus of its discretionary grantmaking.

Partnerships key

Alice Lutz, CEO of Triangle Family Services and a panelist at the Donors Forum, said partnerships are critical to the impact of her organization, a 77-year-old agency that focuses on mental health, financial stability and family safety.

“It’s partnerships that make a difference,” she said.

But partnership also are challenging, she said, because “the work doesn’t stop” while staff members responsible for delivering services also are devoting time to building partnerships with funders and other agencies.

Maggie West, program coordinator for the Community Empowerment Fund in Chapel Hill and another panelist, said her organization depends on collaboration and partnerships “more than we depend on funding.”

The Community Empowerment Fund operates with 250 student volunteers from Duke University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, pairing two students each with individuals who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. In 2015, it plans to add students from North Carolina Central University.

The students work to help each client focus on their goals in the areas of employment, housing and financial security.

“Communities are people that know each other and in relationship to each other can build mobility,” West said.

And while the organization’s volunteers, known as “advocates,” help their clients navigate through courts, housing agencies, health clinics, public-benefits systems and other agencies, “student volunteers are not going to be the experts,” she said. “So we depend on partnerships” with shelters, clinics, housing agencies, workforce development organizations and other groups.

Investing in collaboration

Loovis said many issues in a community are interconnected, and funders struggle to “change the way we fund and foster more collaboration” to address those issues.

“As the funding community, sometimes we get it all wrong,” she said. “The very things we have funded to create sometimes exacerbate the very things we don’t want to see.”

While they may “know fostering a healthy community requires addressing a broader array of factors,” she said, funders may opt to fund individual nonprofits, in effect forcing nonprofits to compete with one another for funding rather than encouraging them to work together.

Funders also tend to invest in short-term programs, even though fixing complex problems can take longer.

“How do we fund things and recognize this isn’t a one-year deal, change the funding stream and realize this is a long-term approach,” she said.

And while funders “want nonprofits to show outcomes,” she said, funders may not be providing the funding nonprofits need to evaluate their work.

GlaxoSmithKline wants to change the way it funds nonprofits, and is working with Triangle Community Foundation to “figure out how not just to fund one nonprofit but groups working together,” possibly with “more than one business funder at the table,” she said.

“If we do want healthy communities, this is complicated work,” she said, “and we do all have some room to improve.”

Incentives for partnerships

Bob Johnston, who is founder and executive director of Global Vaccines, a nonprofit in Morrisville, and attended the Donors Forum, suggested that philanthropic funders that want to invest in solutions to complex community problems might take the approach of agencies like the National Institutes of Health that fund scientific research.

His own university labs once operated like “an island,” said Johnston, a former professor of microbiology at North Carolina State University and former professor of microbiology and immunology at the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“You wrote a grant, got funding, and there was competition, and actually drives a lot of innovation,” he said. “But as science has moved forward, the goals are too big for individual labs.”

So the NIH now issues “calls for proposals” that spell out a big goal, knowing that “no one entity can satisfy that goal,” said Johnston, who created a donor advised fund at Triangle Community Foundation.

It then becomes “incumbent on people applying for funding to assemble the consortia that are important to whatever that goal is,” he said.

So if philanthropic funders want to set an ambitious goal for addressing a community problem, they can issue a call for proposals that will give community groups “an incentive to organize themselves” to apply for funding, he said, “Having it come from the ground up could be a real advance. It would be up to individual people and agencies to come up with consortia and the groups that can do it. Your decision the would be who can do it best.”


Lutz said nonprofits working in the area of human services have “little room for mistakes.”

While nonprofits ought to be able to learn from and build on initiatives that don’t work, she said, “funders move on to another organization.”

The challenge is to find ways to pilot new programs, “identify mistakes, and then turn to funders and in partnership move through that system,” she said.

What is needed, she said, is “coopertition,” or a combination of cooperation and competition.

Loovis said there is a “push-pull” between funders and nonprofits.

“In some ways, nonprofits are ahead of us,” she said. “In some ways, funders are a little ahead of nonprofits.”

