With 370 different funds, the Community Foundation of Gaston County is an expert at connecting donors with the causes for which they are most passionate. “Many donors today are interested in impact. If they participate in the community foundation, they’re able to join with other donors who might be like-minded on a cause,” says Janet Spencer, donor development coordinator of the Gastonia-based foundation.
The group awarded more than $4 million worth of grants in 2013, a 21% increase from the previous year, according to recent financial statements. The Gaston foundation’s awards ranked 25th among grant-giving organizations in North Carolina that solicit proposals in 2013, according to a report by the Los Angeles-based The Grantsmanship Center. Like many of North Carolina’s 60 community foundations, a main benefit is the ability for donors to pool their money, hopefully leading to greater investment returns and, therefore, more giving. “You don’t have to be a millionaire to start a fund with a community foundation,” Executive Director Ernest Sumner says.
The foundation was started in 1978 with $726,524 left over from the closure of the 52-bed Garrison General Hospital, which opened as a sanatorium in 1917 and was managed for many years by the Charlotte-based Duke Endowment. The largest donation was $7.8 million from the estate of local cotton broker Frank Davis, who died in 1998. Assets total about $75 million, Sumner says, compared with $49 million in 2010.
Money is divided into two main pools: unrestricted funds, which can go to any cause the board of directors deems worthy; and restricted funds, which are typically attached to donor instructions, such as scholarship funds or pet causes. During its life span, the organization has given about $78 million, Sumner says.
Giving locally is a powerful draw. “We all have the option of giving anywhere in the world,” says Charlie Pearson, a former board member who is a commercial real-estate broker in Gastonia. He says he’s lost track of how much he’s given through the years. “You know the people who run it. That always gives you confidence that your money will be managed well. That’s appealing to me.” The foundation’s top annual revenue generator is the Community Foundation Run, a 5K race that has raised almost $16 million over 13 years.
The organization’s causes have run the gamut. It financed the first Habitat for Humanity House in Gaston County, and, more recently, the 100th. In 2013, the foundation helped fund a website that publishes regional economic indicators. The foundation also is working to bring Artspace, a mixed-use development with 30 to 40 affordable-housing units that cater to artists, to downtown Gastonia.
CHARLOTTE — Dimensional Fund Advisors plans to create 316 jobs and invest $105 million in an East Coast regional headquarters here. Average annual salary for the new jobs will be $147,025, more than double Mecklenburg County’s $52,611. The Austin, Texas-based investment firm will receive a state grant of up to $10.3 million if it meets job-creation goals.
MONROE — Allegheny Technologies will expand here, adding 70 jobs to its 1,425 over three years and investing $69.8 million in new manufacturing plant. The Pittsburgh-based company makes metal components for the aerospace, defense and other industries. Jobs will pay more than $60,000 a year, compared with Union County’s average annual wage of $37,985.
HUNTERSVILLE — Nutec Group will open its first U.S. manufac-turing plant here. The Monterrey, Mexico-based insulation company will invest $19.2 million in a 62,500-square-foot factory and create 61 jobs over three years. Average annual wage will be $40,984, less than Mecklenburg County’s $52,611.
SHELBY — Metal Works Mfg. will create 86 jobs and invest $3.9 million over three years. The company, a new subsidiary of Lincoln, Neb.-based Universal Mfg., will make armor for specialty vehicles, lifts and material-handling equipment for clients including Boeing and Caterpillar. The new jobs will pay $45,393 a year, more than Cleveland County’s average annual wage of $37,759. The company could receive a state grant totaling more than $1.3 million if it meets hiring goals.