Strowd Roses focuses giving on Chapel Hill, Carrboro

By Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. –The Inter-Faith Council for Social Service in Carrboro received $10,000 to support operations at its Food Pantry in Carrboro that each month provides 1,300 bags of groceries to people in need, and at its Community Kitchen in Chapel Hill that last year provided 60,000 meals to hungry individuals.

Reach Out And Read Carolinas got $1,500 to support a regional literacy summit its Triangle office hosted for coordinators at health clinics who prescribe books for young children visiting the clinics and for representatives of partner agencies that donate the books.

And the PTA Thrift Shop in Carrboro received $10,000 to assess the organizational needs of nonprofits that will be housed in YouthWorx on Main, a nonprofit collaborative the Thrift Shop is launching with Youth Forward for nonprofits serving youth.

Making all those grants was Strowd Roses, believed to be the only charitable foundation that makes grants only to nonprofits serving Chapel Hill and Carrboro.

With just over $7 million in assets managed by Fidelity Investments, the foundation has awarded over $5.1 million in grants to 292 nonprofits since it was formed in 2001.

Last year, it awarded 62 grants totaling $286,000.

“We intentionally give to a lot of organizations and spread the money around,” says Eileen Ferrell, the foundation’s part-time executive director.

Strowd Roses was created through the will of Irene Strowd, the widow of Fletcher Eugene Strowd, who retired in 1979 as a partner in the former Johnson, Strowd, Ward furniture store on Franklin Street in Chapel Hill.

The foundation also received proceeds from the estate of Gladis Harrison Adams, who was Irene Strowd’s sister, and from the sale of over 250 acres in Chatham County, now home to the residential subdivision Strowd Mountain, where Gene Strowd grew up.

In addition to awarding grants, the foundation pays about $38,000 a year to Witherspoon Rose Culture in Durham for upkeep of the Gene Strowd Community Rose Garden, a free public space at 120 South Estes Drive for events on property owned by the Town of Chapel Hill that contains over 350 bushes of 130 different varieties of roses. The space can be reserved for free for events.

Gene Strowd, who was president of the Chapel Hill Rose Society, proposed the idea for a community rose garden in 1987 and designed its layout working with the Rose Society and the Chapel Hill Parks and Recreation Department

Grants to local groups range up to $10,000 and average about $7,000, with grants to support general welfare, education and literacy, and youth accounting for the biggest share of funding in 2016.

Each year, Strowd Roses also gives $33,000 to the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation, which regrants the funds to support projects in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

“We look at them as being the experts on what the greatest needs are and what the greatest impact can be,” Ferrell says.

With 700 nonprofits in Orange County, including those in Chapel Hill and Carrboro, Ferrell says, she is working to encourage more local giving overall, including giving by living individuals, who account for 71 percent of all charitable giving in the U.S.

“There’s a lot of need that still exists,” she says, “that we alone can’t address.”

Getting South Bronx kids in tune for success

[Note: This was written for The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.]

BRONX, N.Y. — Giving more at-risk children in the South Bronx hope and a better chance to succeed in school and life is the focus of a $25,000 grant to UpBeat NYC, a local nonprofit that provides free music training and orchestral instruction for kids in the Mott Haven neighborhood.

Founded in 2009 by a family of New York City musicians and operating in a public library and two churches, the nonprofit this year will serve 150 children, teens and young adults ages five to 21, as well as 10 to 15 parents and infants.

“A music program accessible to everyone in a community gives children and youth an opportunity to see the potential in their lives, shows them they have the ability to do whatever they set their minds to, and gives them a taste of creating beauty in a group through hard work,” says Liza Austria, executive director and co-founder of UpBeat NYC.

Mimi O’Brien, executive director of The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation in Durham, N.C., which awarded the grant, says learning to play an instrument and perform in an orchestra “can help children in economically distressed neighborhoods overcome the challenges of low expectations and build the skills, confidence and teamwork that will help them thrive.”

This grant is made as part of the foundation’s celebration of its 60th anniversary. “Mary Duke Biddle, my great-grandmother, lived part of her life in New York City. She wanted her foundation to support programs in that city, and the board takes great care to meet her expectation,” said Jon Zeljo, chair of the board of trustees.

