American Tobacco Trail boosts East Coast Greenway project

By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — The bridge that recently was installed over I-40 near The Streets at Southpoint connecting two segments of the American Tobacco Trail represents a key link in an effort to build a greenway system from the southernmost tip of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico through Calais, Maine, on the Canadian border.

“What we’re creating is a linear park all the way from Key West to Canada,” says Dennis Markatos-Soriano, director of the Durham-based East Coast Greenway Alliance.

Formed in 1991 by greenway leaders in Washington, D.C., New York City and Boston, the Alliance works as a “unifying and advocacy organization” to help cities and towns in 15 states and the District of Columbia acquire land, and to help states convert abandoned rail corridors for trails “that are safe and accessible to people of all ages and abilities,” Markatos-Soriano says.

The new bridge over I-40, as well as nearly four miles of paths leading up to the bridge, for example, were funded with $8 million from the city of Durham, including state and federal funds.

Nearly 20 percent of 395 miles of the the East Coast Greenway that are planned for North Carolina and will run from just northeast of Myrtle Beach, S.C., to Kerr Lake at the Virginia border have been completed.

In the Triangle, 90 percent of 75 miles of projected Greenway is expected to have been  completed in less than a year.

North Carolina also will include an alternative stretch of 390 additional miles of the East Coast Greenway running along the coast from Wilmington to the Virginia border.

The Greenway, which will serve over 45 million people living in communities it crosses, and already attracts 10 million visits a year, will serve as an “urban sister” to the Appalachian Trail that runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine, says Markatos-Soriano.

Operating with an annual budget of $520,000, a staff of four people working full-time and three working part-time, and offices in Durham, Philadelphia, Providence, R.I., and Leland, Fla., the Alliance counts on 20,000 supporters, including 2,100 dues-paying members and 80 donors who give $500 or more a year.

In North Carolina, the Alliance has 135 members and 1,000 people who subscribe to its monthly e-newsletter or follow its Facebook and Twitter pages.

Individual donors and members account for over 60 percent of revenues for the Alliance, while government funding accounts for nearly 10 percent, mainly to pay for guides that have been published on the segments of the Greenway that run through Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

Foundation support represents about 20 percent of the budget, up from 15 percent a year ago, and the Alliance also receives support from six companies, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and Performance Bike in Chapel Hill.

The Alliance is about to hire a South Atlantic coordinator to help accelerate progress on the Greenway in Virginia and the Carolinas.

And on Oct. 25 and 26, it will host its fall national meeting in Raleigh, an event that will include a State of the Greenway Summit and a cross-Triangle bike ride.

“North Carolina and the Triangle are fast becoming a national greenway leader,” Markatos-Soriano says.

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Nonprofits lag on investment policies

Many nonprofits lack key investment guidelines and many made changes to their asset allocation policies in 2012 that likely caused dips in returns and may have been in reaction to short-term market trends and not to the organizations’ strategic needs, a new study says.

Among over 150 finance executives at trade associations, public charities and other nonprofits participating in a survey conducted in February for a third-party research firm and analyzed by Raffa Wealth Management, 38 percent lack guidelines that require sufficient levels of diversification and 43 percent neglect to indicate the degree of discretion given to outside advisers.

“We were most surprised by how many organizations lacked clear investment guidelines on benchmarking, diversification and even guidelines to address who is ultimately responsible for investment decisions,  Dennis Gogarty of Raffa Wealth Management says in a statement.

Roughly 30 percent of organizations surveyed made changes to asset allocations in 2012, most of them to be more aggressive, and those organizations reported lower returns on investment than those that did not make changes.

“Timing the markets gets expensive and is something that is more likely to happen when you don’t have clear investment policies and decision making procedures,” Gogarty says.

While the nonprofit sector generally is sound in terms of reserve ration, overall average returns on investments lagged traditional indexes by 1 percent to 2 percent, says the inaugural Study on Nonprofit Investing by Raffa Wealth Management.

