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.”

Collaboration, flexibility seen key to change

By Todd Cohen

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

RALEIGH, N.C. — Sustaining the Triangle’s growth and making it a better place will depend on how well individuals and organizations can adapt to sweeping, rapid change and work together to fix the region’s most pressing social problems.

That message was the focus of What Matters, an event hosted by Triangle Community Foundation on April 1 at the Raleigh Convention Center.

Struggling in prosperity

The Triangle is home to stark contrasts, leaders of Triangle Community Foundation told the 450 civic and business leaders from throughout the Triangle at the event.

“In the midst of prosperity, many among us struggle daily to survive and thrive,” said Lacy Presnell III, chair of the Foundation’s board of directors and a lawyer at Raleigh firm Burns, Day & Presnell.

Lori O’Keefe, the Foundation’s president, said the Triangle is the fastest-growing region in the U.S. and ranks fourth in economic growth. Raleigh is the sixth-most-affordable city to live in, Durham is among the 10 most-educated cities, and the region’s quality of life ranks highest in the U.S., she said.

Yet four in 10 public-school students in the region are enrolled in a program for lunch that is free or at a reduced price, one in five children live in poverty, and nearly half of all home renters spend 30 percent or more of their incomes on housing costs, she said. And nearly one in five public school students who enter ninth grade do not graduate in four years, she said, while people of color earn $7 less an hour than whites.

“As proud as we are of this region,” she said, “we must not lose sight of the real challenges we face as we continue to grow.”

Framework for change

Making change happen requires “crystal clear direction about where we’re headed,” motivation for the emotional side of the brain, and the need to “shape the path,” make it easy to “get to from point A to point B, remove the obstacles, create a culture conducive to change,” author Dan Heath, senior fellow at the Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship at Duke University, said in his keynote speech at the event.

He cited a Stanford University study of a food drive in a single dormitory there. Testing the hypothesis that “there are nice people and they give, and there are jerks and they don’t,” the study canvassed the dorm to rank all students from the most to least kind.

Then it tested two versions of a letter promoting the food drive, with one version providing only basic instructions, and the other suggesting that, if students could not figure out what or how to donate, they should bring a can of beans and pick a time to drop off the can.

The second version provided a map showing where to drop off the donation. Among students who received the basic instructions, eight percent of the those identified as “saints” in the canvas and none identified as “jerks” donated food.

Among those who received the detailed instructions, 42 percent of the “saints” and 25 percent of the “jerks” made a donation.

Those findings suggest the food drive was “three times better off betting on a jerk with a map than a saint without one,” Heath said.

In times of change, he said, people are quick to put people “in buckets,” treating them as “saints and jerks,” he said.

“A crucial lesson for leaders of change,” he said, is that “when the path around us changes, people change, so we’ve got to be thoughtful about shaping the path.”

Shaping the path

A key to finding effective solutions to change is to “get better at meeting people where they are, shaping the path for them, not shaping the path” preferred by many advocates of change, Heath said.

He described a challenge faced at the airport in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, where the men’s room had a problem with “spillage” that was “caused by poor aim.”

After considering a range of solutions, the committee decided to hire an artist who etched the likeness of a black housefly into every urinal in the men’s room.

Suggesting that the male psyche tended to see a target around the etching, which served as the bull’s eye, Heath said spillage in the men’s room immediately fell by 90 percent.

“We’ve got to shape the path to make change a little easier,” he said.

Bright spots

The social sector often gets so bogged down focusing on its ideal goal that it sometimes fails to see what is real and can lead to an effective solution, Heath said.

In the 1970s, he said, Jerry Sternin, director of Save the Children in Vietnam, wanted to fight child nutrition. Rather than address the problem’s root causes by trying to reform the education system, cure poverty and provide access to clean water, Heath said, Sternin focused on how families in a single village actually were feeding their children.

First, he identified which children in the village were well-nourished for their age, then watched how their parents prepared meals.

Most families in the village served their children two bowls of white rice a day, but the “bright-spot” mothers divided the same amount of rice into more meals during the day, making it easier for their children to digest more rice at each meal.

Sternin invited the “bright-spot” mothers to share the way they were preparing meals with other mothers in the village. Six months later, two-thirds of children in the village were better nourished. And after word of the success spread, leaders of other villages traveled to learn how the mothers in the village were preparing food.