Making music

UpBeat NYC was inspired by El Sistema, an effort that began in 1975 in the slums of Caracas, Venezuela, and now reaches millions of students throughout the world, including hundreds of thousands in Venezuela and 30,000 in 120 communities in the U.S.

Founded by Austria, a singer and dancer, and her husband, Richard Miller, a jazz saxophonist, UpBeat NYC operates with an annual budget of $200,000, and a paid staff of one person working full-time and one working part-time, as well as nine teachers who work on an hourly basis several times a week under contract, and seven volunteer instructors.

Children enroll on a first-come, first-served basis, with no auditions. Most students begin in a pre-orchestra class, learning basic music theory, not an instrument, and participating in a choir.

Next, students take classes that focus on a particular instrument like a violin or clarinet and how they work, followed by classes in which the students are part of a group receiving instruction on how to play a real instrument. Then, they become part of a string or wind orchestra. Eventually, they join an advanced orchestra that combines string, wind and percussion instruments.

Using some of the funds from the Biddle Foundation, UpBeat NYC will begin a new track for brass and woodwind instruments, and for percussion, beginning with pre-orchestra instrument instruction. The organization in the past has offered wind and percussion opportunities at the orchestra level only.

The new track will include a wind-instrument initiation class and then separate classes for clarinet, trumpet, trombone and percussion.

With 50 more students beginning to learn those instruments this year, UpBeat NYC  plans within the next year to form an intermediate orchestra, and then plans the following year to form a beginner orchestra.

This fall, UpBeat NYC also will begin a new class to initiate infants and parents into the world of music. The organization already offers a choir for parents.

It will use the remainder of the Biddle funds to buy new instruments and music supplies, and support its operations.

Music to thrive

For years, UpBeat NYC has taught classes for advanced wind and percussion players, who have shown significant musical and personal progress. They and their parents report that learning to play an instrument in a group with their peers heightens and improves students’ motivation, and helps build their confidence, self-awareness, capacity to focus, empathy, emotional stability and academic achievement.

“We believe that all children are innately musical,” Austria says.

Tapping that natural talent is critical in a community with failing schools, a scarcity of quality programs during periods when children are not in school, and a bleak outlook among families for the education, well-being and future of their children.

Looming over children in the community are ever-present dangers and negative influences. Local rates of teen pregnancy and juvenile criminality are high, and more than half the children live in poverty.

“All our activities are designed to address the root causes of the social exclusion and isolation of children in the South Bronx,” Austria says.

Those causes include the lack of positive social activities open to everyone, social acceptance of low achievement, and the absence of opportunities to pursue challenging, long-term endeavors that promote personal growth and change.

“Music can play a powerful role in preparing children to shape their own lives and become agents of improving their community,” Austria says. “Through long-term musical training and experience in performing, our students develop the patience and persistence required to excel as individuals and to learn to contribute as supporters and leaders in the context of collaborative music-making.”

El Sistema

UpBeat NYC has plugged into El Sistema and its network of programs in the U.S.

The organization collaborates on student workshops and shares best practices with four other El Sistema-inspired programs that serve Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, where UpBeat NYC initially was launched.

In the summer of 2015, it took 34 of its students to Caracas to take lessons and perform with their counterparts in El Sistema’s main orchestra there, while some of its teachers participated in teacher training.

Teaching artists from El Sistema in Venezuela have visited UpBeat NYC to work with its students and provide training for its teachers, some of whom plan another visit Venezuela to receiving more training.

And this summer, five of its students participated at Bard College in the National Take A Stand Festival of El Sistema USA.

Family affair

As struggling artists living and working in New York City, Austria and Miller saw a big gap between the cultural opportunities within their reach and the lack of options for children living in poverty. And her family helped her see the need to create opportunities for at-risk kids.

Austria’s mother, a long-time New York City public school teacher who taught her to play piano as a young child, had long been concerned about budget cuts for arts education and the growing emphasis on testing. Austria’s older brother Ruben Austria, also a musician, is executive director of Community Connections for Youth, a South Bronx nonprofit that provides alternatives to incarceration for youth.

So when her late father, classical bassist Jamie Suarez Austria, learned about El Sistema and its impact in helping children throughout the world lift themselves out of poverty, he inspired Austria and Miller to launch UpBeat NYC.

