Community foundation focuses on donor service

By Todd Cohen

[Note: This was written for Blackbaud.]

While the financial markets gradually have recovered since they crashed in 2008, a focus on providing good customer service to donors has helped generate annual giving of roughly $300 million a year over the past 5 years to the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation.

“The market plays a huge role, probably the biggest role,” said Brenda Chumley, senior vice president of foundation relations and operations at the Foundation. But the biggest factors driving annual giving, which grew to $393 million in 2014, are “the services you offer and the flexibility of your foundation,” she said.

Investment options

A flexible service that donors value is the Foundation’s practice, which it adopted roughly 10 years ago, that gives donors the option of using their own investment managers to manage the investment of the charitable funds they create at the Foundation.

Outside managers now manage roughly 70 percent of the $2.5 billion in assets at the Foundation, which was founded in 1978. Investment returns on funds managed by outside managers are generally comparable to those of the Foundation’s pooled funds that are managed by our own investment managers, Chumley said.

Donor relations

Unlike many community foundations with separate departments for developing new donors and for providing services to existing donors, the Greater Kansas City Community Foundation operates with a single donor relations department that works with prospective and existing donors. So the donor relations officer who works with a donor to make a first gift continues to work with that same donor.

Key to the work of the donor relations staff members is developing one-on-one relationships with donors, Chumley said.

Each donor has a personal contact at the Foundation, and each donor relations officer meets at least once a year with each donor about his or her portfolio unless a donor prefers to have no contact. Whether the meetings are in person, over the phone, or not at all, the goal is to “being respectful of the donor’s needs and making sure we’re fulfilling them,” Chumley said.

The Foundation offers a graduated fee schedule based on assets in the fund. “We treat every donor equally from a service perspective,” Chumley said. “It’s one donor at a time, and whatever their needs are, it is those we will service.”

Staffing and technology

To best serve donors, the Foundation has made significant investment in technology and, over the past five years, has slowly increased the size of its donor relations staff to seven from five.

Donors can use an online donor portal to review their charitable funds, make grants, look at their investment earnings, or print out a fund statement. And for the past 10 years, the Foundation has used separate software to help it manage data from outside investment managers selected by donors who opt to use them.

Staff expertise

The Greater Kansas City Community Foundation does not operate with a separate staff for gift planning. Each donor relations officer is responsible for working with donors on a broad range of gifts. And the Foundation’s corporate counsel, who handles planned gifts and serves on the donor relations staff, supports other donor relations officers in

working with donors on more complex gifts.

Types of gifts

Cash and stock are the most popular types of gifts to the Foundation, and donor advised funds are the most popular type of fund, Chumley said. The Foundation is also seeing a lot of gifts of real estate and closely-held business entities.

“People are looking at their entire portfolio and deciding what makes the most sense for them to give,” she said. “Sometimes it’s an illiquid asset they can turn into a liquid asset.”

The Foundation has a lot of experience in accepting complicated gifts, particularly as a result of the gift of the Kansas City Royals baseball team that it received in 1994 and sold in 2000.

Donor education

As part of the services it offers to donors, the Foundation hosts three to four education sessions a year. Typically held at lunch and attracting 25 to 30 donors, the sessions focus on topics such as preserving donor intent or working with successive generations.

And the Foundation tries to keep the sessions informal and fun, Chumley said.

For several years in a row, for example, the Foundation delivered cupcakes to all its donors with a note thanking them for having a fund with the Foundation and offering them “a treat on us.”

“We work really hard to make giving easy and fun,” Chumley said.

Professional advisers

The Foundation works strategically with lawyers, accountants, financial planners, and other professional advisers, meeting with them one-on-one, hosting education events, providing printed and online information, and materials they can use in working with their clients, and serving as a resource whenever needed.

“We’ve made it easy to quickly set up a donor-advised fund or other fund at year-end,” Chumley said.

The Foundation also hosts two lunches a year that feature advisers who talk about their work with the Foundation, as well as its own staff.


Operating with a communications staff of two people, the Foundation targets selective communications about philanthropy and about its work and impact.

When the Kansas City Royals played in the World Series last year, for example, the Foundation’s president and CEO, Debbie Wilkerson, wrote an opinion column for the local newspaper about the gift of the team to the Foundation, and the impact of the gift on the community.

The Foundation places some advertising on its local National Public Radio station, which also occasionally interviews members of the Foundation’s staff for its programs.

