Donor advised fund focuses on Chatham County

By Todd Cohen

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

FEARRINGTON VILLAGE, N.C. — Chatham Outreach Alliance, a food bank in Pittsboro, provides a summer feeding program for kids.

Family Violence and Rape Crisis Services, also in Pittsboro, provides services to battered women and sexual assault victims.

And Boys and Girls Clubs of Eastern Piedmont, in Siler City, provides a safe place for young people to learn and grow.

All three nonprofits are among dozens in Chatham County that have received a total of over $1 million since 2008 from the Arthur Carlsen Charitable Fund, a donor advised fund the late Arthur Carlsen established at Triangle Community Foundation to benefit nonprofits based or operating in Chatham County.

“There is a trickle effect of one man’s decision to give, and it’s visible here in Chatham County,” says Carl Thompson, a member of the Foundation’s board of directors and director of continuing education for the Chatham County campus of Central Carolinas Community College “Because of his deep care and concern for his fellow residents, he has made a difference in Chatham  County that continues to grow.”

Thompson spoke September 10 at a reception the Foundation hosted at The Garden Terrace at Fearrington Village to celebrate the milestone the Carlsen Fund has passed in awarding over $1 million grants.

Carlsen, who died in September 2006, one month shy of his 91st birthday, was a retailer who was born in New York City and settled in North Carolina with his wife, Alice Lee Yeats, who predeceased him. He spent his final years in Fearrington Village, had no blood relatives, and left the majority of his accumulated wealth to the Foundation.

He set up the fund to benefit Fearrington Cares, which provides support, services and programs for residents of Fearrington Village, and to support other community organizations.

Grants from the Carlsen Fund have supported direct human services, the arts, food security, and education, among other causes.

Lori O’Keefe, president of Triangle Community Foundation, says the Carlsen Fund reflects the Foundation’s commitment to serving diverse needs in the region.

“While the Foundation has a regional focus on the Triangle, we understand that each community has very diverse qualities that make it unique,” she told 50 guests attending the reception. “It is vital to us that we continue to learn about these specific needs alongside each of you, as our region grows and changes.”

Veronica Hemmingway, senior donor engagement officer at the Foundation, says the Carlsen Fund is one of the largest sources of philanthropy for Chatham County and accounts for roughly half the Foundation’s annual giving to support causes in the county.

The fund also represents one of the few sources of general operating support for nonprofits in the county, she says.

Thompson, who was born and raised in Chatham County and served for 16 years on the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, says that, on paper, the county would seem to be “very prosperous.”

It trails only four of North Carolina’s other 99 counties in per-capita income, for example, while its education level per-capita also ranks among the highest in the state and its unemployment rate among the lowest.

But the the western part of the county is a different story, he says, with much lower income and education per-capita, and slightly higher unemployment.

With growing global competition, he says, parts of the county like Siler City “lost a lot of industry and manufacturing plants,” and are home to “a lot of vacant buildings and lost jobs.”

Nonprofits in the county provide people in need with critical services such as education, including literacy, and basic services such as food, Thompson says.

And while the Carlsen Fund represents one of the county’s largest sources of philanthropy, more support is needed, he says.

“We know we can’t do it alone,” he said at the reception. “The legacy of Arthur Carlsen is strong and impactful, but we need continued support in this community to make his dreams a reality — and enhance the lives of all who live here.”

Black giving aims to bridge philanthropy gap

By Todd Cohen

[Note: This was written for Triangle Community Foundation. I am working with the Foundation as senior communications adviser.]

In Charlotte, Johnson C. Smith University is developing an exhibition on black philanthropy that will tour college campuses starting next January in an effort to engage younger generations earlier in giving.

In Raleigh, the Wake County Public School System has studied the high rate at which black males are suspended from school.

Instrumental in kickstarting and helping to develop both efforts are black giving circles in which African Americans pool their dollars and know-how to support and get involved with causes they care about.

African-American giving has been the focus of Black Philanthropy Month in August, and will be spotlighted in Durham in October for the 10th anniversary celebration of the Community Investment Network, a national network of black giving circles. [Triangle Community Foundation is a sponsor of the event.]

“We are philanthropists, affirming a fact and a long legacy, and inspiring people to step up and embrace that fact in how they give, and to engage in community change,” says Valaida Fullwood, a Charlotte-based writer and consultant who is serving as the Network’s interim executive director.

With roughly 20 member giving circles throughout the U.S. with a total of about 260 individual members, including more than half-a-dozen circles in North Carolina, the Network represents a shift in philanthropy from a focus mainly on dollars to a focus on “leadership development for members through grantmaking experience and donor education that giving circles provide,” Fullwood says

The organizer and one of 17 founders in 2006 of New Generation of African American Philanthropists Charlotte, a giving circle at Foundation for the Carolinas, Fullwood also is the author of Giving Back, a 2011 book about traditions of giving and philanthropy in the  African-American community.

She has visited 22 cities in 12 states, championing black giving at 60 forums hosted by community foundations, churches, museums and other groups.

Veronica Hemmingway, senior donor engagement officer at Triangle Community Foundation, which is home to five African-American giving circles, says giving circles represent an “on-ramp for all communities of color” to institutional philanthropy.

“The definition of philanthropy traditionally has been very narrow and not very inclusive of any group of color,” she says. “It’s typically defined as high net worth.”

A key goal of Black Philanthropy Month is to “broaden the conversation to include all people participating in philanthropy,” she says.

Working with black giving circles, she says, community foundations can “begin to identify members of communities of color who can be possible fundholders, or develop relationships with people in the community and bring organizations to light they might normally not have been aware of.”

Concerned about the high suspension rate among black males in the Wake public schools, for example, a giving circle at Triangle Community Foundation known as A Legacy of Tradition and comprising African America men, worked with the schools to develop a way to address the issue, she says.

Fullwood says that her giving circle in Charlotte approached Johnson C. Smith University, a historically black institution, about finding ways to involve younger African Americans in philanthropy.

That effort has led to $220,000 in funding from the federal Institute for Museum and Library Sciences, and Foundation for the Mid South, to support the exhibition on black philanthropy that will tour college campuses and also aims to involve students from kindergarten through high school.

Her giving circle also has hosted local forums on black philanthropy that have focused on topics such as planned giving, estate planning, collective giving and the history of black giving.

In August, for example, nearly 350 people registered for an event at Bank of America Auditorium that featured Emmett Carson, president and CEO of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, one the largest community foundations in the world.

His wife, Jaki Copeland-Carson, a consultant and scholar of black diaspora giving, founded Black Philanthropy Month in 2011.

“Part of all of our efforts is to reframe [philanthropy] for a new age, in a more inclusive way that includes a broader scope of giving — giving in all amounts, time and talent contributions, and the cultural competence in addressing community change,” Fullwood says.

A key focus, she says, is on “what it means to be human and, out of that focus on community and people, shifting the focus from the dollars to the people and communities that this giving in all its forms is trying to improve and transform.”