Austria works on a pro-bono basis. Miller is one of the organization’s two paid employees. Her younger brother John Austria, formerly a volunteer instructor, is a paid instructor. And her mother, Christine Austria, is a volunteer instructor.

While UpBeat NYC still is a small organization, the Biddle grant will allow it to continue to grow from its startup in a storefront in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn.

“My father’s passion about El Sistema showed us a model for this kind of work,” Austria says. “For my family, after my father died in 2010 from lung cancer, we continued to do this work and grow it. We’re a little in awe sometimes by how far this has come.”

Biddle Foundation grants celebrate 60 years of impact

[Note: This was written for The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation.]

DURHAM, N.C. — On September 14, 1956, when Mary Duke Biddle established her philanthropic foundation, inspiring the foundation’s mission were lessons she had learned growing up in a family that believed in supporting causes and communities it cared about.

So she decided her new philanthropy would focus on making modest gifts that could multiply over time, providing access to education, enriching lives and communities through music and the arts, lifting up impoverished people through churches and congregations, and providing critical aid to communities.

In its first 60 years, The Mary Duke Biddle Foundation has awarded nearly $43 million to those causes in North Carolina, where Mrs. Biddle was born and raised, and in New York City, where she lived for 20 years as an adult before returning to Durham.

Now, to celebrate its 60th anniversary, the Foundation has awarded five special grants totaling $125,000 to support efforts in North Carolina and New York City to boost the arts and arts education, to use orchestral training to equip more underserved kids to thrive, and to prepare more at-risk kids to succeed in school and life.

“The philanthropic legacy of Mary Duke Biddle continues to advance the arts and improve the lives of youth, particularly those who are less advantaged, in the communities she loved,” says Mimi O’Brien, executive director of the Foundation.

Making an impact

The five special grants — $25,000 each to the Durham Arts Council, Kidznotes and StudentU, all in Durham; the Asheville Art Museum; and UpBeat NYC in the South Bronx — are designed to have a bigger impact on individual organizations and the people they serve. These awards are made in addition to the Foundation’s regular annual giving, including approximately 40 grants of $5,000 each in response to requests from nonprofits in North Carolina and New York City.

“Arts and youth education remain critical, ongoing needs in our community,” O’Brien says. “These special grants represent an investment to help innovative nonprofits make an even bigger difference expanding the impact of the arts and creating opportunities for young people to succeed.”

With the help of the five grants:

* Durham Arts Council will develop an online arts directory and continue to invest in

career development for emerging artists, underscoring Durham’s growing reputation as a hub for the arts.

* Kidznotes will use orchestral training to equip more underserved students to succeed in school and life, continue its expansion into economically-distressed Southeast Raleigh, and consider expanding to other parts of the Triangle region.

* StudentU will prepare more kids in Durham to graduate from high school, enroll in college and graduate, and then find ways to help their peers succeed in school and life.

* The Asheville Art Museum will provide access to arts education and activities to more underserved children in Asheville, Buncombe County and three rural counties in Western North Carolina.

* UpBeat NYC will provide free music training and orchestral instruction to more at- risk children in the South Bronx, along with hope for the future and a better chance to succeed in school and life.

Philanthropic legacy

Mary Duke Biddle, the daughter of Benjamin Newton Duke and granddaughter of Washington Duke, attended public schools in Durham, and in 1907 graduated from Trinity College, now Duke University.

Her father and uncle, James B. Duke, using wealth generated from tobacco, textile and electric power industries they developed in North Carolina in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, gave generously to their community and became known for their philanthropy. Both were benefactors of Durham’s Trinity College, and in 1924, through the newly chartered Duke Endowment, the college was named Duke University in honor of their father.

In establishing her own Foundation, Mary Duke Biddle designated that half the grant funding would go to Duke University, with the rest going to non-profit organizations that support a variety of causes in North Carolina and New York.

Mary Duke Biddle died in 1960 at age 73. For many years, the Foundation was led by her daughter, the late Mary Duke Biddle Trent Semans, and her husband, the late James H. Semans, M.D.

“The Biddle Foundation continues its legacy of making the communities we serve Jbetter places to live and work,” says Jon Zeljo, chair of the Foundation’s board of trustees and great-grandson of Mary Duke Biddle. “We invest in programs that expand opportunities for everyone, connect and inspire diverse populations, and give people in need tools and hope for the future.”