“When appropriate, we do outreach in that area,” Chumley said. “But we don’t just constantly try to get stories in the paper.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 08.28.15

Duke raises record-high $478.3 million

Duke University received $478.3 million from donors in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2015, up eight percent from the previous year and marking the third straight year it has received its highest level of philanthropic giving.

With the new gifts and pledges, Duke has now raised $2.7 billion in a comprehensive fundraising that will end in 2017 and aims to raise $3.25 billion.

The campaign so far has raised $307 million to support and endow student financial aid, and $394 million for capital projects and related initiatives.

The Duke Annual Fund received over $36.5 million in the most recent fiscal year — also a new record — from nearly 60,000 alumni, parents, students and friends.

Greensboro United Way gets $750,000 for poverty program

Phillips Foundation awarded a $750,000 grant to United Way of Greater Greensboro for its Family Success Centers to help low-income families break the generational cycle of poverty and overcome barriers to financial stability and independence.

The grant will more than double the number of families served through the Family Success Centers.

Roughly 20 percent of Greensboro residents live in poverty.

The Family Success Center pilot program, housed at Guilford Child Development, serves 41 families in the 27406 zip code, and plans to serve 100 families by June 2016.

The Foundation’s contribution will allow United Way to launch three more centers in other low-income zip codes over the next 36 months to 48 months.

The Family Success Center is a collaborative effort led by United Way and 17 partner organizations.

It assists families living at or below the federal poverty line, offering such resources as job training, educational development and financial literacy in a one-stop location.

Participating families meet with case managers who help them develop and use personalized plans for financial security and sustainable success.

Public School Forum studying educational opportunity

Educational opportunity will be the focus of a new study group the Public School Forum of North Carolina has formed and a new Center it aims it is launching.

Building on the work of the study group, the North Carolina Center for Educational Opportunity will serve as the vehicle the Forum and its partners will use to address issues of educational opportunity through new programs and policy initiatives.

Initially, the study group and Center will focus on the issues of racial equity, trauma and learning, and school funding.

The Forum is seeking funding for the Center.

Leading the study group and Center will be Joe Ableidinger, the Forum’s senior director of policy and programs, and James E. Ford, the Forum’s program director.

N.C. Central gets $200,000

North Carolina Central University received a $200,000 grant as winner of the Distinguished Professor Endowed Award from Delta Sigma Theta Society.

The grant will support efforts at N.C. Central in integrated biosciences that focus on uterine fibroid tumor research.

Heart Association plans events, receives $1,000

The American Heart Association will hold its annual Twin Counties Heart Walk on October 3 at North Carolina Wesleyan College in Rocky Mount, and its annual Down East Heart Walk on November 1 at Greenville Town Commons. 

 The Association also has received a $1,000 gift from Chris Godley of State Farm for the Greenville Heart Ball.

Teacher arts grants available

October 1 is the deadline for submitting applications to ArtsGreensboro for its 2015-16 Teacher Art Grant program.

Teachers, PTAs, and schools serving K-12 students in greater Greensboro may apply for grants ranging up to $1,500 for projects that involve direct student and teacher participation.

The goals of the grants are to emphasize arts projects and programs in all school subject areas; support the teaching of the North Carolina arts curriculum; bring artists into classrooms; reach large numbers of students; and encourage cooperative arts projects among schools, teachers, PTAs, and other organizations.

Community Matters hosting event, receives $4,750

Community Matters in Charlotte, an insurance-industry group that supports selected nonprofit partners, will hold its Second Annual Party with a Purpose on September 24 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Mac’s Southend.

Community Matters also received two donations totaling $4,750 from The Hartford.

Rural students to get free computer systems

North Carolina Modernist Houses in Durham and its educational initiative Project BauHow, will support 200 students in grades nine through 11 in rural North Carolina high schools this fall by providing free computer systems with Computer Aided Design software.

This is the third year Project BauHow has donated CAD systems to drafting classes in rural high schools. 

Green Building Council to hold gala

North Carolina native Gill Holland, an advocate of historic preservation and sustainable communities, will be the keynote speaker at the 2015 Green Gala hosted by the North Carolina Chapter of the U. S. Green Building Council.

The event will be held on September 18 at the Ritz Carlton in Charlotte starting at 5:30 p.m.

Crumley Roberts sponsoring Heart Association

Law firm Crumley Roberts has become a two-year “Life is Why” sponsor of the American Heart Association in in Greater Guilford County.

Through its sponsorship, Crumley Roberts will focus on year-round opportunities in the region to educate the entire community on how to prevent heart disease.

