Grant making nonprofits can do only so much in system

Grant making nonprofits can do only so much in system
June 16
10:05 2016

Recently, some grantmaking nonprofits announced new leadership for their organizations. At least two of the groups have or will have African-American leaders.

After completing his tenure as superintendent of Guilford County Schools, Maurice “Mo” Green has assumed his role as executive director of the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Laura Gerald, a pediatrician and former state health director, will become the new president of Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust in July.

Both nonprofits serve statewide while being based in Winston-Salem.

That’s something to cheer if you are keeping track of African-American people in charge of non-profits. The question is, what impact can or will they make?

Both organizations are dedicated to helping the financially disadvantaged in North Carolina, with Z. Smith Reynolds also targeting other areas. What the public needs to remember is that they do that by making grants to organizations, not by giving money directly to individuals.

Those grantmaking nonprofits and others like them have to find the organizations they believe will use the money they give them to help the people the grantmaking nonprofits want to help. So the search is on for those organizations.

Green issued a public letter that says: “In May 2016, ZSR’s Board of Trustees made the decision to begin a year-long strategic assessment to examine and evaluate our current approach to grantmaking and broader work. At the end of this process, by May 2017, ZSR plans to produce a strategic plan that will guide the work of the Foundation moving forward.

“As part of this assessment, the Foundation launched Mo Wants to Know – a listening and learning tour during which myself, along with Trustees and staff will make our way across the state, for several months hearing directly from state leaders, local leaders and community members about trends and challenges, as well as opportunities, successes and ideas they have for making North Carolina a better place.

“As part of Mo Wants to Know, ZSR Trustees, staff and I will spend time meeting with smaller, more targeted groups and working alongside experts to understand trends, research best practices and review ways in which the Foundation can make the most impact with the assets it has available.

“Because of the time-intensive nature of this entire process, Trustees recently made the decision to suspend grantmaking for the Foundation’s Spring 2017 grant cycle, which typically runs from November to May with a Feb. 1 application dead-line. As a result, the Foundation will not be review-ing grant proposals during that time, as it typically would do.”

In the end, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation will make grants, not give money to the individuals giving their thoughts. It remains to be seen who will get the money and how they will help those who need help.

With North Carolina having a 5.4 percent seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in April, it might not look as though people need help. It might look as though things are good economically in North Carolina.

But the North Carolina Justice Center says it ain’t necessarily so.

In its Prosperity Watch Issue 37, No. 2, it says:

“The reality of North Carolina’s labor market is far less rosy than the recent drop in the state’s unemployment rate suggests. Five years after the end of the Great Recession, there are still too few jobs for those who want to work, and the result is that the state, like the nation, is experiencing a growth in the number of workers missing from the labor market.”

The nonprofits helping the financially disadvantaged still have plenty of work to do. The question is, in the end, who will they partner with to get the job done and will those partnerships work to achieve their goals? It remains to be seen.

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