Model for future funding

Including grants to organizations such as Duke University that it has funded for many years through long-standing relationships, the Foundation typically makes nearly $1 million in grants a year.

With an endowment of about $30 million, the Foundation continues to focus its funding on the arts and youth education, particularly in collaborative efforts that serve less advantaged populations.

The Foundation is using its 60th anniversary to examine how its grantmaking practices and programs can be more impactful to the organizations and causes it supports.

In addition to support for Duke and to grants it makes in response to applications, organizations the Foundation funds through long-standing relationships include, among others, the University of North Carolina School of the Arts; Durham Arts Council; American Dance Festival; Chamber Orchestra of the Triangle; and Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Public schools focus of foundation

By Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Each August, at a “Teacher Store” in partnership with the East Chapel Hill Rotary Club, new teachers, school social workers and roughly half the other teachers in the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools can pick up classroom supplies using a $75 voucher.

Teachers also are eligible to receive $1,000 a year for two to three years from 10 endowed chairs, and for recognitions and awards; scholarships to help cover the cost of applying for national certification; and professional-development grants. And first-year teachers receive $100 grants for classroom purposes.

Helping to provide all that support, as well as funding for schools and students, is the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public School Foundation, which hosts the Teacher Store in partnership with East Chapel Hill Rotary Club

Launched in 1984, the Foundation has raised and provided over $5.4 million for local public schools, including funds for 328 teachers who have received money from the endowed chairs, and received awards and also scholarships for certification through the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards.

It also has provided nearly $532,000 for students and schools for college scholarships, summer enrichment and tutoring; over $230,000 in supplies and materials for classroom teachers; and nearly $850,000 for projects at schools.

In the face of declining teacher morale as a result of cuts or threatened cuts in state funding for schools and teacher salaries, the Foundation works to “make sure the teachers feel valued and they know they’re making a difference in children’s lives,” says Lynn Lehmann, the Foundation’s executive director.

The Foundation also focuses on “students with the most need, both financially and academically, to make sure every student is able to be on grade level,” she says.

Operating with an annual budget of $325,000, and a staff of one full-time employee and three part-time employees, the Foundation counts on 45 active volunteers, including the 27 members of its board of directors, plus other volunteers who support three major fundraising events.

Board members, for example, review grant requests and recommend funding; chair events; work with the Foundation’s auditor; prepare financial statements; create communications; and set up focus groups with teachers and principals to identify their needs.

“They work like this is their job,” says Lehmann, a former PTA president who served on the Foundation’s board for 10 years, including a term as president, before joining the staff in 2014 as program manager.

She became executive director last October, succeeding Kim Hoke, who co-founded the Foundation when she was assistant to the superintendent of the city schools.

Each year, the Foundation hosts three big fundraising events, including its Walk for Education, which last fall raised $185,000, including corporate sponsorships, with 85 percent of the funds going back to schools for projects.

It also hosts a 5K for Education each spring that generates about $10,000 and includes six weeks of fitness training for teachers for $25 each provided by Fleet Feet Sports. And it hosts a Teachers First Breakfast and Roses, which receives donated food from the Chapel Hill Restaurant Group — Spanky’s, 411 West, Mez, Page Road Grill and Squid’s — and discounted roses from Whole Foods, and last year raised $95,000, most of it for programs that support teachers.

The Foundation supports each of the school system’s 11 elementary schools, four middle schools and four high schools — plus the school at UNC Hospitals for young people being  treated there — in raising money for the Walk to fund a project each school chooses.

It also provides grants for out-of-school learning and enrichment for low-income or low-achieving students  and student scholarships for higher education.

The Foundation also receives support from individuals, including one who last year donated $55,000, and from the Stroud Roses Foundation and other philanthropies.

But generating funds through its annual appeal remains a challenge, Lehmann says, and the Foundation has hired Executive Service Corps of the Triangle to help it develop a strategic plan that could set the stage for fundraising or campaign to build its operating endowment, which now totals $108,000.  The Foundation also operates 32 endowments totaling $1.5 million that support endowed chairs and other programs.

“Teacher value and student success are the challenges of the district,” Lehmann says, “and the things we try to address with our enrichment grants.”

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.

Communications

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.”

