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.”


Donor cultivation yields $10 million gift for UNC Lineberger

By Todd Cohen

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — In October, the UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill announced a $10 million gift commitment — its biggest gift ever — to fund early-stage cancer research.

The form of the gift represents the holy grail of fundraising: It is unrestricted, giving Lineberger’s leaders discretion to apply the dollars to areas of research they believe are most promising.

Ken and Cheryl Williams of Burlington, who are making the gift, are the kind of donors who fundraising professionals dream about, says Eli Jordfald, director of major gifts at Lineberger, who says the gift is the largest she has helped secure in her 30-year career in fundraising.

“Not only have they made this gift,” she says. “They want to help us solicit other gifts and be right there with us.”

Long-time supporters of athletics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and and of the Educational Foundation, the sports booster and scholarship organization at UNC better known as The Rams Club, the couple first got involved with the Cancer Center in October 2010.

Cheryl Williams, whose mother had died from breast cancer at age 52, volunteered that year to help raise money for Tickled Pink, a month-long fundraising effort the couple supported with a small gift.

Ken Williams, who holds master’s and doctoral degrees from what is now the Gillings School of Global Public Health at UNC and is a retired senior vice president at Durham-based Quintiles, the world’s largest provider of biopharmaceutical development and commercial outsourcing services, also has a personal connection with cancer: His father died from mesothelioma and, last year, the couple brought his 94-year-old mother to Lineberger after she was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia.

In 2011, the couple joined Lineberger’s board of visitors, a group of 135 couples who serve as ambassadors for the Center throughout the state. And in 2013, they joined the board’s development committee, which provides volunteer input and support for the Center’s fundraising efforts.

“They been very engaged in development conversations and development initiatives,” Jordfald says.

The Williamses also have been involved in early planning during the silent phase of a comprehensive fundraising campaign at UNC that is expected to set a goal totaling billions of dollars.

Since joining the board, Jordfald says, the Williamses have worked closely with many people at Lineberger, including Debbie Dibbert, its former executive director of external affairs.

Last April, Jordfald invited the couple to lunch at the Carolina Club at the George Watts Hill Alumni Center at UNC for what they understood “was going to be a gift conversation,” she says. Also at the lunch was Martin Baucom, who had been named executive director of development and communications to succeed Dibbert after she became chief of staff for UNC Chancellor Carol Folt.

“We talked about some of the really big and bold plans for the Cancer Center and the importance of philanthropy and how critical it would be to have board members step up and support these important initiatives,” Jordfald says.

The Williamses said during the two-hour lunch that they were “starting to think seriously about their gift,” Jordfald says, and indicated they were “thinking about a significant gift” that would be earmarked for unrestricted research.

Then, in July, standing in the lobby of the Center at the close of a 90-minute tour, the couple said “they were very close to finalizing a gift” and indicated “it was going to be a multi-million-dollar gift.”

They also asked how large a gift would be needed to name the lobby for their son Tony, who had died tragically two years ago.

“When they heard the figure of $10 million,” Jordfald says, “Cheryl said it would be so wonderful to be able to name the lobby for Tony.”

Final details of the gift were worked out, and papers signed, at two lunches at a restaurant in Burlington, and the gift was announced in October.

Key to the gift, Jordfald says, were the active role the Williamses played on the board of visitors and development committee; their engagement with and support of staff leaders and faculty; and their substantive knowledge about the Center’s work and vision, and desire to participate in advancing it; and conversations they had with Folt and David Routh, UNC’s vice chancellor for university advancement.

Equally critical was “listening carefully to what their goals were,” she says. “They wanted to establish a legacy. They wanted to find answers to complicated cancers.”

The Williamses “are truly a development person’s dream,” Jordfald says. “They are rainmakers.”

Ronald McDonald House eyes growth

By Todd Cohen

On April 15, Ronald McDonald House of Durham began offering overnight stays in five rooms donated by WakeMed in its Heart Center Inn in Raleigh to families of critically-ill pediatric patients at WakeMed Children’s Hospital.