When GlaxoSmithKline decided to pursue a strategy known as “collective impact,” she said, it wanted to invest $500,000 each in tackling community problems in two communities in other parts of the U.S.

It assumed local nonprofits in each community were ready for a collective impact strategy “and we would come in and work and learn from them,” she said,

One of the communities already had a strong funding community, largely because of several big funders, she said, but that philanthropic infrastructure was lacking in the other community “and we really struggled as a funder.”

So instead of making a collective impact investment in the second community, GlaxoSmithKline shifted gears and is considering making a planning grant to pave way for a collective impact initiative.

Collaboration and mergers

Haywood Holderness, who is pastor emeritus at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Durham and attended the Donors Forum, said the Triangle is “ripe for more collaboration and mergers among nonprofits.”

The number of nonprofits in Durham, for example, has soared and now is many times the state average on a per-capita basis, yet many nonprofits operate in silos, he said.

But with the Baby Boomer generation of nonprofit founders retiring, the time is ideal for funders “to talk to nonprofits about more collaboration or even mergers,” he said. “You guys can make that happen.”

Steve Toler, who is a public relations and communications consultant, former vice president for public affairs in North Carolina for Verizon, and attended the Donors Forum, said the business community was “light years ahead of nonprofits” in mergers and acquisitions.

“We’re not seeing that” in the nonprofit sector, he said.

Lutz said mergers require mediators and investment from funders to provide incentives to nonprofits to talk about merging and give them the time needed to pursue merger conversations while continuing to serve clients.

As part of its People and Places initiative, Triangle Community Foundation is working to better understand and address the challenges of building the capacity of nonprofits to address pressing community issues.

“We know all our donors are not ready to fund that capacity-building infrastructure…yet,” O’Keefe said.

Nonprofit news roundup, 12.19.14

Report tracks child well-being throughout North Carolina

Young people in North Carolina have the greatest likelihood for success in Orange, Union, Wake, Cabarrus and Camden counties but are most at risk in Anson, Halifax, Northampton, Edgecombe and Robeson counties, a new report says.

The makeup of the top five counties is unchanged from last year, while Northampton replaced Scotland County in the bottom five this year, according to Roadmap of Need, a report from the Center for Afterschool Programs at the Public School Forum of North Carolina.

The annual report, launched in 2010, uses data on health, youth behavior and safety, education, and economic development to assess the relative well-being of young people living in each of the state’s 100 counties.

While the report at first glance points to counties in eastern North Carolina as those most at risk, the Public School Forum says, the nature of countywide indicators often masks variation within counties, particularly populous urban counties in which “neighborhoods that alone would fare well” based on indicators the report tracks “can exist in close proximity to neighborhoods with many young people in need.”

Strategies to boost donors’ gifts focus of new research

A handful of new research efforts find donors will give more when charities promote a gift from a well-known donor, advertise gifts from all donors, assure donors the organization already has secured donations to cover overhead costs, or make human and direct contact with donors during holiday appeals at retail outlets, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Charlotte arts groups merging

Charlotte Children’s Choir will merge with Community School of the Arts, effective Jan. 1, 2015. The Choir will become part of the school and its choral program will keep the name Charlotte Children’s Choir.

The Children’s Choir, which was founded in 1986 and serves children ages eight to 18 through three choirs, will continue under the artistic direction of Heather Potter.

The School, founded in 1969, instructs nearly 4,000 students a year in music and visual arts through private lessons, group classes, workshops, summer camps, and outreach programs.

Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina Foundation gives $1.8 million

Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina Foundation awarded grants totaling $1.8 million to 42 nonprofits.

Of the 42 grants, 20 were in the area of social services totaling $743,368; 14 went to education for a total of $632,397; and eight were health-care related totaling $428,863.

Since 1996, the Sisters of Mercy of North Carolina Foundation has awarded 1,575 grants totaling over $70 million to organizations serving unserved or underserved populations.

Victory Junction names CEO

Chad Coltrane, CEO of The Ability Experience in Charlotte, formerly Push America, has been named president and CEO of Victory Junction, a camp in Randleman for children with serious medical conditions.

