Foundation For The Carolinas was founded in 1958 to build a permanent endowment to address changing community needs. From its first gift of $3,000 from the United Way, the Foundation has grown into a multi-million dollar philanthropic and financial services organization serving 13 counties in North and South Carolina.








The 1950s

On January 7, 1958, twenty-four of the city's most distinguished leaders create the United Community Foundation to accept and distribute charitable gifts, to make sure donors' wishes be carried out in perpetuity and to build a permanent "nest egg" for broad community needs.

On January 28, 1958, the official Articles of Incorporation are signed. The original service area is Charlotte and Mecklenburg County, and the first gift of $3,000 comes from the United Way.

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The 1960s

1963 Foundation assets exceed $100,000 and distributions grow to $27,000.
1965 Longtime Foundation supporter Maybelle Y. McMahon dies and leaves the bulk of her estate to the Foundation to create its first discretionary endowment.

Assets reach $265,000 and distributions total $72,000. The Foundation's name is changed to the Greater Charlotte Foundation, Inc. "Anyone Can Be A Philanthropist" becomes Foundation's motto.

1969 With enactment of the Tax Act of 1969, the Internal Revenue Service begins formulating new regulations regarding foundations. The Foundation enters a period of minimal activity until regulations are completed.

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The 1970s


Foundation is revitalized with Edwin P. Latimer as president. New trustees and officers are elected. Foundation assets total $469,118.

1976 Foundation assets double to $1.1 million.

Foundation opens its own office for the first time. Gordon Berg, Barbara Hautau and Judy Kerns leave the United Way to staff the Foundation. Assets double again to $2.6 million, and distributions total more than $500,000.


The Children's Medical Fund is established and later becomes one of the best-known programs through the sale of blankets from the 1980 Winter Olympics. Foundation assets reach $4.3 million and distributions exceed a record $1 million.

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The 1980s

1983 25th Anniversary. Foundation assets grow to $11.2 million and distributions top $2 million. Service area expands to include all of North Carolina and South Carolina.
1984 Foundation's name changes to Foundation For The Carolinas. The Neighborhood Grants Program starts with grant from Charles Stewart Mott Foundation. Charlotte Housing Authority Scholarship Fund awards its first scholarships. First county community foundation is established in Cleveland County, North Carolina.
1986 Assets double from previous year to more than $35 million and distributions total $4 million. Impending tax law changes in 1987 prompt almost $20 million in gifts. Major gifts include Belk Brothers property (valued at $3.1 million) for the proposed Performing Arts Center.
1988 The Foundation receives a $1 million anonymous gift for its endowment and another $1 million anonymous gift to create the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools Scholarship Incentive Program. Three more county community foundations are established.
1989 All time record year. Assets top $52 million as The Cole Foundation ($17 million) becomes part of the Foundation. Distributions reach almost $10 million, including $1 million to build the uptown child care center at the YWCA. The Regional HIV/AIDS Consortium project is established.