Eventually, the more effective approach reached over 2.2 million Vietnamese in 265 villages, Heath said.

Sternin “did not cure child malnutrition in Vietnam,” Heath said. “But he put an enormous dent in the problem with a meager budget, and never solved any of the problems allegedly responsible for child malnutrition. That’s the power of looking at bright spots.”

So rather than “spending all your time obsessing about problems,” he said, community leaders should “steal some time to think about successes.”

Working together

The problems communities are trying to tackle, Heath said, are “daunting, long-standing, will not yield to easy solutions.”

And while it may not be apparent from day to day, he said, big changes do take place over time.

“Nothing great is ever accomplished easily,” he said. “But together, we’ll make it possible.”

Competition spurs collaborative ideas to fix local problems

By Todd Cohen

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

RALEIGH, N.C. –At stake was a $25,000 grant from Triangle Community Foundation.

Competing for the funds were five groups of partners, selected from more than 50 partnerships that had submitted proposals in response to a request for ideas for innovative, collaborative solutions to community problems.

Each group had 10 minutes to pitch its proposal to a panel of five judges, and another five minutes to answer questions from the panel.

The groups said they would use the grant dollars to develop:

* A storefront in downtown Siler City to serve as “Idea Centro” and engage residents, particularly Hispanics, develop them as leaders, and produce new thinking and economic growth.

* A pre-K class for four-year-olds at a year-round center for children and youth in an impoverished Raleigh neighborhood, combined with services for their parents, to help families break the cycle of poverty.

* A center to process and distribute food at a new food hub in Durham that aims to provide a market for local farmers and a source of food for agencies that serve people in need.

* A 200-square-foot home to serve as a model dwelling for people with mental-health challenges living at a Chatham County farm that aims to help them become self-sufficient.

* A food trailer to employ men and women in Durham who get out of prison, and help them develop the skills they need to survive in the workplace.

The competition marked the fourth year Triangle Community Foundation had hosted its Innovation Award, an effort to stimulate new ideas and collaborations to address community problems.

The award aims “to seed an innovative idea and gives nonprofits involved an opportunity to think outside the box, to move the needle on a community issue,” Lori O’Keefe, the Foundation’s president, told several dozen guests who attended the event.

The five finalists, she said, all were winners that “think innovatively and collaboratively.”

Claiming victory at the close of the event was the Bull City Cool Food Hub Collaboration. And thanks to donors to the Foundation, each of the other semifinalists received $7,000.

The competition

The Innovation Award event was held March 20 at HQ Raleigh, a shared workspace in the warehouse district of downtown Raleigh designed to boost entrepreneurialism.

With competitors waiting and watching from adjacent space, each finalist group had five minutes to set up any visual presentation it had prepared.

Then, standing in front of the five judges and the audience of guests, each group made its pitch.

To prepare for the competition, the finalists had participated in a “pitch workshop” in February led by BC/DC Ideas, a Raleigh consulting firm that works with nonprofits.

Judges at the final event included its chair, Easter Maynard, director of community investment for Investors Management Corporation and a member of the Foundation’s board of directors; Scott Crawford, chef and co-owner of Standard Foods; David Dodson, president of MDC, a Durham think-tank; Aaron Houghton, co-founder and CEO of BoostSuite, a website firm in Durham; Donovan Moxey, CEO of Interactive Multimedia Solutions and IBS International; and Steven Pearson, manager of corporate citizens and corporate affairs at IBM.

Boosting growth in Siler City

The Latino community in Siler City has grown to nearly half the rural county’s population of 8,100 residents from less than one percent in 1980.

Yet despite the loss of 1,700 jobs between 2007 and 2012 with the closing of furniture, textile and food-processing plants, Hispanics have stayed in Siler City.

Now, a collaboration known as Siler City Unidos is working to transform a storefront in downtown Siler City into “pop-up community center” known as “Idea Centro” that will engage partner agencies, foster civic participation and leadership among all residents, particularly, Hispanic, and generate ideas for developing the downtown area.

The collaboration includes Chatham Economic Development Corporation, Siler City Development Organization, Communities in Schools of Chatham County, the town of Siler City, and other groups.

