For decades, TCF has helped individual and corporate donors funnel their money into Raleigh-Durham nonprofits to make an impact.
by Lori D.R. Wiggins
As our world shifts and challenges the status quo, the Triangle Community Foundation (TCF) is a buoy for nonprofits to grow, meet community needs and engineer change. TCF is the brainchild of the late Dr. George H. Hitchings, a Duke University professor and vice president of research at Burroughs Wellcome (now GlaxoSmithKline). In 1988, Hitchings shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for research and work with drug treatments. He used some of his prize money to create the Triangle Community Foundation, expanding a Durham foundation he’d launched five years earlier to include Wake, Chatham and Orange counties.
Today, with more than $240 million in assets, the organization oversees 850 philanthropic funds (more than 50% are donor-advised) and awards over $27 million in charitable grants to nonprofit organizations and scholarships to individuals. “TCF is an invaluable asset to the Triangle nonprofit community,” says Caitlin Clinard, president of Angel Oak Creative, a marketing firm specializing in nonprofit communications. “They have a stellar reputation for equipping nonprofits that are making a difference on issues that significantly impact the Triangle.” Here’s how: corporate and individual donors invest charitable dollars with TCF. In turn, the Foundation invests, manages and grows that money to reinvest or distribute through grants to local nonprofits.
The Foundation board works with advisory committees and professional advisors to identify criteria, review applications and make decisions based on what will have the biggest impact. TCF also encourages its investors to learn more about community issues. “We try to be that bridge between the needs of the community and how the donors can be impactful with their philanthropy,” says TCF president and CEO Lori O’Keefe.
TCF also has its own discretionary pool, Fund for the Triangle, earmarked for environmental conservation, youth literacy, cultural arts, community development and nonprofit capacity-building. Raleigh nonprofit El Pueblo credits TCF for boosts in its major donor network and visibility. “They have the resources, but we have the connections to the community,” says El Pueblo’s development manager Michelle Bermeo Betancourt. “We have to work together.” Capitol Broadcasting Company has worked with TCF since it was first founded. “TCF’s stewardship assures $25,000 in grants to local nonprofits that provide direct aid to individuals and families blocked from government stimulus or paycheck protection subsidies, and TCF donors raised an additional $109,000 for the cause.
Among the recipients was Durham-based nonprofit StandUp-SpeakOut of North Carolina, which supports victims of domestic viothat our philanthropic interests are accomplished,” says Loretta Harper-Arnold, who oversees community relations. In March, TCF marshaled its fundholders to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, directing a surge in donor contributions to the most pressing needs. “The economic impact of the pandemic is going to be long-lasting,” O’Keefe says. “We have to help nonprofits pivot so they can continue to deliver missions and serve clients.” The Foundation’s earliest coronavirus relief included nearly $6 million in donor-directed grants and $450,000 in grants from Fund for the Triangle to support increased need unveiled by the pandemic.
TCF also made moves to address inequities already prevalent in Triangle communities that the pandemic laid bare, O’Keefe says. In April, TCF awarded $25,000 in grants to local nonprofits that provide direct aid to individuals and families blocked from government stimulus or paycheck protection subsidies, and TCF donors raised an additional $109,000 for the cause. Among the recipients was Durham-based nonprofit StandUp-SpeakOut of North Carolina, which supports victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. When COVID-19 surfaced, TCF lifted restrictions on funding so it could keep serving clients.
“That was really a blessing,” said Monica Daye, who founded the organization in 2004. “We have not missed a beat, but we’ve needed every dollar.” TCF also calmed the waters for Student U, a Durham nonprofit that promotes the power of education for financial stability, says executive director Alexandra-Emmanuelle Zagbayou. She was invited to share her organization’s experiences and challenges with community leaders and donors, as Student U was awarded funds to provide emergency support to some of their families and buy laptops for students transitioning to online learning. “Those dollars enabled us to meet growing demands of our community,” Zagbayou said. “And it all came from genuine listening to what we were seeing and what we were concerned about in the community.”
In May, as the conversation expanded to anti-racism and social justice amid the protests after the death of George Floyd, TCF responded by awarding $290,000 in stabilization grants through the Triangle Capacity-Building Network to organizations that are led by and support people of color. “The one thing that has given me some glimmer of hope through all of this is we have had a few donors reach out to us with expressions of their own pain and desire to learn more and do differently,” O’Keefe says. She expects the Foundation to introduce another round of funding specifically for these causes, but will rely on what they learn from nonprofits to guide their support.
For over three decades, TCF has helped direct funds where they can do the most good, and continues to evolve and pivot in response to the community’s feedback. “Taking care of our community is one of the most important things we can do to ensure a thriving region for all,” says O’Keefe. “The need is there, and it continues to grow and change,” says Clinard. “The Triangle Community Foundation represents the best of our community in terms of supporting nonprofits.”