It is a cold and rainy day, and forecasters are calling for more snow and sleet here in the Triangle. Nevertheless, our spirits are high. It is one of our favorite times of the year at NCCF: our 2014 grantmaking season has begun!
Last month our fundholders received their quarterly statements with specifics around fund balances and grantmaking dollars available. Grant request forms have already begun pouring in from fundholders recommending grants to nonprofit organizations across the state and from nonprofit agencies requesting the distributions from their endowments. Last week alone we sent more than $750,000 to designated/agency fundholders.
Our staff is always available to answer any questions you have about your fund balance or the grantmaking process. The extensive services we provide to our fundholders are just part of how we differentiate ourselves from private or commercial funds.
Other ways in which we are different can be seen through our affiliate network, which helps us provide the expertise to advise on local needs in 67 communities across the state. Our boards of advisors that serve each local affiliate of the statewide network have connections and solid information on community needs and issues. This knowledge helps us to leverage grant dollars to best meet local needs.
All of our funds are customized to reflect our donors’ unique interests and needs, which more often than not also meet the unique needs of their communities.
Rain, sleet, snow or wind we are here!
Editor's note: You may have read this opinion piece in your local newspaper, as different versions have been sent to news outlets throughout North Carolina. In markets where we are the sole community foundation, the op-ed has been signed by Jennifer alone. In media markets that have readership served by additional community foundations, the piece has been co-signed by Jennifer and other foundation leaders. A version co-signed by Jennifer and Lori O'Keefe, Triangle Community Foundation's president, appeared today in Raleigh's News & Observer.
At its roots, America is philanthropic. In the face of a problem -- whether hunger, homelessness, illiteracy or unemployment, to name just a few -- we join hands voluntarily to fix it.
And anyone, however modest their means, can be part of the solution, thanks in large part to organizations modeled on a pioneering philanthropic structure launched in Cleveland 100 years ago this month.
Known as community foundations, they collectively are a multi-billion-dollar engine for social good. Yet they often operate below the radar in the communities they enrich.
The more than 700 U.S. community foundations are philanthropic hubs serving and connecting donors and nonprofits. They make it easy for anyone to create a charitable fund, and they manage the funds and work with donors to support causes they care about.
Reflecting Americans' deep generosity, community foundations steward more than $55 billion in assets, raise nearly $5 billion a year in new funds, and make annual grants totaling $4.2 billion.
North Carolina is home to 12 nationally certified community foundations serving nearly all of the state's 100 counties. They have worked with donors to create over 9,000 charitable funds totaling approximately $2.4 billion. And since their inception, they have awarded nearly $2.6 billion in grants to support causes from hunger and homelessness to the arts and environment. Annually their grantmaking totals over $236 million. I am proud to represent the North Carolina Community Foundation that serves this community and many more in 67 counties throughout the state. We invite you to find one of our local affiliates here.
Community foundations provide a permanent home for philanthropic funds created by individuals, families, entrepreneurs, companies and other organizations, and are a perpetual source of local philanthropic capital. With trillions of dollars expected to be transferred between generations over the next 40 years, community foundations will play an indispensable role helping donors invest their dollars in local causes.
As experts on philanthropy, local needs and nonprofits, community foundations work with donors, and their lawyers, accountants and other professional advisors, to create charitable funds that meet donors' family and business needs and that reflect their personal values.
In addition to making grants, community foundations help nonprofits manage their operating reserves and endowments, and strengthen their organizations to better serve constituents.
Community foundations are vital centers of local knowledge for donors, nonprofits, business, government and citizens. They raise awareness of philanthropy and local issues and bring together local leaders and experts to talk about solutions.
Whether working in our biggest cities or smallest counties, community foundations are an important source of philanthropic expertise and capital. That capital represents dollars that otherwise might not have stayed in those communities or supported local causes.