Since 2004, when it was formed by the Petty family in the wake of the death of NASCAR driver Adam Petty, Victory Junction has serve over 21,000 children ages six to 16 and and their families at no cost to campers or their families.

Barrett joins Cone Health

Pam Barrett, principal consultant and owner of P Barrett & Associates, has been named senior development officer at Cone Health in Greensboro.

CareRing taps community manager

Public relations consultant Simone McDowell joined CareRing in Charlotte community manager. She will handle marketing and communication needs for the organization.

Wake Salvation Army to distribute clothing, toys to kids

With community support, $10,000 from an anonymous donor, and the help of 700 volunteers, the Salvation Army of Wake County will distribute clothing and toys at its Christmas Center at 2116-D New Bern Avenue in Raleigh over three days to more than 8,800 children in over 3,900 families at its Christmas Center.

Tanger Factory Outlet Centers raise $1.3 million to fight breast cancer

Greensboro-based Tanger Factory Outlet Centers raised over $1.3 million to help in the fight against breast cancer during the 21st annual Tanger PinkSTYLE Campaign.

The company will donate $750,000 to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and $550,000 to breast cancer organizations in local communities throughout the U.S. that Tanger Outlet centers serve.

HandyCapable Network awarded grant

HandyCapable Network in Greensboro has been awarded a grant from the Cemala Foundation. Funds from the grant will cover the cost of 125 refurbished computers and initial training from HandyCapable for low-income students at McNair Elementary School in Greensboro.

Duke gets $1.5 million commitment

William McCutchen Jr. and his wife, Irene Lilly McCutchen, both graduates of Duke University have committed $1.5 million to endow a professorship at Duke Divinity School. McCutcheon, former director of communications for Eli Lilly and Company, recently retired as a professor of management at the Zicklin School of Business in Baruch College at the City University of New York.

Discovery Place reducing admission cost for low-income families

Discovery Place  in Charlotte is launching a program that will reduce the cost of admission to $1 per person for families who present electronic-benefit-transfer or women-infants-and-children cards at Discovery Place, Charlotte Nature Museum or Discovery Place KIDS in Huntersville or Rockingham, for up to six family members.

Prevention Partners names three board members

Prevention Partners has named three Durham residents to its board of directors, including Peter Chauncey,  president of the Carolinas market for Aetna; Mark Dessauer, director of communications for the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation; and Chris Skowronek, senior vice president for business development for the North Carolina Hospital Association.

Marion retires from Senior Services; board members named

Holly Marion has retired as vice president of development at Senior Services in Winston-Salem.

Sandra P. Adams has been elected chair of the nonprofit’s board of directors, and Marilyn Broyhill Beach, a community volunteer, and Bill Benton, chairman and CEO of Salem Senior Housing, have been named to the board.

Joining the Senior Services Foundation, a supporting organization of Senior Services, are Chris Chapman, president of the Chapman Company, and Dale E. Driscoll, president and CEO of the Driscoll Group.

John Rex Endowment names board chair, new board members

Jill Wright of Wake Health Services New Bern Ridge Pediatrics, has been elected chair of the board of directors of the John Rex Endowment in Raleigh.

New board members include Russell Killen, partner and litigation department chair for Parker Poe; Dexter V. Perry, president and CEO of The Providence Group of North Carolina; Walker Wilson, director of health policy for Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina; and M. Carter Worthy, president of Carter Worthy Commercial.

Pat’s Place gets matching challenge

Pat’s Place, a child advocacy center in Charlotte, has received a challenge from the Leon Levine Foundation. The Charlotte foundation has agreed to match, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $30,000 from first-time donors to Pat’s Place, from existing donors who increase their contribution this year, or from any donor who has not given to Pat’s Place since 2012.

National Christian Foundation of Raleigh posts year-end results

National Christian Foundation of Raleigh says it expects its grants in 2014 to total $13 million, bringing to more than $65 million the grants it has made since it was formed in 2005, and will have worked with donors to create 80 new funds.

Create your content before designing your nonprofit’s website

Form follows function.