Seventy percent of organizations surveyed reinvested all their dividend income in 2012, and only 3 percent used it all for their operational budget.

Charities held more reserves in cash and other fixed income assets, and their portfolios as a result underperformed other types of nonprofits, the study says.

Smaller organizations held more reserves in cash than did larger organizations and posted a lower overall return on investment.

Larger organizations were much more likely to invest in alternative investments, most commonly in real estates, although shifts to alternative investments in 2012 generally were not advantageous, the study says.

Portfolios with higher allocations to equity performed better in 2012.

Todd Cohen

Apparo brokers tech solutions for nonprofits

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Mint Museum in Charlotte has a five-year strategic plan, including specific “deliverables,” along with tactics and assignments to produce them.

But different departments within the Mint tracked all that information separately, using Word or Excel documents, for example.

“Having a better, fully integrated system will help the departments collaborate around the deliverables,” says Kim Lanphear, executive director of Apparo, a nonprofit formerly known as NPower Charlotte Region.

After meeting with Mint officials, Apparo contacted CTS, a local technology consulting firm that is one of Apparo’s corporate partners, and brokered a three-phase project that has engaged two CTS employees who are working with the Mint as skilled volunteers to solve its problem of fragmented information systems.

And Duke Energy has agreed to fund the project, including the cost of Apparo’s consulting time to set the scope of the project, sit in on all project meetings, work to prevent “scope creep,” make sure deliverables are completed on time, and serve as the “go-to” player for the client and the skilled volunteers, Lanphear says.

Apparo — it takes its name from the Latin word for “provide” — works to “convene business solutions” for nonprofits, Lanphear says.

Its work with the Mint reflects a shift in its focus from providing technology consulting and training for nonprofits.

Formed in 2003, Apparo was one of up to 20 loosely affiliated NPower nonprofits throughout the U.S. that were supported by Microsoft and provided tech assistance to nonprofits in their communities.

Apparo, which operates with an annual budget of nearly $1.4 million and a staff of five people working full-time and five working part-time, also developed a line of business serving as the outsourced information-technology department for 27 local organizations, including United Way of Central Carolinas, Foundation for the Carolinas, Arts & Science Council, and The Duke Endowment, and many smaller agencies and foundations.

But Apparo recognized that its business model of providing help-desk services and managed services depended on generating enough volume to keep its rates low while supporting the level of staff know-how and skills it needed to deliver those services.

So this year, Apparo partnered with CDI Managed Services to work with any of its nonprofit clients that opted to work with CDI.

CDI now is working with 27 nonprofits that had been clients of Apparo, which is handling the billing for 11 of those nonprofits that are smaller, or those with fewer than 10 workstations each.

“We’ve been able to negotiate below-market rates for nonprofits,” Lanphear says. “We try to create sustainable models for these nonprofits.”

The model that Apparo itself is adopting grew out of a three-year grant of nearly $3 million it received in 2008 from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to develop collaborative solutions to nonprofit tech problems.

The new model focuses on matching the resources of skilled volunteers with the needs of nonprofits, facilitating the relationships, securing funding to cover its costs and those of the volunteers, or about $5,000 to $7,500 for each project, and making sure the nonprofit client also contributes funding.

“If they’re not invested,” Lanphear says, “they’re not as good about giving time and resources.”

Key to its model, she says, is to bring nonprofits together to talk about common needs and help them think about common solutions.

Another key, says Lindsay Jones, communications manager at Apparo, is “to inspire people who are part of the corporate technology community in Charlotte to partner with us to fund some of these engagements,” using the “skills they use every day in their jobs to make a difference in solving everyday business challenges that nonprofits face.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 05.17.13

Rodriguez promoted at Triangle Community Foundation

Sandra Rodriguez, a donor engagement officer at Triangle Community Foundation, has been promoted to director of donor engagement, and Veronica Hemmingway has been promoted to senior donor engagement officer from donor engagement officer.

Rodriguez, a native of Costa Rica and former associate director of El Pueblo in Raleigh, has worked at the Foundation for over six years.