The group told the judges at the competition that the challenges facing Siler City “have led to a willingness to try things that haven’t been tried before.”

Breaking poverty cycle in Raleigh

In Raleigh, where the number of residents living in poverty nearly doubled from 2000 to 2012, the poverty rate is 16 percent. In the 27610 zip-code area in southeast Raleigh, the poverty rate is 22.7 percent, nearly one in three households with children under age 18 lives in poverty, and the number of children living in poverty has grown 46 percent since 2008.

To find a way to help break the local cycle of poverty between generations, the executive directors of seven nonprofits have been meeting for the past year.

Known as the Wake Collaborative, the partners include Community Partnerships, Council for Entrepreneurial Development, The Daniel Center for Math and Science, SouthLight Healthcare, StepUp Ministries, Triangle Family Services, and Wake County SmartStart.

Their solution is to create a class for 18 four-year-olds at The Daniel Center, an after-school and summer program for children and teens, and to provide support services for their parents.

The pilot program, which would include an outdoor area for play and fitness, would remove a big barrier for parents to find jobs, while also creating jobs at the Center, the group told the panel of judges.

The pilot class would be expanded over time to eventually provide support for a broad “pipeline” of constituents, from pregnant mothers to children and teens, along with families.

The goal is provide support for the same children and their families as the children move into young adulthood.

Linking local farmers, hungry people

One in four children in North Carolina is at risk of hunger, yet small and mid-sized farmers in the state lack access to local markets.

In North Carolina, which lacks big food-processing facilities, bigger farms typically ship their produce to industrial food processors outside the state, but smaller farms in the state often must sell unprocessed produce directly to consumers.

The missing piece for small farms is to add a food-processing center to a food hub that houses businesses that buy food from small farmers and sell it to agencies that serve people in need.

Known as the Bull City Cool Food Hub Collaboration, partners include Farmer Foodshare, Reinvestment Partners, Carolina Farm Stewardship Association, and Durham County County Soil and Conservation.

The food hub, which buys produce from small and mid-sized farms, will process and store food, and distribute it to agencies that serve hungry people.

The Collaboration already has secured $50,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and was seeking $25,000 from Triangle Community Foundation so it could develop the processing center at the hub.

The processing center would have a “multiplier” effect on the Foundation’s investment by generating more income for farmers, more food for people in need, and an economic boost for the area of downtown Durham that is home to the hub, the group told the judges.

Housing people with mental illness

In the U.S., 2.2 million people with mental illness get no treatment. And in North Carolina, 40 percent of homeless people have chronic mental illness.

Providing treatment and a place to live for people facing mental-health challenges is the focus of a partnership that includes The Farm at Penny Lane, a farm in Chatham County that grows and produces food for people living with mental illness; Habitat for Humanity of Chatham County; XDS, a nonprofit that works with people with mental illness and owns the property the farm operates on; and the Center for Excellence in Community Health in the Department of Psychiatry in the School of Medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Known as the Tiny Home Pilot, the partnership wants to build a 200-square-foot home on the farm that would serve as a kind of model home for mentally-ill individuals.

Based on stays of a week or two to get feedback from temporary occupants, the partnership then would work with Habitat Chatham to build an initial cluster of three tiny homes for individuals in Chatham County, including some who also could receive support from the Center for Excellence in Community Mental Health at UNC.

The occupants would apply for no-interest loans from Habitat and would own the homes.

The effort, which could grow to include additional clusters of three tiny homes each and eventually become a small community on the farm, aims to help people with mental illness avoid homelessness, become more self-sufficient, and improve the quality of their lives, the group told the judges.

Jobs for ex-prisoners

Eighty percent of men and women who return home to Durham from prison have no education credentials and no real work experience, and 60 percent still are unemployed after a year.

A partnership of three Durham groups aims to create a food trailer to provide people getting out of prison with jobs and support services to equip them to make the transition to civilian life.

Known as Second Helpings, the partnership includes the Religious Coalition for a Nonviolent Durham, Core Catering Company, and Durham County Criminal Justice Resource Center, a county agency.

The idea, modeled on nonprofit Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, will employ ex-prisoners and provide them with case management and “wraparound” support services.

