Ginger Webster, along with her husband Ralph and sister Kaye Lyerly, started The Webster-Lyerly Endowment for Coastal Resource Protection in late 2019. It is a unique type of donor-advised fund called a “field of interest” fund because it is established to support a specific purpose through its grantmaking. Ginger shared with us the inspiration for this new fund, the path to starting it, and her excitement about the first grants.
Tell us about your involvement with NCCF. How did you get started and where are your passions now?
My involvement with NCCF goes back about 15 years when I joined the Currituck-Dare Community Foundation. I serve on the board of directors of that affiliate foundation, and I co-chair the Currituck-Dare Women’s Giving Circle.
Serving with the community foundation has always been an easy fit for me. I have had a very fortunate life. I have never lacked for shelter or food or a caring circle of family and friends. Giving back has always been an important part of my daily life.
What started you on the path to establishing an endowment?
I am just thrilled to finally have this endowment in place.
I was first exposed to giving opportunities through the community foundation in conversations about the different types of funds and planned giving.
This endowment has been a dream of mine since then, and it took me many years to make this a reality.
I invited Beth Boney Jenkins (development officer) and Natalie Peel (community leadership officer) to my home so that my family members who still had lingering questions could get the answers they needed. That meeting is really what made this happen.
Tell us more about your family’s involvement and how you arrived at the purpose of your fund.
One of my passions is the environment, particularly the coast. Both personally and professionally, I have spent a lifetime working, volunteering, and talking about issues related to coastal protection.
When I say coastal protection, I mean the land and water environment, as well as the living creatures that depend on that environment.
I knew that my sister's interests and mine really aligned in this way. We have both been active volunteers with NEST (Network for Endangered Sea Turtles), and my sister currently volunteers with the sea turtle rehabilitation program at the Roanoke Island Aquarium.
So, I sat my husband and sister down, and we decided together that we wanted to devote some of our resources to this passion and leave a legacy to support it.
Then, we decided, “Why wait?”. We wanted a way to enjoy participating in this process rather than leaving it only in our estate.
We are old enough that we don’t really need things anymore. So, rather than the exchange of gifts around holidays, we always donate to our fund to keep it growing.
Our other motivating force is our son and grandchildren. We want them to see the value of philanthropy and make it a part of their lives, so we broadened the circle to our extended family.
We include them in this process, and we have set up the fund to pass along through generations of our family.
How did it feel to make those first grants this year, and how did you select the organizations to support?
In January, I got my notice that I have funds to distribute for the first time, and I was very excited.
I called Kim Ball (donor engagement officer), and she celebrated with me!
Using the online system to make the grants was the easiest thing in the world for me. I didn’t even need help from a tech person.
The first grant was to the NC Coastal Federation. I was thrilled to make a grant for them to hire an intern to work on coastal stewardship and education, as well as a specific project on environmental restoration at Jockey’s Ridge State Park.
I’ve made several grants since then to environmental organizations that were impacted by COVID-19.
What would you say to encourage other community members to get involved in philanthropy?
There are so many deserving nonprofits on the coast working on critical issues. If you have a passion and an interest, philanthropy gives you an opportunity to not only leave a legacy, but to get engaged now.
You can set an example for your family now and make a difference for generations to come.
And of course, there are the financial benefits, too.
I would encourage anyone with the resources to look into it. The rewards are huge.