She and Hemmingway will continue to work with Foundation donors and fundholders to help them support causes they care about as well as the Foundation’s community initiatives.

Salvation Army of Winston-Salem names development director

Matthew Linville, former associate director of planned giving for the North and South Carolina Division of The Salvation Army, has been named director of development for The Salvation Army of Winston-Salem.

The Salvation Army of Winston-Salem also recently added three new members to its local volunteer Advisory Board, including Frank Rayburn, accounting professor emeritus from the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Jim Ruffin, who recently retired from Landmark Builders; and Rob Welch, a vice president at I.L. Long Construction in Winston-Salem.

Peck returns to Capstone Advancement Partners

Brigitte Roufail Peck, a founder of Capstone Advancement Partners in Charlotte and most recently assistant director of institutional advancement for The Westminster Schools in Atlanta, has rejoined the consulting firm as senior consultant and will be serving clients throughout the Southeast from Atlanta.

Ryba leaving John Avery Boys and Girls Club

Sheila Ryba resigned as chief professional officer at John Avery Boys and Girls Club in Durham to start her own business, Lion’s Share Consulting. She will be working with the board and staff at the Boys and Girls Club during a transition period.

Lenovo, Kramden Institute partner to donate computers

Lenovo partnered with Kramden Institute in Durham to refurbish and donate computers to 75 students in families stationed at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. Last year, Lenovo and the Kramden Institute refurbished and donated computers at the U.S. Army installation at Fort Bragg and at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

SECU Family House names development associate

Colleen Weiss, former executive eirector of the Forsyth Humane Society, has been named development associate for SECU Family House in Winston-Salem. SECU Family House provides lodging for families and patients who are in Winston-Salem for medical care.

High Point Boys & Girls Clubs honored

Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater High Point received the Marketing and Communications Award from Boys & Girls Clubs of America for implementing the best marketing strategy for publicity/media relations, Great Futures Start Here, and comprehensive marketing strategy.

Wells Fargo supports tree plantings in Sandhills

With support from Wells Fargo, Arbor Day Foundation has completed the replanting of tens of thousands of longleaf pine trees in the North Carolina Sandhills, restoring vital forestland and ecosystems in the fire-prone community.

The North Carolina coast contains vast stretches of longleaf pine trees, but these forests have shrunk to just four percent of their original range over the past 50 years.

The Foundation and Wells Fargo supported the planting of 400 trees an acre, for a total of 50,000 trees this spring.

The five-year relationship between Wells Fargo and the Arbor Day Foundation has resulted in the planting of 630,000 trees in forests and communities throughout the U.S.

Habitat Charlotte honors seven founding churches

Habitat for Humanity of Charlotte has honored seven churches that founded the organization 30 years ago.

Those churches, representing six different denominations, came together over the need to address the lack of decent, affordable housing available to low-income families paying a disproportionate percent of take-home pay on rent, with very little left for basic family needs.

Habitat’s founding churches include Christ Episcopal, Covenant Presbyterian, Little Church on the Lane, Myers Park Baptist, Myers Park Presbyterian, Myers Park United Methodist and St. Mark’s Lutheran.

Asheville funder makes early childhood grants

Community Foundation of Western North Carolina, which is based in Asheville and serves 18 counties, awarded two $75,000 grants focusing on early childhood development to Region A Partnership for Children, which serves the state’s seven most western counties and on the Qualla Boundary, and to Southwestern Child Development Commission, which is based in Webster and serves 13 counties.

Winston-Salem Foundation awards $187,725

The Winston-Salem Foundation awarded eight Community Grants totaling $187,725 to organizations that serve people in Forsyth County and work in the areas of the arts and culture, education, the environment, health, human services, public interest, and recreation.

Urban Ministries to hold 9th annual Tour D’Coop

Urban Ministries of  Wake County will hold its ninth annual Tour D’ Coop event, a one-day tour of chicken coops and urban farms, on May 18 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event collects non-perishable food items and raises money for Urban Ministries, a Raleigh nonprofit that provides essential services to the homeless, hungry and uninsured individuals in Wake County.

NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad to honor Sandra Daye Hughes

NCCJ of the Piedmont Triad will honor Sandra Daye Hughes, a Greensboro journalist and community advocate, with the 2013 Brotherhood/Sisterhood Citation Award on November 7.

Hughes’ career at WFMY News 2 spanned forty years, beginning in 1972 as a general assignment reporter and then serving from 1985 to 1990 as community affairs manager while also serving as co-host of the “Good Morning Show.”

She returned to the newsroom in 1990 to anchor the evening news.

After retiring from the station, Hughes moved to her alma mater, North Carolina A&T State University, where she is teaching journalism.

Raleigh chapter of National Christian Foundation gives $181,488

The Raleigh chapter of the National Christian Foundation has given $181,488 since 2005 to Compassion International through 87 grants from local givers. Grants to the charity directly supplement an impoverished child’s education and health expenses or support programs in which the child participates. At the national level, the Foundation has facilitated over $656,000 in giving  to Compassion International since 2005.

Restrictive covenant at issue in possible coliseum sale

The Winston-Salem Foundation Committee, governing body for the Winston-Salem Foundation, has voiced concerns about the possible sale of the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

The Committee convened for a called meeting on May 13 to review a draft of the restrictive covenant between its owner, the City of Winston-Salem, and its prospective buyer, Wake Forest University related to the potential sale.

A tentative agreement on the proposed sale would maintain access to specific events such as high school graduations that have been held at the Coliseum over the years.

Since 1969, the Foundation has held a reversionary interest in the property to ensure the original donors’ intent that the property be available for public events.

After consultation with the Foundation’s Trustee and the Foundation’s legal counsel, the Foundation says, “it was determined that there are concerns related to continued public access.”

Because the land was acquired with private donations to benefit the public, the Foundation is concerned that “the public should continue to have access to the facility,” says Cici Fulton, director of marketing and communications for the Foundation.

The Foundation says it and the Trustee still are waiting for drafts of the parking documents and the deed of transfer.

No decision was reached at the meeting on the release of the reversionary interest.

The Foundation says it will continue to work with the city to address the concerns.

Smithfield’s ships barbecue to U.S. troops in Afghanistan

Smithfield’s Chicken ‘N Bar-B-Q recently shipped care packages with ingredients needed to prepare its eastern North Carolina-style chicken, barbecue and other southern staples to U.S. troops stationed in Afghanistan.

Savvy change agents seen as key to ‘great’ fundraising

Outstanding fundraising is driven by exceptional leaders committed to transforming the way their organizations do business, a new report says.

Indispensable to successful fundraising are passion for the work and belief in what it can achieve, says Great Fundraising, a British-based report commissioned by Clayton Burnett and Associates.

Keys to building great fundraising organizations, the report says, include creation of an inspired and supported team; development of an organizational structure rooted in functionality; a focus on donors; a culture of learning; and leaders who think holistically and work for change.

What elevates “good fundraising to outstanding fundraising” is “the quality of thinking each leader was able to generate,” says the report, which was written by Adrian Sargeant, a fundraising consultant who is on leave as professor of fundraising at Indiana University, and Jen Shang, an assistant professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana Univeristy.

“The real difference” those leaders are able to make, the report says, is a “consequence of the way in which they understood and coped with the complexities of everyday decision making.”

Transformational growth

The report examines five organizations identified by 20 leading directors of fundraising and senior fundraising consultants. Those groups include Cancer Research UK, British Red Cross, NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children), Save The Children, and Royal British Legion.

“Outstanding fundraising enables an organization’s fundraising income to double, triple or even quadruple,” the report says.

Yet growth at the charities studied “was not a goal in and of itself,” it says. “A passion for the work and daring to believe in what might be achieved was considered paramount.”