Through September, the new WakeMed House already had provided 630 overnight stays.

And with demand from families growing, the nonprofit has renamed itself Ronald McDonald House of Durham and Wake and is considering whether to establish a new Ronald McDonald House to serve families of pediatric patients at WakeMed, says Oie Osterkamp, executive director.

Launched in 1980 with 13 beds, Ronald McDonald House of Durham was the first of what now are five Ronald McDonald organizations in the state operating a total of seven houses. The others are in Chapel Hill, Charlotte, Greenville and Winston-Salem.

The Durham House, located near Duke University Hospital, grew to 29 rooms in 2011, and was expanded to 55 rooms in October 2012 after a capital campaign that raised $7.2 million. Last year, it provided 16,200 overnight stays to families.

Ronald McDonald House also operates separate family rooms at Duke University Hospital and WakeMed that together serve over 40,000 parents a year.

Ronald McDonald House operates with an annual budget of just over $2 million, plus $500,000 to $600,000 in estimated in-kind donations, a staff of 12 people working full-time and 12 working part-time, and 4,500 volunteers.

This year, it expects to generate most of its budget — $1.85 million — through contributions, revenue from annual fundraising breakfasts each fall in Durham and Raleigh, and a “Heart of Gold” gala in February or March at the Angus Barn in Raleigh.

It also receives support from McDonald’s Corp., individual owner-operators of local McDonald’s restaurants, and their local advertising co-op, as well as investment income from its $3 million endowment.

In-kind support ranges from $25,000 worth of toilet paper to $17,000 worth of disinfecting wipes. Both family rooms provide frozen meals, the WakeMed House provides meal vouchers for the WakeMed cafeteria at WakeMed, and once a week Ronald McDonald House provide lunch for all the pediatric families at WakeMed. At the Durham House, volunteers provide activities every day and cook dinner every night for all families.

In June, Ronald McDonald House launched a new “Security Blanket Society” to recognize and encourage planned gifts, says Nancy Jones, senior director of development and communications.

And building on an existing program that offers donors an opportunity to sponsor a room or suite in its Durham House, Ronald McDonald House has begun an effort that offers donors the opportunity to endow or “adopt” a room or suite.

While the suggested fees for families total $10 a night for a small bedroom and $15 a night for a long-term stay in a suite, the actual cost is over $100. A year-long sponsorship totals $3,650 for a room and $5,475 for a suite, and an endowment gift totals $100,000 for a room and $150,000 for a suite.

“We ask for $10 a night for families to stay here, and 70 percent of families can’t afford that,” Osterkamp says.

At the Durham House, sponsors already are covering the annual cost to families of about 20 rooms.

And Aaron and Natalie Cain of Fayetteville have made a $100,000 commitment to endow a room at the Durham House named for their late son, Wells McRae Cain, and have created an annual memorial golf tournament to raise the endowment funds.

After Wells was born with a congenital heart defect, he was airlifted to Duke Hospital. The Cains spent two weeks at the Durham House before Wells died. He had lived for 71 days.

Jones says the endowment will make a big difference for families that need to stay at Ronald McDonald House.

United Way aims for ‘collective impact’

By Todd Cohen

CARY, N.C. — From 2004 to 2014, when Laura Zink Marx served as executive director of NJ 2-1-1 Partnership, a subsidiary of United Way of New Jersey, the referral-and-resource hotline for health and human services grew rapidly to serve United Way affiliates, the nonprofit agencies they support, and government agencies in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

The Partnership also emerged as a model for the new role United Way increasingly aims to play in local communities as a catalyst, hub and resource for collaboration to address urgent community needs. It used technology and data to coordinate services among agencies, assess callers’ needs and connect them with services to assist them, and began to track the impact of those services.

And it served as a revenue center, growing its staff to 100 employees and its annual operating budget to $5 million.

Now, as president and CEO of United Way of North Carolina, Marx is building on that model to help its members reinvent the way they do business. Those members include 57 local United Ways and two United Funds that serve 83 of the state’s 100 counties and last year raised a total of $100 million.