The skills that inmates must master in prison are not the skills they need to master to survive in the workplace after they leave prison, the group told the judges.

At Second Helpings, they said, a criminal conviction will not be a barrier to employment but a requirement.

When fully operating, the food trailer aims to employ eight people each working 20 hours a week.

Innovation matters

Key to the winning proposal was the “crucial nature of the collaboration between the organizations, and the innovative way they were going to have a multiple impact,” says Maynard, who chaired the panel of judges.

“They would not be able to achieve their goal if they were not working in collaboration,” she says. “We were looking for authentic collaboration.”

The winning proposal will provide a market for farmers, and food for agencies that serve hungry people while giving an economic boost to the neighborhood, she says.

Overall, the Innovation Award competition “was a real awakening to the Foundation about the quality of thought leadership in the nonprofit sector, and clear evidence of the innovative activity that’s happening out there all the time,” Maynard says.

“It also gives us an opportunity, through just one award, to celebrate several organizations and help build skills and not just write a check,” she says.

In addition to a grant to the winning proposal, all finalists received training in pitching their proposals, and then got an opportunity to make their pitches before judges and an audience, and to connect with one another, she says.

“The public nature of it,” she says, “fostered a lot more conversation and dialogue and interest.”

Cultivating donor and adviser key to big gift

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — In the spring of 2007, at the invitation of First Citizens Bank, Beth Boney Jenkins of the North Carolina Community Foundation met in Raleigh with a group of the bank’s trust officers to talk about how the foundation could work with them as they advised clients on their charitable giving.

“Outreach to professional advisers is one of the key dynamics of our work,” says Jenkins, vice president of development at the Foundation. “They are very often working with people of wealth or people with charitable interests who would be in a position to utilize the services of the Foundation.”

That spring meeting ultimately led to a $20 million endowment bequest to the Foundation from the estate of Louise Oriole Burevitch, a Wilmington philanthropist represented by one of the bank’s trust officers.

Working with advisers

Jenkins says the gift was the fruit of relationships she developed over the past seven years with the trust officer and the donor.

“You have to build a relationship of trust, especially when donors are thinking about their legacy giving,” she says, referring to the type of significant gifts donor often through estate planning or bequests.

A core job at nonprofits is raising money, and cultivating donors is central to that job. At community foundations, which work with donors to create charitable funds and to make grants from those funds to support causes they care about, a key task of the fundraising staff is to develop relationships with donors and with professional advisers.

As part of their “cultivation” of advisers — including lawyers, accountants, estate planners, brokers, insurance agents and trust officers at financial institutions — charities offer to make their philanthropic expertise available when the advisers are working with clients on their philanthropy.

Genesis of a gift

In August 2007, Jenkins got a phone call from the trust officer at First Citizens inviting her to meet in Wilmington with the trust officer, her 90-year-old client, and the client’s lawyer.

Jenkins was asked to talk about the advantages for the donor of creating a donor advised fund at the North Carolina Community Foundation, compared to creating a private foundation.

By establishing a donor advised fund, Jenkins told them, the donor could avoid the initial and ongoing expense of a broad range of tasks needed to create and operate a private foundation. Those include setting up the foundation and its board; securing charitable status; reviewing grant requests and making grants; complying with tax rules and paying taxes; and accounting for finances.

“A donor advised fund is much simpler than a private foundation,” Jenkins says.

At the North Carolina Community Foundation, a donor pays a annual fee of 1.5 percent of the balance of donor advised funds that are smaller than $1 million. A fund must have at least $10,000 to be created and generally should aim not to fall below that level.

After the meeting, Jenkins was asked to draft a document creating a donor advised fund. The donor’s advisers followed up with a series of questions. And in January 2008, Jenkins met again with the donor and her two advisers in Wilmington, where the donor signed documents creating the Louise Oriole Burevitch Endowment. The initial amount donated to the fund was modest, Jenkins says.

“The idea was after she started the small fund, she would sort of  take us for a test drive and determine whether this charitable vehicle was a fit for her ultimate estate gift,” Jenkins says.

Cultivating relationships

Over the next seven years, Jenkins visited the donor at least three times a year, always letting the trust officer know in advance, and for the initial meetings, always meeting both with the donor and the trust officer. She also talked every three months with the trust officer.