RiverRun Film Festival gets $25,000

Wells Fargo will provide $25,000 to support the RiverRun International Film Festival and its year-round Films With Class educational outreach program, and will serve as a presenting sponsor of the Festival’s Films With Class programs.

Through the sponsorship, RiverRun will use new digital tools to reach more Forsyth County classrooms.

Charlotte Race for the Cure set for October 3

Charlotte Komen Race for the Cure will be held on October 3 Marshall Park.

The event, to be held for the 19th straight year, raised $1.5 million and attracted over 13,000 participants last year.

With those funds, Komen Charlotte awarded $1.1 million in grants to 17 community health programs.

Since 1997, Komen Charlotte has raised a total of $18 million to support community programs and research.

Up to 75 percent of net proceeds stays in the community to fund community health programs in a 13 counties.

The remaining 25 percent supports the Komen Research Program, which funds major research projects throughout the U.S., including breast cancer research at North Carolina universities.

Focus your blog on what matters

Writing a blog for your nonprofit’s website can be a great way to promote your cause. So use it strategically.

Sadly, many nonprofits waste that opportunity. They could be using a blog to raise awareness about pressing community needs, the important work they do, and the difference they make in the lives of the people they serve, and to engage supporters and partners for their cause.

Instead, they talk to and about themselves. They pander to their board, donors and staff with overblown praise. They invoke the season of the year as a stock metaphor for a pedestrian discussion about an internal process at their organization. They cite a childhood memory or personal experience to make a superficial point about their work or impact.

In short, nonprofits use blogs to ramble on about trivialities, instead of investing the time it takes to give their readers a clear, concise, compelling explanation of complicated social problems and efforts to fix them.

What you write in your blog should be strategic. It should advance your cause by helping people understand the need you address, the work you do and your impact, and showing them how they can get involved and make a difference.

Do not run a blog simply for the sake of running a blog because your peers publish blogs, and do not use your blog to simply comment on topics no one outside your board and staff cares about.

If you are going to publish a blog, be smart. Help your supporters, constituents and other partners better understand big problems your community faces, how your work helps ease or fix those problems, why they should care, and how they can help.

Each blog entry does not need to be long or solve the problems of the universe. What you can do in each article is chip away at the massive lack of knowledge and concern about issues your community should care about.

If you feel the need to publish a blog, invest the time and thought to make it matter, and to advance the important work you do to make your community a better place to live and work.

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

Hillsborough nonprofit serves people in need

By Todd Cohen

HILLSBOROUGH, N.C. When the Rev. Sharon Freeland was growing up in Hillsborough, local residents regularly pitched in to help their neighbors in times of need.

“If you were hungry in the community, and your neighbors knew you were hungry, you weren’t hungry any more,” she says. “There was a lot of giving.”

In 1981, recognizing that as individual organizations they could not handle all the requests for emergency assistance they were getting, three local churches formed Orange Congregations In Mission, or OCIM, a nonprofit that would serve people in the rural northern part of Orange County facing crises in their lives.

Today, with nearly 50 member congregations that each contributes half of one percent of its annual operating budget, OCIM delivers meals, provides emergency assistance, and operates a thrift shop.

The nonprofit also faces rising demand in the face of economic uncertainty and an influx of new residents attracted to a part of the county with lower living costs than the pricier Chapel Hill to the south.

And with growth has come a loss of connection.

“We don’t know our neighbors any more,” says Freeland, executive director of OCIM and associate pastor of Mount Bright Baptist Church.

OCIM is looking to raise $2 million in a capital campaign for a new facility that would double its current 10,000-square-foot quarters in Hillsborough.

Operating with an annual budget of nearly $855,000, a staff of four employees working full-time and five working part-time, and 120 to 135 active volunteers, OCIM last year served 11,000 people through its Samaritan Relief Ministry.

The Orange County Department of Social Services referred most of those clients to OCIM, which provided food to nearly 9,000 of them, and also provided clothing and financial assistance.

Though its Meals on Wheels program, OCIM last year served over 7,000 meals.

And it generates about 15 percent of its annual budget from a thrift shop that sells new and gently-used items of clothing, furniture and other products donated by businesses and individuals.

OCIM also serves as a resource for people seeking assistance, referring them to other agencies that provide services and support.

“OCIM is one place where our member congregations can send people, not only for food and emergency financial help, but also for resources,” Freeland says. “If we can’t help you, we can refer you.”

The nonprofit also partners with other local agencies.