“Like any business, we’re reimagining what the future holds for us a state organization, and local United Ways are reimagining their role in the communities,” says Marx, who joined the statewide organization last October. “We’re making the shift from allocating dollars to agencies, to building community impact programs that are more inclusive of collaboration with other agencies and making real change happen.”

Operating with nine employees and an annual budget of $900,000, United Way of North Carolina also manages the State Employees Combined Campaign, which in 2014 raised $3.8 million.

Under a separate nonprofit operating with an annual budget of $1 million, up from $400,000 last year, United Way of North Carolina administers the 2-1-1 hotline, which serves all 100 counties in the state through call centers in Asheville and Durham that employ the equivalent of 21 full-time staff.

With $1.7 million in funding from the William R. Kenan Jr. Charitable Trust in Chapel Hill, United Way is expanding its 2-1-1 service to Florida, Kentucky and New York, and has developed, a web-based “dashboard” that tracks data from calls and will be used in North Carolina, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan and New York.

Building on the 2-1-1 program Marx headed in New Jersey, United Way of North Carolina also is working to develop partnerships with nonprofit and government agencies that provide health and human services, offering its 2-1-1 service as a “portal” to help those agencies to better serve their clients.

“It’s about providing solutions to the state to help streamline services for residents,” she says. “We’re providing the core infrastructure, and then leveraging that for solutions for government and nonprofits.”

United Way, for example, is partnering with the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness, which under a federal mandate tied to funding is developing plans to coordinate resources for people facing homelessness.

Through an initiative to be piloted in Onslow County, United Way’s 2-1-1 service will serve as a one-stop shop aggregating data about all public and private agencies serving people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness, and as a “front door for coordinated assessments” of callers, Marx says.

The system will provide “pre-screening to help divert people who are not homeless,” Marx says, while directing them to resources they do need, such as food pantries.

The 2-1-1 service represents a new model for United Way, moving away from a focus on fundraising to investing in “collective impact,” Marx says.

“It’s about knowing what the factors are in a community that provide barriers to people, to help them take the next step in their lives and move forward,” she says. “If we’re looking at building coalitions and collaborations in the community, and effective long-term change, we can start to collect data that’s specific to United Way initiatives.”

United Way of Forsyth County, for example, is part of a collaborative, neighborhood-based initiative that has helped improve the high-school graduation rate and now aims to help graduates get to college and move beyond the poverty their families have faced for generations, Marx says.

The 2-1-1 service can contribute to the effort by guiding callers — such as mothers who make repeated requests for emergency assistance to pay their electric utility bills — to other services they might need to help their families become more financially independent.

In addition to 2-1-1, keys to United Way’s emerging strategy are to use technology more effectively, share “best practices” and success stories at individual United Ways, shift the perception of United Way’s work to “investing” from fundraising, and advocate for public policies that strengthen charities.

To better engage young adults, United Way needs to find ways to more effectively use YouTube videos and social media, Marx says.

United Way of Alamance County, for example, used MobileCause, a cloud-based fundraising application that lets people in the same room use their cell phones to pledge contributions so each person can instantly see total giving from everyone in the room. United Way of North Carolina then shared that “best practice” with its members throughout the state.

For smaller United Ways, Marx says, “it’s really hard to understand how it relates to what you do.” A goal of United Way of North Carolina is to “interpret big ideas and make them manageable, whatever size you are,” she says.

While United Ways traditionally have been successful at “being independent and siloed,” she says, shifting patterns in where people live and work, and how they commute, have made it important for local United Ways to share information and resources with one another, and to help people understand the common and connected role they play.

In western North Carolina, a handful of local United Ways now plan to share back-office operations such as processing donation pledges and handling payroll and other finance functions.

And United Way of North Carolina is sharing with its members the story of United Way of Onslow County, which reduced the county’s rate of childhood homelessness by more than 25 percent in two years.

United Ways also are looking for ways to engage donors in the work their dollars support so they can see the difference their investment makes.