And once a year, she received a list of all the donor’s charitable gifts for the year “so we could learn the pattern of her giving so when the time came we could duplicate that pattern of giving and have this ultimate fund reflect who she was and the charitable interests she was devoted to,” Jenkins says.

Those gifts totaled hundreds of thousand of dollars a year, she says.

The visits with the donor, each lasting an hour or two, were social, Jenkins says, and involved mainly casual conversation about topics of interest to Mrs. Burevitch, often involving care for animals and her dog, Jake, a Shih Tzu. Twice a widow, Mrs. Burevitch had no children.

In her final years, working closely with her professional advisers and the Foundation, Jenkins says, it was Mrs. Burevitch’s clear intent to create the donor advised fund and leave the bulk of her estate to endow it.

Legacy gift

On Sept. 20, 2014, Jenkins received a phone call from the trust officer, who said Mrs. Burevitch had died that day. She was 97

On October 7, the Foundation received a letter from the Estate Settlement Services office at First Citizens. Under her estate plan, the letter said, the Foundation would receive the bulk of Mrs. Burevitch’s estate, to be added to the endowment fund she had created.

Later that month, in a meeting, officials of First Citizens shared documents with officials of the Foundation showing that the bequest would total $20 million.

The Foundation now is creating a committee to administer a grants program to support Mrs. Burevitch’s areas of interest, including animal causes, education, and women and children.

Cultivation, Jenkins says, was key to the bequest.

“Build and nurture your relationships,” she says. “You find out what’s important to that donor, and you listen.”

Rooted in community

By Todd Cohen

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

DURHAM, N.C. — Community service is built into Jim Stewart’s DNA.

His mother’s uncle, C.C. Spaulding, was an early executive of North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, which became the largest black-owned business in the U.S. and, with Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and Mutual Savings and Loan, served as the core of the Parrish Street section of Durham that was known as “Black Wall Street.”

His father, John S. “Shag” Stewart, was president of Mutual Savings and Loan, and served on the Durham City Council from 1954 to 1971, and as mayor pro-tem in 1970-71, during critical years of the Civil Rights Movement.

“I think it’s a moral duty of everyone to try to help improve the lives of everyone, particularly those who have less than we do,” says Stewart, owner of Stewart Commercial Real Estate, board chair of Mechanics and Farmers Bank, and incoming board chair for Triangle Community Foundation.

Early lessons

Stewart’s father and mother were deeply involved in business, entrepreneurship and real estate, and “those were the skills that we learned,” he says.

“He and my mother always preached, ‘Save your money, savings is the basis of anybody’s life,'” says Stewart. “As you grow in business, their concern was always that everyone had decent housing, access to health care, and education. The more successful you are, the more you need to give back and spend time, money and effort helping the community.”

His parents taught him about the importance of education, about business and about giving back.

His mother, Otelia Spaulding Stewart, a graduate of North Carolina College — now North Carolina Central University — was a pianist who encouraged him to take piano lessons when he attended C.C. Spaulding Elementary School, which was named for his great uncle.

“I quit early and wish I had stuck with it,” he says, although he did play alto saxophone in the band and marching band at Whitted Junior High School before attending Hillside High School.

As a child, he sometimes accompanied his father to work. And at age 11, he started cutting grass at his father’s housing projects for $1 an hour.

Years later, when his father was the volunteer chief fundraiser for Lincoln Community Health Center — a primary care facility that was built on the site of the former Lincoln Hospital, the hospital for African Americans where Jim Stewart was born — “he asked me for money,” Stewart says.

He also remembers a key role his father played in the startup of Triangle Community Foundation.

Shag Stewart introduced Shannon St. John, founding executive director of Triangle Community Foundation, to potential donors, “trying to raise money to get the foundation started,” Stewart says. “I knew how passionate he was about it. It’s in my genes.”

College and career

Stewart, 66, wanted to be a helicopter pilot when he grew up.

“I didn’t know about war and Vietnam,” he says. “I just liked mechanical things.”

He received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from North Carolina State University in Raleigh, where he also completed the ROTC program, then got a job as a junior engineer at IBM in Research Triangle Park before entering the U.S. Army.