Equally critical, in creating a “compelling ongoing case for support,” is the need to work closely with the program team “to ensure that any new objectives were meaningful for donors,” the report says.

“Fundraising greatness thus delivers the kind of growth that is transformational for the organization and its programs either in scale or in content so that the organization can multiply its societal impact,” it says.

Exceptional fundraising leaders “manage their teams and achieve desired change through a combination of will and personality,” it says.

And they “devote considerable attention to what they regard as the critical building blocks of success,” it says, “namely, building an exceptional team, structure(s) and culture.”

Team building

Appointing the “right” fundraising team is critical, the report says.

While some leaders hired new team members as soon as they arrived at the organization, others waited until after they had “strengthened the existing team, working on the collective ‘belief’ that it was possible to succeed, by helping them create early successes,” it says.

The resulting “improvement in confidence and morale became self-sustaining as individuals began to recognize their own potential to succeed,” it says. “Technical expertise on the part of team members was important, but so too was conscientiousness, a willingness to support others, and a propensity to engage in appropriate levels of risk-taking.”

Once the “right” team had been built, none of the organizations examined suffered from the high turnover rates “that otherwise pervade our sector,” the report says. “Being a part of a successful team appears to engender high levels of loyalty,” both on the part of the teams and their leaders.

In setting goals, outstanding leaders also “aligned their organizational metrics with the longer term drivers of donor value,” the report says.

Rather than couching them in the “short-term minutiae that typically pervade our sector,” it says, objectives were framed “in the standards and behaviors they identified would add value for supporters and thus pay-back in the longer term.”

Appraisal and reward systems, it says, “were similarly aligned, to focus team member ambitions on the things that mattered most to longer term growth.”

Organizational structure

Organizations that were great at fundraising adopted a structure based on “function,” such as fundraising, finance, marketing, public relations, campaigning and program management, the report says.

“The advantage of such a structure,” it says, “is that it pools specialists together to create economies of scale, minimizes the duplication of personnel/equipment, and employees can speak ‘the same language as their peers.'”

But the disadvantage of that structure is that “functional departments can become competitors who engage in a power struggle for organizational power and resources.”

It was a focus on building “team efficacy,” or developing the “supporting system” that “consistently produced great fundraising,” the report says.

“Since talent can be created through training and development,” it says, “it is more important to have a system in place to grow it than constantly trying to source the right talent externally.”

Culture of learning

Great fundraising organizations “need to instill an organizational learning culture,” the report says, or one that “acknowledges both internal and external environments and develops sensitivity around what might be learned from both.”

Those kinds of organizations are “flexible enough to respond and adapt quickly to factors arising in either environment.”

Instilling an organizational learning culture requires individuals who can “think quickly (and well)” and who know the “limits of their knowledge,” ask for help when they need it, and are “tenacious about guiding and helping colleagues,” the report says.

That last characteristic is “particularly important for the success of an organization’s fundraising practice since it helps inculcate a supportive culture that encourages individual team members to learn form each other and to be genuinely open to challenges derived from the perspectives of others,” it says.

Directors at such organizations encourage “a greater degree of flexibility and risk-taking on the part of their teams, providing the prevailing culture with more of a development focus,” the report says. “Failure was redefined as the failure to learn from experience if something did not work out as anticipated, rather than the failure of a particular strategy or individual.”

High quality thinking

The real difference made by leaders of great fundraising organizations “occurred as a consequence of the way in which they understood and coped with the complexities of everyday decision making,” the report says. “It is the quality of thought that underlies action that gives rise to greatness, not the actions themselves.”

What was distinctive about the leaders interviewed for the report  was “their ability to discern complex systems at play within their organizations and consciously manage those systems to achieve the outstanding fundraising they sought to create,” it says.

And what was unique to those leaders, it says, “was an ability to think and think clearly about themselves, what they could offer the organization and how organizational systems could be managed to create the environment for fundraising to flourish.”

Doing that required those leaders not only to “embed their fundraising in their chosen organization, but rather to embed themselves as a ‘whole’ individual,” the report says.