In the face of urgent social problems that elude quick fixes, our best hope of finding solutions lies in the fundamentally American approach of working together to make our communities better. Community foundations support local philanthropy, collaboration and partnership. Through them, every North Carolinian can play part in building a successful future for their community.
According to local lore, my great-great-great Granddaddy Jessup used to carry around a pocketful of grass seed with him wherever he went. When he came across some barren patch of earth, Granddaddy Jessup would scratch around a little with his boot and then toss some grass seed onto that spot.
I’d like to think that it didn’t matter much to Granddaddy Jessup who owned the land, or the name of the person who would one day benefit from the grass that he planted. He simply noticed a piece of ground that could benefit from a little positive attention.
Granddaddy Jessup was being a thoughtful steward of the land and of his community. Sometimes, perhaps, he walked by a patch of healthy grass and knew that he had made that possible. My guess is, though, that he probably didn’t keep track of all his seed spreading. A hundred plus odd years later, a cow might be eating some of that grass. Or there might be a backyard football game happening on a neatly kept lawn where once upon a time Granddaddy Jessup tossed a few grass seeds.
I believe that Granddaddy Jessup understood that grass helps prevent erosion. Spreading grass seeds here and there kept the land healthy and fertile. NCCF’s community grantmaking funds are a great way for folks to spread a little grass seed in their local communities and leave positive legacies of their own.
Just like grass prevents erosion, our community grantmaking funds will be there down to the road to help address future challenges and support important opportunities.
Effective governance is the backbone of an organization. The way a board leads speaks volumes about its effectiveness, values and ethics. Poor or ineffective board governance will bring an organization down. You and I have seen it happen time and time again.
Governance is at the core of everything we do here at the NCCF -- and our statewide board of directors takes their roles both individually and collectively quite seriously.
We have a governance committee, chaired by Jim Black, who spends an enormous amount of time vetting and discussing potential board candidates. He and the committee spend even more time talking about ways to ensure ongoing board education and engagement. It really is both a science and an art.
We just held an orientation for our two newest board members. (You’ll be hearing more about them soon, but suffice it to say now that we are thrilled to have Juan Austin and Katharine (Kack) Harrison Hardin join our statewide board!) The orientation is a pretty extensive effort that did not start nor will it end today, but rather it is an ongoing process of education and achieving clarity. It really began during the recruitment process in talking with board prospects about our board culture and our organizational values.
I love the board orientation process, as it provides an opportunity to figure out how to talk about our work in a concise, interesting and approachable way. Our new board members are really smart and busy people who bring incredible expertise and real life experiences and lots of great questions. It is always a great exchange to offer up how we do something and then get asked “why?” Why not this way? Or have you ever thought about this? I love curious people, and I love when folks ask questions because they are interested and because they often respond with new ideas.
Our work here at the North Carolina Community Foundation is simple: we work to inspire giving across the state. But the “how’s” can be complex -- and not always easy to grasp in a quick presentation.
Talking with new board members is an opportunity to describe who we are, what we do and our collective hopes and dreams about where we are headed. It’s articulating the art of giving with the discipline required of definition. And I never tire of hearing it out loud.
We almost had a “snow day” here this week. It was quite a news story -- oh the preparations needed, the possibility of ice and particularly “black ice,” and predictions of heavy snow! Most folks headed home early on Tuesday and many started their day late on Wednesday.
I love the possibility of a snow day, almost as much as I love a good snow day! The excitement, the anticipation of a day home where there are no expectations besides playing in the snow with your kids and snuggling under blankets. We were ready with all the basics: milk, wine and chocolate, lots of firewood. What a luxury.
It got me thinking about what a sweet life we often take for granted. The food, the family and the warmth.
SO many in our community do not have the same basics and would consider what we take for granted as real luxury.
The homeless man who lives in the woods near my house in the tent. The man I see every day at the intersection with a sign asking for food or money. The women who clearly was living out of her car near campus. The family crowded around the space heater -- their only source of heat on a cold evening.
All of these folks live in our community, and to them the possibility of a snow day is not a good thing.