That classic principle of design suggests that, in planning your nonprofit’s website, you first figure out what you want it do and say before hiring a web firm to design or redesign it.

Your website should advance your goals and reach the audiences you need to reach to meet those goals.

So figure out who you want your website to reach, the information you want to them to find there, and the actions you want them to take.

As a nonprofit, you likely want to raise awareness of the need you address. You want to  inform donors about your work, the people you serve, and the difference you make in their lives. And you want to engage people who will get involved and support you.

So before you start talking to web firms to design or redesign your website, think about the story your want your site to tell and how you want to organize that story.

Then create the content. It should include a simple narrative that says who you are, how you work, and your impact. Explain the need you address. Talk about the people you serve and how your work helps them improve their lives. Create profiles of your donors and partners. And write short appeals inviting visitors to get involved and support you.

Only then should you hire a web firm. The expertise of design firms typically is web design, not your cause or how most effectively to tell your story. If you ask a web firm to take on the job of writing and organizing what you want to say on your web site, you will add a lot of time and expense to what the firm already will charge just to design the look, feel and technical functions of your website.

Be smart. You know your cause, your goals and your audience better than anyone. Create and organize your own content first, and only then ask a web firm to design a website based on the story you have created and your plan for telling it.

Form follows function. And the function of your website should be rooted in your goals, the audiences you want to reach and the story you want to tell.

Want 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

Big Brothers Big Sisters matches kids with adult mentors

By Todd Cohen

MORRISVILLE, N.C. — When Kimberly Breeden was 16, her mother was murdered. Just a week shy of her 39th birthday, Dora Locklear Breeden had had a passion for children but had left her job as an elementary school teacher to work in the convenience store her husband owned. She was killed in the store.

Breeden says her salvation after that devastating loss was a woman family friend who stepped into her life as a mentor. That experience led her to devote her life to kids, says Breeden, CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle.

“My career has always been in the the direction of serving children,” she says.

At North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, she studied business and physical education, modeling her course of  study “toward being able to run an organization that served children.”

Her first job was working as youth director for YWCA Greensboro, running its after-school programs, then she served as director of operations for the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Clubs in High Point before working as executive director of the Boys and Girls Clubs in Greensboro and then in Lee County.

In 2002, she was named executive director of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Durham and Orange County, which merged in October 2005 with YMCA Big Brothers Big Sisters a program of YMCA of the Triangle, to form Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Triangle.

Operating with an annual budget of $1.1 million, a staff of 16 people and a core of 700 adult volunteers, the Morrisville nonprofit serves nearly 1,000 “littles” a year, including 700 who are matched with adult “bigs,” and 275 who are on a waiting list but participate in fitness activities ranging from rock-climbing and hiking to walking, running, cooking and “game night.”

Big Brothers Big Sisters spends most of its effort screening children and adults who want to be in the program, matching them, and then supporting those matches. Children ages six to 14 may apply, and can stay matched until they graduate from high school.

The screening process is comprehensive and finding a match can take 60 days for adults, four to six months for girls and up to a year for boys.

“We don’t have as many male volunteers as females,” says Breeden, who has served as a volunteer Big Sister in Greensboro and in the Triangle. “That is our need as an organization — male volunteers.”

Of the 700 children now matched with adults, 58 percent are girls and 42 percent are boys.

For kids and their parents or caregivers, the screening process includes detailed interviews; placement on a ready-to-be matched list; a meeting with matching staff from the agency and volunteers who have gone through their own screening process and selected up to three children they would like to work with — without knowing their identities and based on profiles the agency prepares; and signing an agreement that binds the relationship and spells out goals and commitments.

For adults, the screening process includes completing an application form; undergoing an extensive background check; a two-hour orientation; online training that takes four to five hours; an interview that takes 90 minutes to two hours; references checks; and placement on a ready-to-be-matched list.

With the loss of a federal grant that had enabled it to serve 150 to 200 children of incarcerated parents a year, Big Brothers Big Sisters is working to diversify its board, and increase the donations its members make and the dollars they help raise.