So they “first needed to understand the benefits that their intellectual, emotional and social system of activity could deliver for their organization,” the report says. “In essence they needed to design the interface between their individual system and the system of their organization, looking for the optimal mix of contributions that could be made to further the purpose of the charity.”

The leaders then needed “to develop a similar approach to the management of their fundraising team, again understanding and designing the interface their team would have with other organizational systems,” such as service provision, marketing and finance, the report says.

“They needed to understand them in a such a way that each of these systems could be perceived as a whole in its own right, but also simultaneously as part of a greater organizational whole,” it says.

Initiating change

The leaders then were able to ask how all those existing systems might be “transformed systematically such that great fundraising may be created,” the report says.

“What makes a fundraising leader truly great,” it says, “is how they think about answering that question.”

That kind of thinking “is at the core of an organization’s purpose,” the report says.

The leaders interviewed for the report “all became change initiators and leaders at an organizational level,” it says. “None of them, in creating great fundraising, felt that they could create it within the current organizational system. Rather, all of them believed they must transform the organization in order to create their outstanding fundraising success.”

Todd Cohen

SEEDS digs deeper to cultivate being green

By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — One morning in April, 10 middle-school students from Triangle Day School spent three hours learning about the environment and working in the garden at SEEDS, an educational community garden in downtown Durham.

Also in April, an educator from SEEDS spent a full day at Central Elementary School in Hillsborough, rotating through the classrooms to teach students about insects, reptiles and other animals that live in gardens and are critical for their ecosystems and for growing food.

And twice a week, roughly half-a-dozen women from Good Samaritan Inn, the shelter for women and children at the Durham Rescue Mission, work as volunteers in SEEDS’ nearly two-acre garden, and in return take the harvest to the shelter’s kitchen to feed their families and peers.

Launched in 1994 by co-founders Brenda Brodie and Annice Kenan, SEEDS initially aimed to create community gardens on unused vacant and blighted properties to address a lack of access to good, healthy, fresh food for low-income residents.

That effort helped spur the creation of 15 community gardens, some of which still are operating.

But SEEDS has shifted its focus to using its own garden and its expertise to “teach people how to garden, grow organically, and learn about principles of sustainable agriculture, organic gardening and environmental stewardship,” says Emily Egge, executive director at SEEDS.

Operating with an annual budget of $414,000 and a full-time staff of six people, SEEDS serves over 1,000 people a year, mainly through partnerships with schools and nonprofits.

It works with at least a dozen schools a year that take field trips to the SEEDS garden or get visits from SEEDS educators.

Its DIG program, or Durham Inner-city Gardeners, for example, provides year-round part-time jobs for five high school students, plus summer jobs for another 10 to 15 students.

And it recently broke ground on a renovation project to expand its building at the corner of Gilbert and Elizabeth streets to 5,000 square feet from 3,200 square feet.

The project will include more classroom space, expanding what had been a small residential kitchen to a teaching kitchen with four to six student stations, and adding a “mud room” to store garden tools and supplies, and to handle activities such as potting, transplanting and painting.

SEEDS temporarily has relocated its offices to rented space across the street in the John O’Daniel Exchange, and expects to move back to its renovated quarters by the end of the year.

To help pay for its expanded services, SEEDS aims over the next three years to increase its annual budget $500,000 by securing more foundation grants and more gifts from individual donors, and through the redesigned website it launched six months ago that has helped generate $8,000 in online giving in the fiscal  year that ends June 30, or roughly four times the total two years ago.

And on May 19, SEEDS will hold its 5th annual Pie Social from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at The Pavilion at Durham Central Park on Foster Street to raise money for its DIG summer program.

“We want everyone who comes through out gates, whatever their age, background or knowledge,” Egge says, “to leave with something that will impact their life, their views of sustainability, and their capacity to grow and make decisions for themselves about what they’re  eating, where they’re buying it from, and how they’re feeding their families.”