Here in North Carolina more than 17% live at or below the poverty line.
For families with children under 18, the poverty rate was 19.8 percent. For families with children under 5, it was 21.2 percent.
Women and single mothers are at even greater risk. Some 34 percent of households led by women were living in poverty. With children under 18, that statistic jumps to 42.8%. And for single mothers with children under 5 only, it's 51.6 percent – or more than half lived in poverty.
There are many good organizations working to help bring families out of poverty in our community. It is up to each of us to get involved and not turn a blind eye. Oh the possibilities.
Confession time here folks, my favorite bumper sticker of all time, two words: "Question Authority." Of course, the crisp, clear black and white world of college days devolves into a murky spectrum of gray as one ages. But question authority or perhaps, question "conventional wisdom" may have its place in the investing world.
Early 2013, market pundits expected a good year for financial markets, the fiscal cliff notwithstanding. Many analysts expected large-cap equity to outperform small- and mid-emerging markets to outperform international developed and fixed-income yields to remain low.
One year out, what happened: 2013 was a tremendous year, in equities, though small- and mid-cap outperformed large-cap. Emerging markets, particularly Latin America, disappointed. And that darned Fed talk of tapering in the spring sent interest rates up and bond returns down for the year.
So what are the (suspect) market predictions for 2014?
- Continued improvement in housing and employment lead to broader, yet subdued economic growth
- Improved economy, low inflation and continuing accommodation by the Fed lead to further record highs in the stock market (but when will that long-awaited, yet normal market correction occur?).
- And the easy one: it will be a bumpy ride, particularly with Fed tapering and ahead of the mid-term elections this fall.
Believe I'll keep my hands off my IRA, other than rebalancing, and look to the long-term.
You may have heard the story of Durham resident Chris Rosati, who had a recurring dream to steal a Krispy Kreme truck and drive around Durham and give out donuts, like a modern day Robin Hood. But instead of giving out other people’s money, he preferred to distribute smiles.
After starting a Facebook page dedicated to his dream, he was contacted by Krispy Kreme, which provided use of the Krispy Kreme Cruiser, a driver and free donuts.
So on Dec. 3, Chris traveled around Durham visiting his neighborhood, local schools and hospitals giving out Krispy Kreme donuts. He also provided an inspiring message.
Chris Rosati is a modern day Robin Hood -- spreading hope and optimism and a very clear message. In fact when he visited his alma mater, Durham Academy, he was asked to pose for pictures with some of the students. He was already known to them from a visit earlier in the year when he was asked to come speak. They remembered him and his talk. He had begun his presentation with this stark sentence: “I am going to die soon.”
See, what you also need to know is that Chris Rosati was diagnosed three years ago with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain. Less than 50 percent of ALS patients live more than three years. To learn more about this disease visit http://www.alsa.org/
A stark sentence to be sure. Chris Rosati is 42 years old.
Most of the headlines on the many articles written about the great Krispy Kreme Donut caper went something like this: “Dying Man Gives Away Krispy Kreme Donuts.” I would change that to “Living Man Gives Away Donuts!”
Chris Rosati’s message is not one of dying, but rather one of living. Of smiling and giving and loving. Of performing random acts of kindness, of passing on a smile to someone else.
What an incredible way to live your life.
For the second straight year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan gave away 18 million Facebook shares — a gift worth more than $970 million — to the Silicon Valley Community Foundation. The donation was the largest charitable gift on public record in 2013, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, and marked the first time that donors under the age of 30 were credited with the year's largest donation.
I am especially proud that this gift went to a community foundation. Clearly this couple understands the impact a gift through a community foundation can make.
We at the North Carolina Community Foundation were pleased to be the stewards of many significant gifts in December, none of course anywhere near $970 million, but nevertheless significant to us and significant to the donor.
So what is the definition of a significant gift? How do you define what is a significant gift for you? Is it a percentage, an amount or some other calculation? The definition of significant says something “large enough to be noticed or have an effect; or very important; or having a special or hidden meaning.”