As a “leadership” donor who gives $1,000 a year through payroll deduction to United Way of the Greater Triangle, Marx is invited to monthly events that feature discussions on topics such as the need for food for hungry people or for the mentoring of girls. She then can get involved by participating in an event to build food kits or by serving as a mentor.

And in the face of a proposal in the North Carolina Senate to cap charitable deductions, United Way of North Carolina is working to mobilize local United Ways to share their concerns about the possible impact the proposal would have on charitable giving.

United Way’s strategy is to keep looking for new ways to be part of collaborative efforts to address community needs, Marx says.

“The door’s open until it’s closed,” she says. “Let’s keep thinking about ways we can bring value to the work that we do.”

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.”

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.

Banding together to make a difference

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — When five Raleigh friends got together on Sept. 11, 2001, to watch the news about the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., they decided to try to do something to support survivors’ families.

Their solution was Band Together for Our Heroes, a live concert in downtown Raleigh two months later that featured four bands, included two firefighters from New York City, attracted 1,300 guests and raised $56,000 for the Survivors Fund.

A year later, the friends formed Band Together, a nonprofit that would use live music to raise money, particularly from the business community, to support disaster relief and local nonprofits.

Typically partnering with a single nonprofit each year, Band Together has donated nearly $5.5 million to local nonprofits and become the largest charitable music event in the Southeast.

In 2005, it raised $175,000 for Raleigh-based Stop Hunger Now to provide relief for victims of the tsunami in South Asia, and $47,000 for the Raleigh-based Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina to provide relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

In recent years, it has developed a strategy it calls “partnership philanthropy,” working closely with an annual partner to raise money together and strengthen their respective organizations.

“We invest ourselves into that organization, and they invest themselves into ours, working for a year in a major campaign that ends in a massive concert,” says Danny Rosin, a co-founder of Band Together and owner of Brand Fuel, a promotional advertising firm in Research Triangle Park.

The goals each year for both partners are “not only to raise funds and awareness, but also to learn better nonprofit skills,” says Rosin, a self-described “uber fan of live music,” who served until four years ago as Band Together’s volunteer director and until a year ago as its board president. He now heads its advisory board, which raises over 60 percent of its funds.

This past year, Band Together’s partnership with StepUp Ministry in Raleigh — the two groups also partnered in 2010 — raised $2 million.

Band Together raised $500,000 of the total through a series of fundraising activities, including a live concert on June 27 at the Red Hat Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh, and StepUp raised $1.5 million. Each had challenged the other to raise those totals.

StepUp, an interfaith nonprofit founded in 1988 that works to equip low-income and homeless people with skills to live independently, plans to use the funds to open a Durham operation in August, to create StepUp North Carolina to oversee the startup of new StepUps throughout the state, and to support the original StepUp in Raleigh.

The partnership with Band Together helped boost awareness of StepUp throughout the Triangle and helped it raise money by treating the partnership like a capital campaign with a specific focus, in this case expanding to Durham and eventually other communities, says Linda Nunnallee, executive director of StepUp Raleigh.

Band Together, which counts on volunteers to handle most of its fundraising and concert planning and logistics, is an “open-source” nonprofit, Rosin says, sharing donor information with its annual partner, visiting prospective donors together, and co-branding marketing materials.

Rosin, for example, brought Nunnallee on a fundraising visit to Cargill, a Band Together funder, which agreed to give $10,000. Band Together gets 15 percent of the net proceeds of funds the partnership raises to support its operations, and StepUp receives the remainder.

“Together we’re better,” Rosin says.

Band Together picks its annual partner based on an intensive vetting process, operates rent-free in its partner’s offices, and works with its partner to strengthen the leadership of their respective organizations.

“We want to leave our partners better than we found them,” says Matt Strickland, who became Band Together’s first executive director and paid employee in 2011.

Now, Band Together aims to increase the value of its annual concert for donors and sponsors, such as improving VIP networking opportunities for their clients, employees and vendors.

And it is looking for ways to provide smaller nonprofits with some of the funds its annual partnerships raises, and possibly help build those smaller groups’ organizational “capacity,” Rosin says.

“There are smaller agencies doing great work that we want to support,” he says.