He spent a year at Fort Eustis in Virginia, teaching data processing, then spent three years in Heidelberg, Germany, working as a plans officer, handling budgeting, correspondence and acquisition of supplies. He completed his four-year tour in 1975 as a first lieutenant.

After mustering out of the Army, Stewart returned to IBM, and in 1982 moved to the marketing division as a systems engineer working to help install and maintain software systems for big customers like banks and insurance companies.

He left IBM in 1997, when he was a senior market support representative providing support for a network management tool, to found Stewart Commercial Real Estate, which works as a brokerage and consultant for commercial real estate, mainly in Durham.

Stewart, who received an MBA from N.C. State in 2009, also runs two other family businesses. They include Clearview Housing Corp., a commercial real estate holding company his father founded in 1951 to provide housing to low-income people, and Majaja Inc., a real estate holding company founded in the 1970s that takes its name from the first two letters of the first names of Stewart and his sisters Jan and Marie, who died in 2011.

Life in the Triangle

Growing up and spending most of his life in Durham has enriched Stewart’s life with longstanding relationships he values, and with the heritage of a city built on leading institutions and industries in diverse fields, including higher education, financial services, tobacco and health care, he says.

Like other communities in the Triangle, he says, Durham has experienced significant growth powered by the region’s strong mix of universities, business and research.

But growth and the affluence it has helped fuel also have generated big challenges like traffic and have masked nagging problems tied to poverty, Stewart says.

“One of the challenges we have is to plan this out,” he says. “We’re talking about light rail, which I think would help avoid some of the problems that [other] large areas already are seeing.”

While “sometimes politically it’s difficult to channel resources where they can do the most good,” he says, the Triangle needs to continue to develop its infrastructure to keep pace with its growth.


Stewart says he learned the importance of hard work, giving back and community service from his parents.

His father ran for the seat on the Durham City Council that represented the black community because “the community needed a business leader to take over that seat after R.N. Harris stepped down,” he says.

And while he admired and learned from his father’s “outgoing style and his ability to work with people,” particularly his effort to work with whites to find peaceful solutions to integrate society during the turbulent era of the early 1960s, he says, he never has wanted to pursue politics himself.

“I keep up with it,” he says. “I contribute to it. I get involved. But I’ve never had the itch to run for anything.”

Stewart is married to Frances Dyer, a retired lawyer who worked mainly in the area of estates and real estate. Their son, Justin, is a biomedical engineer who lives in Tampa, Fla., with his wife and two children, ages 18 and 16.

Stewart, who enjoys spending summers and holidays at a home his family owns at North Topsail Beach, says he has little spare time for hobbies.

“What I do for fun is when I take time out and create,” he says. “When I go to the beach, I’m working on something.”

He says he does take time for sports — he is a big N.C. State Wolfpack fan — and as he and his wife “get to the fourth quarter of our lives, we’re starting to travel more.”

A big part of his life is his role as board chair at Mechanics and Farmers Bank, which was a cornerstone of Black Wall Street and has been in existence for 108 years.

“We continue to grow and thrive,” he says.

A member of White Rock Baptist Church, Stewart says what inspires him most is his faith.

Giving back

A member of the board of visitors at N.C. State and its Chancellor’s African American Advisory Council, Stewart created the James A. Stewart Scholarship Endowment Fund at the university to support “kids who are in need and are from underserved populations.”

Higher education is critical because it is “a ticket to success,” he says, but he also has learned about the importance of early education from his work on the board of the John Avery Boys & Girls Club in Durham.

“The kids we serve don’t have a lot of opportunity,” he says. “We help to support them in their education, helping with homework and tutoring — priority one after they get there after school and get a hot meal. It’s important. They may not get it otherwise.”

The Club also gives kids experiences, such as field trips to museums and college campuses, that they otherwise might not have, he says.

At Triangle Community Foundation, Stewart and his wife created the James A. Stewart and Frances Dyer Fund, a donor advised fund that has supported scholarships, the Foundation’s Send a Kid to Camp program, and religious institutions, among other causes.

“What inspires me,” he says, “is going to events and hearing stories about where people have been helped so much by philanthropy and what we do with the Foundation and the Boys & Girls Club.”