Foundations focus on building community

By Todd Cohen

[Note: This was written for Blackbaud.]

Public and private foundations increasingly are working to serve as “connecting” institutions for communities defined by geography or a cause, partnering with donors to identify their communities’ needs, and developing and funding efforts to address them, said Siobhan O’Riordan, senior vice president of engagement at the Council on Foundations.

Community foundations, for example, are “partnering with community leaders to listen and identify what key needs are and then partner with donors to meet needs,” O’Riordan said.

Shifting strategies

As a result of partnerships with foundations, donors are diversifying the strategies they use to make gifts, she said.

“Perception is moving away from donor-directed funds,” she said. “Instead of donors using community foundations as a service to allocate funds, donors are understanding that the community foundation has a vital role in meeting core needs so that they can begin giving to funds that meet their interests.”

Funds of interest typically have a specific area of focus, and community foundations aggregate those funds “and steward them and deliver impact on interest areas through grantees who are doing the work in the community,” O’Riordan said.

Food in Northern Virginia

Lara Kalwinski, director of national standards and counsel at the Council on Foundations, said the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia in Arlington “sees part of its role as not just talking to donors but also to the community and nonprofits that serve community needs.”

This year, Capital Area Food Bank in Washington, D.C., which serves northern Virginia, asked the Community Foundation for support in addressing hunger in Manassas, where few philanthropic dollars are available.

The Community Foundation, in turn, talked to its donors, including one who has a donor advised fund at the Foundation. It then agreed to fund a program at the food bank for one year “because of the connections that the community foundation has, not just the connections to money but to the community, responding to its needs, and knowing how to pool resources to address those needs,” Kalwinksi said.

“When a community foundation is articulate on the needs of a community because they’ve listened to the community, they have the ability of connecting — where a donor might be interested — to what is actually happening,” she said. “Public foundations understand how to engage in that role. Any time they can have a better conversation with that donor, the likelihood of making a connection that leads to trust — and ultimately a gift — is greater.”

New tools

O’Riordan said that as community foundations increasingly play the role of connecting institutions, they are “diversifying the tools they fundraise with and the tools they partner with and they grant with.”

Foundations are moving beyond their traditional focus on philanthropy, donor advised funds, and money, she said. “There’s a more systemic understanding than the informal aspects of philanthropic success in the past: how do you build trust, sustain credibility, and embrace community leadership.”

So community foundations are working with donors to create “directed funds” and “field of interest funds” to address specific causes and issues they care about, she said. “They’re providing donors with greater opportunities to engage through community conversations. They are diversifying their strategies and their tools but they’re doing it because they really are anchoring themselves in what it means to be a community.”

Community foundations also are using “impact investing” that aims to address social and environmental problems by making alternative investments such as loans to nonprofits or allocations to socially responsible investments.

Expertise and technology

Faced with the sophisticated technology available to donors from large commercial gift funds such as Fidelity Charitable, community foundations increasingly will need to emphasize their community connections and invest in “user-friendly” technology to differentiate themselves in the marketplace, O’Riordan said.

“There are opportunities to better use technology to leverage the community knowledge and connections that community foundations bring,” she said.

Community foundations also can use technology to make it easier for donors to give, particularly to relief efforts in the wake of natural disasters or in the face of crises that require a quick response.

Diversification and data

With growing competition for donors, shrinking government funding, and rising community needs, community foundations also face the ongoing challenges of creating development plans that call for a diversified revenue mix and developing tools to evaluate and track their impact and those of their partnerships.

In addition to using the traditional strategy of donor advised funds, for example, community foundations increasingly are working with donors to create interest-area funds, endowments, and funds held by private foundations and corporate partners, O’Riordan said..

Community foundations also are creating “giving days” that invite donors to give online or through email on specific dates or to support specific causes.

And foundations are looking for ways to evaluate the effectiveness of the programs they fund and to measure the difference those programs make in the community.

Data and the stories they tell are critical for all foundations that want to move the needle on community issues, including foundations that pool resources so they can have a “collective impact” on important community issues, O’Rioridan said. And technology can help gather and make sense of that data.

“If they position themselves as a backbone organization that is able to accept funds from different community stakeholders, and deliver on that, and do the evaluation and be able to assess and speak to the impact, they play a vital role in the community,” she said.