The agency launched a special board campaign this year that set a goal of $100,000, asking each member to give $1,000 and raise another $4,000. The effort has raised $80,000 and is on track to meet its goal by the end of the year, Breeden says.

Ultimately, she says, pairing adult volunteers with kids pays off for the kids, she says.

“They do better in school,” she says. “We keep them out of the juvenile justice system. There are no teen pregnancies with our organization. Our bigs really engage themselves in these kids’ lives.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 12.12.14

North Carolina Community Foundation gives record-high $15 million

The North Carolina Community Foundation awarded a record-high $15 million in grants on behalf of fundholders and affiliates in the fiscal year ended March 31, 2014.

Those grants bring to $89 million the Foundation’s cumulative grantmaking since it was formed 26 years ago.

In fiscal 2014, the foundation administered over 2,200 grants, its most ever, on behalf of donor advised funds and community grantmaking programs through its network of 60 affiliate foundations throughout the state, and through endowments, including scholarships and those held by nonprofits, corporations, government agencies, small businesses and private foundations.

Grants for human services in the fiscal year totaled $7 million, followed by $3.9 million for education-related initiatives.

The Foundation also awarded nearly $600,000 in direct scholarships for post-secondary education for 300 students.

Salem launching $60 million campaign

Salem Academy and College are set to launch a campaign early next year to raise $60 million for capital improvements to its campus in Winston-Salem, and to provide support for students and faculty, Triad Business Journal reported.

The school has raised over $26 million over the past two years during the campaign’s quiet phase, the Journal reported.

Museum of Art gets $13 million, unveils plan for campus

The North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh has unveiled a phased, long-term plan for its 164-acre campus and has received $13 million from an anonymous donor to complete the plan’s first phase, scheduled to begin in spring 2015.

The plan calls for a new campus entrance and streetscape, increased parking capacity, woodland and meadow restoration, additional Park trails and infrastructure, improved sustainability measures, and additional outdoor works of art.

Civitas, a landscape architecture and urban design firm in Denver, developed the plan, and the Museum commissioned artist Jim Hodges of New York City to create a signature work of art from the existing smokestack on the campus.

Pope Foundation gives $1.7 million

The John William Pope Foundation awarded nearly $1.7 million to schools, churches, arts organizations, and community groups, mainly to organizations serving the Triangle area and Vance County, bringing its total giving for 2014 to over $7.69 million.

The biggest grants includes multi-year commitments of $300,000 to White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh and $400,000 to the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill, and a grant for $100,000 to Transitions LifeCare in Raleigh.

Cone Health Center for Children raises over $1.1 million

Over $1.1 million was raised for the Cone Health Center for Children at December 4 celebration honoring Cone Health CEO Emeritus Tim Rice at his retirement.

The funds will be used to establish an endowment named for Tim and Carolynn Rice at the Center, and to fund several special projects.

SAFEchild raises $405,000

SAFEchild in Raleigh has raised over $405,000 from individual donors, corporate sponsors and matching gifts in its annual fundraising campaign and will use the funds to provide child abuse prevention programs and support the needs of child abuse victims.

The campaign included matching gift challenges of $50,000 each from the WakeMed Foundation and an anonymous family, which together agreed to match all new gifts made up to a total of $100,000.

Public relations consultant Anita Blomme Pinther is campaign chair, and Rick Guirlinger, president of Bourke Services, is honorary co-chair.

ArtsGreensboro names program director for National Arts Festival

Amy Grossmann, a program director for the Maryland State Arts Council, has been named local director for the National Folk Festival by ArtsGreensboro, effective Jan. 2, 2015.

Grossmann will work directly for ArtsGreensboro and in close cooperation with the National Council for the Traditional Arts, the organizations co-presenting the festival for its three-year residency in Greensboro starting September 11-13, 2015.

She will oversee all administrative and logistical elements of the festival, and will also play a leadership role in managing local operations ranging from vendor relationships to volunteer needs.

Gallagher joins Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center

Arthur Gallagher, former campus president of Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, has been named vice president for foundation and community engagement at Novant Health Presbyterian Medical Center in Charlotte.