The Department of Social Services, for example, refers to OCIM people who need food, financial assistance or other support. OCIM provides individuals and families referred to it with a week’s worth of food up to six times a year.

In addition to financial support from its member congregations, OCIM counts on their members, who serve as volunteers and donors for its pantry and deliver meals through its Meals on Wheels program.

And OCIM, which has begun the quiet phase of the capital campaign to raise money for its new facility, benefited from a barbecue fundraiser hosted by Walter Faribault at Exchange Club Park on August 19, and will benefit from an annual softball tournament in September.

“Things have changed greatly since I came on board in 1991,” Freeland says. “The need is much greater.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 08.21.15

YWCA Greensboro gets $300,000 challenge

YWCA Greensboro has received a challenge gift from three anonymous donors to match all pledges up to $300,000 committed in the next six months.

Fulfilling the challenge will increase to $3.8 million the total raised in a campaign that aims to raise $5 million to support the new permanent home at 1807 East Wendover Avenue that it occupied last December, as well as programs.

Arts focus of community innovation in Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem has been selected as one of two U.S. cities to pilot a Community Innovation Lab, an effort to solve tough social challenges by integrating artists and artistic practices into community change.

Over the next six months, the effort will bring together city agencies, community organizers, business leaders, artists, cultural organizations and nonprofit service providers to begin to address inequities in employment, income, and wealth in the city.

The Winston-Salem effort is convened by the Thomas S. Kenan Institute for the Arts at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, and The Winston-Salem Foundation.

Nelson leaving Urban Ministries of Durham

Patrice Nelson, executive director of Urban Ministries of Durham since 2009, will leave the organization to explore other interests.

Urban Ministries has begun a search for a new executive director, and Nelson has agreed to remain into 2016 to help orient her successor..

Urban Ministries shelters about 900 homeless people each year, ending homelessness for 237 of them over the past 12 months.

It also operates its Community Café, which serves about a quarter-million meals a year to those staying in the shelter and to others in the community who are hungry.

And its Food Pantry and Clothing Closet distribute donated groceries and used clothing to 480 poor families in Durham each month.

Camp Corral names CEO, chief operating officer

Mary Beth Hernandez, former associate dean for advancement and clinical instructor at the School of Social Work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named CEO of Camp Corral, a free summer camp for military children.

Leigh Longino, former senior director of risk management for YMCA of the Triangle and a former member of Camp Corral’s board of directors, has been named chief operating officer.

As CEO, Hernandez will lead all fundraising and development efforts, and will work with host camps and partner organizations as Camp Corral looks to expand to more states.

NC New Schools expanding to four states

NC New Schools has launched Breakthrough Learning, a national brand it will launch through partnerships with communities in Illinois, Indiana, Mississippi and South Carolina to transform classrooms into “student-centered, personalized learning environments that align with the skills required for success in the global economy.”

Childhood hunger focus of fundraising at Wyndham

Birdies Fore Backpacks, an effort launched in 2014 to fight childhood food insecurity in the Piedmont Triad, is again the official charity for this week’s Wyndham Championship at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro.

Birdies Fore Backpacks supports local charities, including Backpack Beginnings, Forsyth Backpacks, Out of the Garden and United Way of Greater High Point, which fill backpacks with nutritionally sound meals for low income children and families to take home every weekend.

Last year, Birdies Fore Backpacks raised nearly $200,000.

Meredith College gets $100,000

Meredith College in Raleigh has received a $100,000 gift to fund a visiting professor of criminology. The donor of the gift has asked to remain anonymous.

High Point Salvation Army to hold furniture sale

Salvation Army of High Point will hold its annual Women’s Auxiliary Furniture Sale on August 22 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at 301 West Green Drive in High Point.

Concert to benefit scholarship fund

More than 50 current and retired faculty members of the University of North Carolina School of the Arts will perform on stage and work behind the scenes at a concert on September 5 to benefit the Faculty Endowed Scholarship Fund.

The event will be held at 1:30 p.m in Gerald Freedman Theatre on the UNCSA campus at 1533 South Main St. in Winston-Salem.

Admission is free, and donations are encouraged.

Organizers hope to raise $50,000 for the Faculty Endowed Scholarship. An anonymous donor has pledged to match up to $25,000 raised during the concert.

So far, scholarships have been awarded to one or two students a year.

Event to benefit anti-poverty program

Passage Home and J.D. Lewis Multi-Purpose Center in Raleigh will hold a fundraising event on September 3 for their campaign to break the cycle of poverty in Southeast Raleigh.