I understand what a significant gift for my family is: it is a gift that we can feel, that has impact on us, that involves giving up something else. It is not a gift that can be made without thinking; rather we discuss and consider carefully a significant gift.
We are grateful for the many folks who trust their significant gifts to the North Carolina Community Foundation.
I have no idea if $970 million is a significant gift for Mark and Priscilla. I would hope so for several reasons, as that amount is too large to consider it otherwise! I challenge you to think about what a significant gift means for you -- and to consider how you plan to make this gift in 2014.
As we roar into the holidays and the end of the year, life here at NCCF has been extremely busy. Not sure if it is the full moon, or high tide or that Thanksgiving was so late, but hasn’t life seemed busier than usual? It is important to me that you know how very grateful we are for our conversations and the new opportunities that often result. I also want you to know that we understand how important it is to ensure those year-end grants reach nonprofit organizations across our state. And I never want folks to feel rushed or hurried, but …. time is really running out. In fact I can feel it breathing down my neck!
When I look at my own list of what I need to get done before the end of the year, I am not sure it will all get accomplished. (The one thing I have to say I have finished are my charitable donations for the year!) Last night at 8:40 pm when I was pushing a shopping cart around Target, I found myself almost in tears. Not because I had learned my credit card has possibility been compromised, but rather I was thinking about the next several days and all I wanted to get done. Despite all my efforts of self-preservation, I found myself a bit overwhelmed and not at all holiday-ish.
Much has been said about Nelson Mandela, and the most compelling was his lessons about forgiveness. I have been thinking about forgiveness a lot as we head into the end of the year. And this morning I realized I wanted to work on forgiveness, and to devote some energy into letting some things go. But what I really realized was the first place I need to start is with myself. I am going to forgive myself for not getting everything done on my list and give myself a little slack around expectations. I am going to lighten up on myself. I am going to let some things go and to work on forgiveness. What a great gift.
That is my wish for you: during the busy, big crazy world and all this rushing about, that you find some peace and some quiet -- and that you find time to spend on forgiveness. What a great gift to give yourself.
We had a perfectly festive and productive meeting last week with NCCF’s statewide board of directors. I always look forward to our board meetings as there is so much positive and focused energy. Pulling together information on what we’ve accomplished -- and even more so on what is ahead -- is pretty energizing for me.
Friday’s meeting was no exception. We met at Poyner Spruill and heard from our legal counsel Bo Dempster. We also had great participation in a discussion about planned-giving. Of special interest were the time-limited opportunities around IRAs. We are here until Dec. 31 at noon, so check out this page if you still looking for opportunities to accomplish your year-end giving. (And we have lots of alternatives if you don't qualify for this opportunity.)
Some of our conversation at the board meeting focused on a discussion of ways to build the NCCF Endowment. This fund was established by our generous founders and is supported with annual gifts from our board, other friends and partners and goes to support our affiliate network and its work throughout the state. It is no surprise to anyone but demand for services has increased, and our footprint is large. Stuart Dorsett, our board chairman, is passionate about growing the endowment, and his energy around this was clear on Friday.
I looked around the board table and saw the faces of people who care about the future of NCCF. These are statewide leaders who are committed to supporting our donors and affiliate network. They have committed time and energy to growing this organization. Some of our board members have a long history with us, and some are newer. No matter how long their tenure, the exchange of ideas is never dull, as our chairman does a good job in his efforts to engage all in vibrant and meaningful discussions.
Even though they take their work with NCCF seriously, our directors don’t always take themselves too seriously. I was gratified, for example, to find a willing panel among board members to judge our staff’s first annual NCCF Holiday Beverage contest. I will just say, “Stay tuned!”
Before Thanksgiving I gave a much deserved shout-out to all on our staff. Have I mentioned how very grateful we are for each one of our board members, who travel from both near and far to participate at our table?! A toast to the NCCF board!