Metts new regional advancement officer at National Rife Association

Susan Metts, director of strategic giving at Meredith College in Raleigh, has been named regional advancement officer at the National Rifle Association.

Flinn joins The Volunteer Center

Megan Flinn, who has handled digital and marketing communications social media and event development at Durham Community Land Trustees, has been named director of marketing and community relations at The Volunteer Center.

North Carolinians sign up for health care through federal exchange

In 2014, 390,000 North Carolinians obtained health insurance through the Affordable Care Act, and an overwhelming majority of them qualified for financial assistance to help cover the cost of care, a new report says.

Last year, 357,584 North Carolinians signed up for health care through the federal exchange, and the state’s new Medicaid program signed up 46,044 North Carolinians, says “Know the Facts: The Affordable Care Act Is Working in North Carolina,” a report from the Center for American Progress.

More than nine in 10 North Carolinians qualified for tax credits that lowered the cost by 79 percent, on average, the report says.

If North Carolina were to accept federal funding to expand Medicaid in 2014, it says, the state would see its economy grow by $1.7 billion over two years.

Foundations give $111 million for disasters

In 2012, 234 U.S. foundations made 884 grants totaling $111 million for disasters, with 58 percent of the funds going to natural disasters, and 46 percent directed to response and relief efforts, a new report says.

Sixty-two percent of the grant dollars addressed human services needs related to disasters, and 62 percent targeted disasters in North America, says “Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy 2014: Data to Drive Decisions” from the Foundation Center and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Countries in Asia received 16 percent of the funds, and countries in Africa received 13 percent, the report says.

Habitat renovating more homes

In the face of rising land prices, the number of homes Habitat for Humanity for International has renovated in the U.S. doubled to 1,435 in the fiscal year ended June 30 from 2008, while new construction fell 31 percent to 3,323 over the same period, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Ipas supports local causes

The staff of Chapel Hill-based Ipas, in partnership with Durham Social Services, have collected 30 gifts and over $400 in donations for a local family. 

The local staff of Ipas, which employs more than 150 people in Chapel Hill and works to improve health care for women in developing countries, for several years has led food and gift drives to support area social service organizations.

During its annual summer food drive this year, Ipas donated over 400 pounds of food and $1,200 to TABLE, an organization providing emergency food assistance to school-aged children in Carrboro and Chapel Hill.

In 2012, Ipas donated 1,449 pounds of food and $560 to the CORA Food Pantry in Pittsboro.

Artist team selected for Charlotte Rail Trail

Charlotte City Partners has hired the artist team Wowhaus as the public art consultant to develop a public art plan and execute recommended art along the Charlotte Rail Trail.

The project will be funded with a $412,000 grant that ArtPlace America awarded in June, plus $20,000 from the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation.

Winston-Salem Foundation accepting applications for teacher grants

Feb. 13, 2015, is the deadline for teachers, guidance counselors, curriculum coordinators, and media coordinators in the Winston- Salem/Forsyth County schools to submit applications to The Winston-Salem Foundation for teacher grants of up to $2,500.

Grants can be used for needs such as local, state, and national conferences, workshops, or seminars; foreign travel; innovative classroom experiences; educational travel to be incorporated into the classroom or school curriculum, or both; and other professional growth and enrichment opportunities.

In 2014, the Foundation made 18 teacher grants totaling nearly $27,000.

Junior Achievement gets $7,500

Junior Achievement of Central North Carolina has received a $7,500 grant from Wells Fargo to support economic literacy and work readiness training in kindergarten-through-12th-grade schools in Forsyth County.

Greensboro Boys & Girls Clubs get $15,000

The Salvation Army Boys & Girls Clubs of Greensboro received $15,000 from Disaster One, a Greensboro-based restoration company serving commercial and residential clients. The donation represents the net proceeds from a casino event that attracted over 240 people.

Center for Human-Earth Restoration receives awards

The Center for Human-Earth Restoration in Raleigh received the Community Conservation Award 2014 from the Wake Soil and Water Conservation District. It also received $200 from the North Carolina Bluebird Society to buy bird houses and replacement materials for damaged bird houses at Kingswood Elementary School.

