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Big firms are big catalysts for fund: BofA, Duke Energy and Wachovia-Wells Fargo each gave $250,000 to support charities

Big firms are big catalysts for fund: BofA, Duke Energy and Wachovia-Wells Fargo each gave $250,000 to support charities

The Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.)

December 16, 2009

By Mark Price, The Charlotte Observer, N.C.

Dec. 16—Charlotte’s corporate community has come through again for local charities, giving $750,000 in donations to the recently created Community Catalyst Fund.

Bank of America, Duke Energy and Wachovia-Wells Fargo have each given $250,000 to the fund through their foundations.

All told, the three have donated about $10 million in recent weeks to local nonprofit causes, including United Way to the Arts & Science Council.

The Community Catalyst Fund, which is managed at no cost by Foundation for the Carolinas, was created in October as a way to help charities come up with innovative ways to survive the economic downturn, including finding new sources of money.

Specifically, it will offer grants to nonprofits interested in studying partnerships or mergers with other nonprofits.

“What this tells me,” says Brian Collier, senor vice president of community philanthropy for the foundation, “is these organizations recognize that they have a commitment to help (nonprofits) meet the current demands on them, but also an understanding that they need to help those same organizations become stronger … to meet what will probably be even more drastic demands in the coming year and years.”

The $750,000 follows a series of high-dollar donations, starting with a $1 million challenge grant from the Leon Levine Foundation. To date, the fund has raised about $2.5 million toward a goal of at least $5 million. Fundraising is expected to continue into early 2010.

“This community risks losing a number of nonprofits because of the economic downturn,” said Richard “Stick” Williams, president of the Duke Energy Foundation. “This fund … is an important investment in protecting a sector that has helped make Charlotte special.”

While the fund is aimed at charities, cash-strapped donors will also benefit, said Jay Everette, Community Affairs Manager for Wells Fargo’s Greater Charlotte Corporate Social Responsibility Group.

“Redundant nonprofit services could be eliminated or integrated, and donors would have less confusing and competing choices,” he says. “As a foundation that funds hundreds of nonprofit organizations, we see some redundancies … so we hope that funding this program will help nonprofits stop and ask strategic questions.”

Money given to the fund goes toward a competitive grant-making process that is already underway. The deadline for the first round of grant applications was Nov. 30, and an announcement of grant decisions is expected by year’s end. The foundation received about 20 applications or letters of inquiry for the first round of grants, Collier says. The foundation has also gotten many calls from other cities interested in launching their own version of the fund, he says.

Three more rounds of grants will be offered in 2010, and the next deadline for applications is March 19.

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