By Todd Cohen
For the Alamance Foundation
When Capital Bank Charitable Foundation in Burlington was looking for a partner to manage its grantmaking and administrative operations, it turned to Alamance Foundation, which since 1991 has provided philanthropic services to donors in Alamance County, and funding and financial services to local nonprofits.
Now, Capital Bank Charitable Foundation has decided to transfer its $2.4 million in assets to create a donor-advised fund at the Alamance Foundation. Members of the board of Capital Bank Charitable Foundation will serve as advisers to the new Community Savings Bank Fund on grants it makes to local causes.
“It’s a great way to benefit the community in perpetuity,” Fairfax Reynolds, board chair for the Alamance Foundation, says of the new fund, which will increase the Foundation’s philanthropic assets to $14.5 million.
As part of the Alamance Foundation, the new fund also will continue to advance the philanthropic vision of the bank board of directors who created what became the Capital Bank Charitable Foundation. In creating that foundation, that bank board wanted to return to the community the business it had given the mutual savings bank that had been established in Burlington in 1934 and later became Community Savings Bank and eventually merged with Raleigh-based Capital Bank.
Creation of the new fund at the Alamance Foundation reflects the indispensable role it plays as one of the county’s only community foundations — an entity that partners with individuals, families, corporations and other organization wanting to create philanthropic funds, and that makes grants and scholarships to local causes and students.
“We want to be a collaborator with others in this community for philanthropic and charitable endeavors,” says Reynolds, retired regional executive in Burlington for Vantage South Bank and for Capital Bank.
Vision for community
In 1991, demand was growing among donors in Alamance County for efficient, low-cost philanthropic services, and among local nonprofits for philanthropic investment to support the rising demand they themselves faced in delivering services to people in need and improving the life of their communities.
Other communities throughout the United States faced similar challenges, and civic and business leaders there were creating community foundations to serve and connect donors and charities.
Seeing the impact those public foundations were having elsewhere, two Burlington couples and a business executive convened about 40 business and civic leaders to talk about creating a community foundation for Alamance County.
They decided to form the Alamance Foundation, which now serves as a permanent home for local charitable funds, and a permanent pool of philanthropic capital to address local needs and causes.
It provides philanthropic services for donors, working with them and their professional advisers to design charitable gifts that reflect and serve their personal, family, business and charitable needs. The Foundation also makes grants to charities, manages their endowment funds, and looks for ways to help them strengthen the effectiveness and efficiency of their fundraising.
The Alamance Foundation is governed by a 21-member board of local business and civic leaders. It has no paid staff and operates with support for its fundraising, grantmaking and donor services from the Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, which provided it with start-up advice and acts as its fiscal agent and back office.
The Alamance Foundation serves as a permanent home for roughly 70 funds created by donors.
With recommendations from donors, and administrative and technical support from The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, the Alamance Foundation has made $7.8 million in grants since 1996.
It makes $600,000 in grants a year, most of it from its donor advised funds, charitable purpose funds, scholarship funds, and endowment funds set up by nonprofits. The total also includes $20,000 a year in discretionary grants approved by the Foundation’s board.
Business and civic leadership
The Foundation’s board is responsible for the organization’s oversight and governance, setting its mission and goals, connecting it with prospective donors, and raising awareness in the community about philanthropy and the role the Foundation plays as a permanent home and resource for local philanthropy.
“Board members are the eyes and ears of the Foundation,” says Anne Powell, a board member and community volunteer. She and her husband, Jim Powell, along with Kay and Robert Norris and business executive Jerry Taylor, spearheaded creation of the Foundation.
Most board members are business leaders active on the boards of other nonprofits and positioned “to see what the needs in the community are,” Anne Powell says.
A key job of board members is to spread the word about the Foundation to individuals, families and organizations that are looking for the most effective way to invest their charitable assets and advance their charitable goals.