Watauga Children’s Council, Jaycees of Winston-Salem to get support

Tar Heel Basement Systems has selected Children’s Council of Watauga County and Jaycees of Winston Salem to receive volunteer time and money in December.

High Point Bank sponsoring film program

High Point Bank is sponsoring the RiverRun North Carolina Shorts film program during the 2015 RiverRun International Film Festival April 16-26, 2015.

Wheels4Hope seeking car donations

Wheels4Hope has placed over 70 cars with individuals and families in the Triad over the past two years and is looking for 25 car donations during the holiday season.

Corporate Volunteer Council to meet Jan. 8

BackPack Beginnings will be the guest nonprofit for the next meeting of the Corporate Volunteer Council. The session will be held Jan. 8, 2015, in The HR Group Training Room at 216 S. Swing Rd., Suite 3, in Greensboro from noon to 1:30 p.m.

Don’t get bogged down in data

Nonprofit and philanthropy professionals love data, maybe too much.

Numbers, used sparingly, can help explain a community need, measure how a charitable program is helping to address it, and show donors and funders the return on their investment in the program.

But while data can be a useful means to the end of fixing problems, many people working in the charitable world seem to let data drive their thinking, decision-making, programs and funding, as well as their appeals to donors.

Data are not what matter for a nonprofit. What matters is the difference you make in the lives of the people you serve. And the most effective way to show your impact is by telling compelling stories about how your work improved the lives of your clients.

Data can help by tracking and quantifying your impact, but the story you tell about your work should focus on the human need in your commuity that you address, and on the way real people benefit from your nonprofit.

Do not be seduced by data. Instead, use it to help tell real stories about the people you serve and how their lives are better as a result of the work you do.

Want 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

Donor relationships seen as key to fundraising success

By Todd Cohen

HIGH POINT, N.C. — A coach at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater High Point with a natural gift for connecting with people has helped cultivate important relationships for the nonprofit. When a parent of one of his soccer players was sick, for example, the coach sent get-well cards.

Later, that parent’s spouse phoned the Boys & Girls Clubs and asked how to help the organization. So it invited the spouse to serve on its board of directors. That individual, in turn, invited the nonprofit to apply for grants from the family’s foundation. Then the donor began volunteering for the organization, reading with children and helping them with their homework.

Over the course of a 10-year relationship, the donor has become one of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ top contributors, making a string of individual gifts of more than $10,000 each, compared to an average gift to the organization of roughly $150.

“All you have to do is say, ‘This is what’s going on,’ and that donor will say, ‘Let me write a check, let me help alleviate that problem,'” says Holly Ferree, vice president for development at the Boys & Girls Clubs.

Managing relationships

At a time of growing competition among charities for donor support, continuing uncertainty about the economy, and increasing expectation from donors for a measurable return on their investment, nonprofits increasingly are focusing their fundraising on building relationships with donors who have the ability to make large gifts.

“The number one lesson for any nonprofit is maintaining a close relationship with donors,” says Whitney Jones, president of Whitney Jones Inc., a fundraising consulting firm in Winston-Salem. “Fundraising is all about relationships management.”

Ferree agrees.

“The key to any fundraising is establishing relationships, making sure you’re letting donors know how the money is being used, and reporting results, being transparent,” she says.

Keeping it personal

At many charities, Jones says, 80 percent of the income comes from 20 to 30 donors.

“Even in a small organization, some donors are giving significantly more than anyone else,” he says. “The key is to maintain really close relationships with them, which is regular, personal visits to keep them informed.”

The goal of those visits, which should take place every three months, he says, is not to ask for money but to talk about “here’s where we are, here’s who we’re serving, here’s a touching story of someone we’ve served.”

Ferree says building relationships with donors requires “constant communication, making sure you have touch points throughout the year where you’re trying to reach your donors through quarterly publications, and having them in for special recognitions.”