McNeil-Miller to head Colorado Health Foundation

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Karen McNeil-Miller, president of the Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in Winston-Salem, has been named president and CEO of the Colorado Health Foundation in Denver, effective September 1.

Allen Smart, vice president of programs at the Reynolds Trust, will serve as interim president, starting September 1, while Wells Fargo, the Trust’s sole trustee, leads the search for a new president.

With $585 million in assets, the Reynolds Trust is one of North Carolina’s largest foundations.

Formed in 1947 through the will of Kate B. Reynolds, the widow of a chairman of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., the foundation focuses one-fourth of its assets on the poor and needy in Forsyth County, and three-fourths on health programs and services throughout North Carolina.

Its poor-and-needy grants total roughly $6 million a year, and its health grants total roughly $20 million a year.

The Colorado Health Foundation, with $2.3 billion in assets, awarded over $112 million in grants and contributions in 2014 to improve health and health care in Colorado.

Former teacher

McNeil-Miller joined the Reynolds Trust as president in January 2005 after working for 16 years at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, where she served as vice president for corporate resources and, for six years in the 1990s, headed its office in Colorado Springs.

She was raised in Spindale in Rutherford County, the daughter of a carpenter and a weaver in local mills. A former special education teacher and head of The Piedmont School, an independent school in High Point for children with learning differences, McNeill-Miller is the first non-banker, woman and African American to have headed the Reynolds Trust.

Making an impact

During her tenure, she says, the Trust has shifted from “a charity model and investing in activities to a change model and investing in impact.”

While it previously might have funded efforts to increase the number of people enrolled in programs to train them to manage their diabetes, or to treat people who already had a disease, for example, its investments now focus on how many people enrolled in diabetes-management programs actually lower their blood-sugar rating, or on preventing disease rather than treating it.

A key focus of its health investments is “helping people understand how to eat better, the value of exercise, movement, diet, the built environment, walking trails, as opposed to making sure people can get to dialysis treatment or could get their medicine after they already have chronic illness,” she says.

Systemic change

The Trust, which has 14 staff members, nearly double the total when McNeill-Miller joined the foundation, also has undertaken two big initiatives to give people with little or no income greater opportunities, respectively, to improve their health and their learning.

Both efforts aim to produce systemic change through community-based strategies that are designed for individual communities and count on state and national partners and “best practices” from multiple disciplines and sectors, in addition to local partners and those in health and education.

The Trust’s Health Care Division is investing $100 million to $150 million, or roughly $10 million a year, to improve health in 10 to 15 of the state’s most economically-distressed and health-distressed counties.

And its Poor and Needy Division is investing $30 million to $45 million, or roughly $3 million a year, to make sure every child in a family with financial need is ready for kindergarten and school, and meets every developmental milestone by the end of kindergarten.

That spending, which will grow over time as the Trust’s assets grow through income on investments, McNeil-Miller says, represents roughly half the funds each of the two divisions makes in grants each year.

The big challenges for the Trust, she says, will be “to sustain those efforts, learn as we go, and make appropriate mid-course corrections, and really be able to evaluate our results and tell that story, not only for our own organization, but also for the benefit of communities, legislators and other funders.”

Community focus

During McNeil-Miller’s tenure, the Trust also:

* Expanded Federally Qualified Health Clinics throughout the state to ensure financially disadvantaged residents, especially in rural areas, had access to quality health care.

* Enlisted local funders after computer problems blocked access to food assistance for hundreds of local families, an effort that led to a new coalition of local food funders to look at more effective ways to provide food to families in need.

* Established an effort during the economic downturn to provide basic operating funds to community organizations with small budgets in Forsyth County.

* Invested in major capital improvements in Forsyth County at Family Services, Samaritan Industries and Winston-Salem State University, and across the state at rural playgrounds, schools and community centers.

‘Vision and leadership’

“Karen’s outstanding vision and leadership are shaping how, why and where the Trust  invests for years to come,” Sandra Shell, senior vice president and chief operating officer for philanthropic services at Wells Fargo, says in a statement.

“Karen joined the Trust at a time that its work needed focus and creative thinking, and Karen delivered,” Shell says. “Thanks to her leadership, the Trust is making smarter, more thoughtful investments in communities with an eye on long-term impact.”