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The 1990s

1990 The Foundation helps secure $200,000 in gifts to build the new Charlotte Emergency Housing Center, and receives a $1 million gift from an anonymous donor to build and endow a second daycare center at the Methodist Home. Carolina Gives project, a two-year campaign to encourage giving and volunteering, begins in nine counties. Over 50 new funds are established.
1991 Strengthening Families Initiative to support early childhood intervention efforts is launched. Regional HIV/AIDS Consortium project receives funding from National Community AIDS Partnership.
1992 Foundation sponsors ChildWatch visitation program in conjunction with Children's Defense Fund. Hearst Foundation awards a grant of $100,000 over three years to support expansion of the Strengthening Families Initiative. Gifts total $8.1 million. Foundation awards $6.9 million in grants. Discretionary grants total $1 million for the first time.
1993 Under the leadership of several African American members of the Board, a new African American Community Endowment Fund is created to encourage and foster philanthropy to support programs and initiatives that address African American concerns and to create a legacy that benefits future generations.
1994 Ninety new funds are established, $14.5 million in gifts received, and $10.1 million in grants awarded. The Foundation board and committee structure are revised based on a study and recommendations of the Governance and Management Review Committee.
1995 Foundation passes $136 million in assets and receives the largest single gift in its history - $35 million from the estate of longtime supporter, Lucille Puette Giles. The Foundation sponsors the Peirce Report and helps create the Carolinas Land Conservation Network. The Salisbury Community Foundation, Inc. becomes a supporting organization.
1996 Gifts total $31 million. The Lexington Area Community Foundation is established with a gift from the estate of the late Casper and Ella Timberlake. Charitable grants total $17 million and set a record for the Foundation. The Power Of Giving theme is introduced.
1997 Foundation initiates Building A Better Future, a $2 million grantmaking program made possible by the Lucille Giles bequest. Foundation sponsors the Community Building Task Force. The Foundation For The Charlotte Jewish Community is formed as a supporting organization. Two new communities come on board: Blowing Rock, North Carolina and the Waccamaw region of South Carolina.
1998 The Foundation celebrated 40 years of service to the region. The Board of Directors named the Foundation's new legacy effort in honor of Gordon Berg, who helped launch Foundation For The Carolinas and who served as it executive director until 1986. Assets grew to nearly $219 million, with record contributions of $52 million and charitable grants of almost $35 million. The Foundation took the lead on the issue of out-of-school time. The Project on Out-of-School Time, or POST, was created to provide quality experiences for children and youth through diverse programming.
1999 William Spencer, only the second person to serve as President of the Foundation, retired in September after leading the Foundation for 13 years. Michael Marsicano, who served as president/CEO of Charlotte-Mecklenburg's Arts & Science Council, was chosen to lead the Foundation. The Foundation, together with the Lee Leadership Institute and Central Carolinas Choices, launched The Impact Fund – an educational grantmaking and philanthropy experience for community leaders between the ages of 25 and 40. Stanly County in North Carolina became the Foundation's 12th regional affiliate.

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The New Century

2000 The Foundation ended the year with assets of $240 million and 1,400 charitable funds. The Board approved a five-year business plan which refocused the way in which the Foundation conducted business with its donors and community. A new focus on client services resulted in the implementation of new services and streamlined processes. The Foundation received a $1 million gift from the Gorelick and Luski families to purchase a new office building in uptown Charlotte.
2001 Foundation For The Carolinas enjoyed a record year in philanthropy despite the slow economy. Gifts to the Foundation rose from $36 million in 2000 to $48 million and the number of contributions rose nearly 350 percent. Grant distributions rose from $26.4 million in 2000 to $35.4 million. In November, the Foundation moved to its new headquarters located at 220 North Tryon Street.
2002 The Foundation was pleased to partner with The Arts & Science Council to create a supporting foundation -- the Foundation For The Arts & Sciences. Including this new affiliation, the Foundation now manages seven supporting foundation relationships such as The United Way Legacy Foundation and The Foundation For The Charlotte Jewish Community. The Foundation experienced a continued outpouring of generosity from our donors, producing a total of $46 million in gifts with an additional $30 million realized from the new supporting foundation. Year-end assets totaled nearly $270 million.
2003 The Foundation celebrated a record-breaking year, thanks to the generosity of many individuals, families, corporations and nonprofits throughout our region. Assets increased 28 percent to an all-time high of $356 million. Contributions increased 70 percent over 2002, from $46 million to $78 million and grants increased over 15 percent to $37 million. The Foundation continued to serve as a "civic switchboard," connecting private philanthropy to public good. The most visible example of our connecting role was assisting Pillowtex workers and other individuals affected by job downsizing. The Foundation helped to facilitate distribution of over $1.7 million in contributions among helping agencies in areas most affected by job losses.