The best approach is to have one-on-one conversations with key donors, she says, “making people feel special, making them feel they are part of something and really contributing to something that is making a difference.”

Board role

Jones says many nonprofits are small and lack sufficient staff to maintain relationships with donors, making it “incumbent on the board to get involved.”

And that makes it important that the CEO of a nonprofit work to build the board by developing relationships and identifying potential board members who are “connectors” who can connect the nonprofit to prospective donors.

To help find those connectors, a nonprofit CEO can ask either a board member or community leader to host a “friendraising” event in their home at which they can “share the vision and the passion for the organization,” Jones says.

A nonprofit also could host a luncheon both to raise money and identify prospective board members, he says. The organization might recruit sponsors to contribute, in advance, 90 percent of the total to be raised, and ask existing board members and donors to invite prospective board members and donors to the event. At the event, the nonprofit also would spell out its “vision and passion,” Jones says.

Setting priorities

With small staffs, limited resources and significant demands on their time, nonprofit CEOs need to focus and be resourceful about how to invest their time and the organizations’ efforts to raise money, Jones says.

“You’ve got to set your own priorities, goals in terms of the people you’re going to visit based on the potential return on investment of your time,” he says.

Accompanying the CEO on those targeted donor visits, he says, should be a member of the nonprofit’s board or development committee, which typically might include individuals such as those connected to foundations, corporations or local businesses, or a lawyer who handles trust work, or a banker who focuses on wealth management.

Peer connections

At Guilford College, a key strategy has been to recruit “passionate” major-gift donors to help secure major gifts from their peers, says Mike Poston, vice president for advancement.

“If somebody gives $100,000, put them in front of someone else who can give $100,000, he says. “Here is a passionate person, and make sure they talk to another person who hasn’t given but will give if they see someone who has the same passion and will invest. It’s matching the passion with the ability to invest through a gift.”

Equally important, he says, is to “cluster” those volunteers around a set of core needs, so existing donors who have made gifts to support a particular need will talk to prospective donors with a passion for the same need.

Organizations also should give prospective donors an opportunity meet people who have benefited from the programs that donors are supporting.

“You want to know that what you’re giving your money to is appreciated,” Poston says.

Volunteers as leverage

Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro has engaged volunteers to work closely with its staff on developing and soliciting key prospective donors, says Gordon Soenksen, chief development officer.

That requires communicating effectively with key volunteers “so you’re developing strategies that are appropriate for the prospects but also comfortable for the volunteers,” he says.

It also requires “engaged volunteers who are passionate about the mission of the organization and who are clear on the vision of the organization,” and “who are confident enough that they are willing to ask for the commitment or the gift, or appropriately set up the fundraiser to ask for the gift,” he says.

“Most of us at nonprofits are small staffs,” he says, “and engaging volunteers appropriately allows us to leverage our activity.”

Investing in infrastructure

Boys & Girls Clubs of America is promoting a program known as “Advancing Philanthropy” that encourages its more than 1,140 independent local Clubs to invest in their infrastructure “to get the best payoff for the kids we’re serving,” Ferree says.

“Donors want to see what their investment is doing,” she says. “That takes a greater investment of time and more people. We’re starting to see we have to do things differently.”

Instead of spending time on special events that might raise $20,000 and consume staff time, for example, local Clubs could assign a staff member to work with prospective donors and make requests for major gifts that might generate as much in donations, if not more, she says.

“It’s a culture shift,” she says. “It takes time.”

Telling stories, and selling

To raise money, Jones says, nonprofits need to create a “compelling vision” and two or three stories that reflect that vision and show how their organizations have helped transform the lives of the people they serve.

Soenksen says nonprofits should focus their fundraising on individuals — who account for well over three-fourths of charitable giving in the U.S. — and avoid “the trap of grantwriting as the sole fundraising activity.”

Grantwriting can consume “enormous amounts of time that could otherwise be spent with individual prospects.”

Nonprofits also should not be “afraid to hear ‘no,'” he says.

“It gives you a chance to come back to the conversation later on,” he says. “Fundraising success comes from relationships that have been carefully developed over time.”