As many of you know, my first official day with the Foundation was March 28, 2016. I can truly say that it has already been an incredible journey. And while the Foundation is celebrating its 80th year, I hope you will continue to walk alongside of me and this wonderful institution as we look to the future.
Since 1936, the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation has been a catalyst for positive change, working to improve the quality of life for all North Carolinians. It is dedicated to continuing a tradition of bold, forward-thinking vision and action that will make North Carolina an even better place to live and work.
ZSR has a deep and rich history of investing in nonprofit organizations across North Carolina. Today, it focuses on supporting organizations that are working to improve public education, preserve and protect the environment, promote economic opportunity for people of diverse backgrounds, engage more individuals in the democratic process, and elevate the dignity of all.
At the same time, the Foundation recognizes that the context in which it currently operates is changing rapidly and in fundamental ways. For example, technology is transforming our personal and professional lives, the demographic makeup of our communities is shifting, and our cities are expanding quickly, while small towns and rural areas are often left behind.
Given the state’s changing landscape, ZSR sees this as an opportune time to determine how we can best serve North Carolina communities.
To this end, 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.
All North Carolinians can submit ideas and share thoughts, suggestions, and recommendations with the Foundation through the website homepage; by going directly to www.zsr.org/MoWantsToKnow; or visiting the Foundation’s Facebook and Twitter page, and using the hashtags #MoWantsToKnow and #EnvisionNC.
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 February 1 application deadline. As a result, the Foundation will not be reviewing grant proposals during that time as it typically would do.
ZSR recognizes that our grantees are doing urgent and important work all across the state. Staff is designing a process that will allow the Foundation to consider, and if appropriate, renew support for vital, ongoing work so that it can continue without significant disruption. We plan to stay closely connected to our grantees throughout this process. ZSR also recognizes that there are new projects and/or unforeseen, unique and timely projects that deserve consideration for funding, even while ZSR is undergoing its strategic assessment and planning.
Therefore, the Foundation will still have a Fall 2016 grant cycle – which typically runs from May to November with an August 1 application deadline – to consider applications for new and ongoing work. The deadline for applications is 12:00 p.m. (noon) on August 1, 2016.
We welcome you to visit our website to learn more about the assessment. We have also created a set of Frequently Asked Questions that might be helpful in answering additional questions that applicants have.
As a longtime resident of North Carolina, I have seen many of the incredible contributions of the Foundation and am proud to work with an institution that is dedicated to building a more equitable, sustainable, vibrant state.
Let’s continue to work together to create a vision for a better North Carolina together and turn that vision into a reality.