A member of the Foundation board, for example, also served on board of the Alamance County YMCA, which now has an endowment fund managed by the Foundation to provide a permanent source of annual income for the YMCA.
Another board member connected the Foundation withthe Smith family, which as a result moved its education-focused philanthropic fund to the Alamance Foundation.
The board member had a relationship with Bill Smith, chairman of Trust Company of the South. Smith’s parents, the late textile executive J. Harold Smith and his wife, Peggy Smith, had created the Alamance Educational Foundation, which used its endowment to provide scholarships for students, grants for teachers, and an annual Teacher of the Year recognition program.
That endowment now has been merged into the Alamance Foundation and retains its purpose.
Anne Powell says all board members are encouraged to establish donor-advised funds, and most have done that. “And they have been able to attract other people in the community to do the same.”
She and her husband, for example, created a donor-advised fund that focuses mainly on health care and education.
Focus of grants
Through its discretionary grants, the Foundation supports a broad cross-section of nonprofits in Alamance County, Reynolds says. Causes it supports include social programs, and those serving children and youth.
The Foundation also supports education, in large part as a result of its 2010 merger with the Alamance Educational Foundation.
“We have assumed that legacy,” Reynolds says. “We are very intentional about continuing to focus those funds on education.”
And as a result of a bequest from the estate of Duncan and Lula MacKenzie, a testamentary fund the estate created at the Alamance Foundation after their death supports Residential Treatment Services of Alamance County.
Value to donors, nonprofits, the community
Serving donors and nonprofits, a community foundation ultimately exists to serve as a trusted and continuing resource to address local needs, Reynolds says.
A community foundation provides flexibility and a menu of services that are designed to meet the needs of people who care about local causes and want to make a difference but may lack the resources to start their own private foundation.
“We offer an entity that will exist in perpetuity,” Reynolds says. “It’s in the community. It’s well managed by a local group of community board members. And someone can come in and place their money with us as a vehicle to achieve their charitable intent, but with a low cost to them and professional investment management services.”
Donors who create funds at the Alamance Foundation also can use its secure website to review activity in their funds and make grants and gifts.
Trust Company of the South serves as the Foundation’s investment manager.
“In community banking, I developed an appreciation of the value of a strong nonprofit sector in our community,” Reynolds says. “This community has always put a very high priority on community-mindedness, and the Alamance Foundation is a wonderful byproduct of that.”
Jim Powell, who for three years served as the volunteer chair of the Alamance Foundation, says community foundations exist “to address needs, many of which are unanticipated, that aren’t addressed” by other local nonprofits.
Reynolds, for example, is helping to create a new Boy Scout troop that will serve minorities, and is working with donor advised funds at the Foundation to support the new troop, says Powell, a pathologist who started a company that eventually became LabCorp, the second-largest laboratory testing company in the world.
A community foundation, he says, “has more flexibility to change and support new initiatives.”
Walker Sanders, president of The Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro, says it provides the Alamance Foundation with the technical expertise and staff support “to enable philanthropy to grow and flourish in Alamance County.”
That can range from staff and board support for fundraising and grantmaking to financial management.
And with its experience in addressing pressing issues such as the loss of jobs in the region in the wake of the recession and in the face of global competition, and in working with donors to support causes that focus on those issues, Sanders says, The Community Foundation also can lend that expertise to the Alamance Foundation.
“One of our core roles is to grow philanthropy and to engage philanthropic leaders to address the issues they’re facing,” he says. “We have the tools that individuals and families need to be able to do philanthropy.”
Whether a donor wants to make a gift of $1,000 or $1 million, and create that gift with assets ranging from retirement funds to land, he says, the Alamance Foundation can help make that happen.
“It’s important for Alamance County to have a very large, sizable pool of philanthropy that is really owned and controlled by the local community,” Sanders says. “That’s what the Alamance Foundation represents – local philanthropy that will always be for the benefit of Alamance County, always led by Alamance County.”