The VIP Affair will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Wine & Design at 806 N. West Street.

Daniel Center to benefit from event

The Daniel Center for Math and Science will benefit from Karaoke for Kids 2015 on September 23 at Driftwood Southern Kitchen in Lafayette Village in Raleigh.

Presented by Falls Lake Insurance, the event will be held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m.   

Winston-Salem Foundation gives $491,500

The Winston-Salem Foundation awarded 26 grants totaling $491,503 to groups Forsyth County in the areas of the arts and culture, community and economic development, education, environment, health, human services, public interest, and recreation.

Forsyth Tech linemen students get scholarships

The Fallen Linemen Foundation, an organization that works to support linemen and their families and awards two $1,000 scholarships a year to qualifying students enrolled in a North Carolina electrical linemen program, has awarded scholarships since the spring of 2014 to five students enrolled in the Electrical Lineman Program at the Northwest Forsyth Center in King of Forsyth Technical Community College.

Health Underwriters Association wins 7 awards

The North Carolina Association of Health Underwriters and its chapters received seven awards at the 85th Annual Convention of the National Association of Health Underwriters.

The state association received the Landmark Award for service to members and the industry and public, and the Media Relations Award for using media to reach members and the industry and public.

The association’s Charlotte, Western Piedmont, and Western North Carolina chapters received the Pacesetter Award, and the Triad chapter received the Media Relations Award for the eighth straight year.

Arts Council launching two campaigns

The Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County will launch two Power2Give campaigns September 1 that will give local donors an opportunity to target their dollars for specific Arts Council initiatives.

The “Art in Unexpected Places” initiative aims to increase the amount of public art, performances and cultural experiences in the city, while providing support for local artists.

The “Early Childhood and After School Enrichment” initiative aims to expand the Council’s arts-in-education efforts outside the school room and school day, and provide additional venues where children can enhance their learning through the arts in safe and stimulating environments.

Heart Association campaign gets sponsors

Butterball and MetLife have joined long-time partner Duke Medicine to sponsor the “My Heart. My Life.” campaign of the Triangle American Heart Association that promotes comprehensive health and wellness.

Junior Achievement gets $10,000

Junior Achievement of Eastern North Carolina has been awarded a $10,000 grant from the SunTrust Foundation.

Junior Achievement will use the funds to bring financial literacy, entrepreneurship and workforce-readiness programs to over 400 students in eastern North Carolina.

Trained corporate and community volunteers share their personal and professional experiences in an estimated 20 classrooms.

And SunTrust employees will volunteer in classrooms teaching Junior Achievement programs.

Through the grant each class will receive five to seven in classroom lessons.

Event to benefit heart program

The 29th Annual Warren Rives 5K Run/Walk and Fun Run will be held September 19 at the Mills Regional Health Education Center of High Point Regional Health at 600 N. Elm St. in High Point.

All proceeds benefit the Heart Strides Scholarship Fund. Heart Strides is a cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation program at High Point Regional Health.

High Point Bank is presenting sponsor of the event for the ninth straight year.

Charity leaders should talk straight

The charitable world needs a heavy dose of clarity.

Effective charitable work depends on communication that is clear, candid and active.

Yet many leaders of nonprofits and foundations keep their communications vague, guarded and passive.

Charity leaders continually should be taking the initiative to help their staff, board, donors, clients and other partners understand exactly what their organizations are doing, how they are doing it, the impact they are having, the challenges they are facing, and where they are headed.

But far too many charity leaders simply wait for problems or opportunities to present themselves, and then retreat into indecisiveness, jargon and double-talk.

Leaders should think and plan ahead, develop and champion a vision for the organization, create and seize opportunities, and confront and prevent problems.

Instead, too many leaders hide in a swamp of process. They create teams to study issues and develop strategies. They schedule a seemingly endless series of meetings to plan. They avoid making actual decisions, dealing with actual problems, saying what they actually think and believe, or formulating and articulating an actual vision.

Leaders should share information, and ask their board, staff, donors and partners for ideas and feedback.

Instead, they hoard information and keep their bosses, co-workers and supporters in the dark.

The charitable marketplace is fiercely competitive. To survive and grow, charities must communicate clearly with everyone they count on to do their work and make a difference in the lives of the people they serve.

To truly lead and help their organizations improve their communities, while also keeping their jobs, charity leaders need to do a much better job communicating.

Leaders who do not communicate clearly and openly are not leading; they are hiding in plain sight.

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