The Foundation was recipient of record-breaking contributions of $86 million (including some very generous and significant bequests) compared to $79 million in 2003. Equally gratifying was the $53 million that the Foundation made in grants to the community, shattering our previous record by over $15 million. As a result of this activity, assets of the Foundation totaled $408 million at year-end, a 15% increase over 2003.

This year also marked the introduction of our three new Centers for giving: the Center for Personal and Family Philanthropy, the Center for Corporate Philanthropy, and the Center for Nonprofits.

In addition, the Foundation continues to play the important role of convenor and funder through major initiatives such as Crossroads Charlotte, the United Agenda for Children, and the Regional Open Space Environmental Initiative.


2005 was a year distinguished by extraordinary responsiveness to the community. In response to requests from concerned elected officials, business leaders and parents, the Foundation convened a task force to oversee a study focusing on a new management and governance structure for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. The Foundation also responded quickly after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, connecting the generosity of donors, civic groups and Charlotte-based companies with the needs of those affected by the storm.

The Foundation suffered a loss this year with the passing of Gordon Berg, who served as the executive director of the Foundation from 1978 to 1986. It was his vision that made the Foundation a permanent community resource for charitable needs. His legacy will live on through the Foundation.


Record-breaking contributions coupled with strong investment results increased the Foundation’s assets from $424 million at year end 2005 to $601 million year at year end 2006 – a 42% increase in one year. Up from $65 million the prior year, contributions to the Foundation in 2006 totaled $210 million and represent an astounding increase of 223%.

In 2006, grantmaking from the Foundation to nonprofit organizations totaled a record-breaking $72 million, 20% higher than 2005. This is a significant figure as the distribution of philanthropic dollars to worthy causes is at the heart of Foundation For The Carolinas’ mission.

To better reflect its role in protecting the region’s cultural assets and securing the financial future for the Arts & Science Council’s affiliate organizations, the Foundation for the Arts & Sciences changed its name to The Greater Charlotte Cultural Trust. The Greater Charlotte Cultural Trust is an independent supporting foundation of Foundation For The Carolinas. Endowments created by the Arts & Science Council’s Cultural Facilities Campaign will be held by the Greater Charlotte Cultural Trust.

As a civic leader and funding partner, the Foundation continually shapes and advances responses to critical issues as exemplified in these three examples from 2006:

• In partnership with Executive Service Corps of the Charlotte Region, the     Foundation in 2006 launched the Building Better Boards program which    offered training for board members.

• Following through with its recommendation to establish a civic commission    to support public school reform efforts, the Citizens’ Task Force for    Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools ended and passed the torch to the newly    formed Mecklenburg Citizens for Public Education.

• The Foundation is a key catalyst for a regional trail. The trail is a broad    vision of connected communities characterized by abundant open spaces    that link people and places.


In 2007, Foundation For The Carolinas made its largest discretionary gift to date (via the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation) of $2 million to the Carolina Thread Trail. The Thread trail, a planned 15-county greenway network, is the result of convening efforts by the Foundation. In addition, the Charlotte Mecklenburg Community Foundation awarded a $1 million grant to the Campaign for Cultural Facilities. The grant was the first gift towards a $5 million effort to name the Afro-American Cultural Center in honor of former Foundation Board Chair Harvey Gantt, Charlotte’s first African-American mayor. 

The Partners in Philanthropy campaign was launched to build philanthropic assets throughout the 13-county region served by the Foundation.

The Foundation continued to formulate its role as a civic leader through its ability to convene local leaders, serve the region as a funding partner and help shape and advance responses to critical issues.      

The trend of record-breaking financials continued into 2007. The Foundation ended the year with $803 million in assets. Gifts to the Foundation totaled $263 million and grants awarded to nonprofit organizations totaled $109 million.


In January, Foundation For The Carolinas celebrated fifty years serving the region. The Foundation launched the Center for Civic Leadership to advance its role as coalition builder and community catalyst, and began a campaign to raise money for initiatives that will be undertaken within this new Center.

To accommodate expanding philanthropic services and increases in civic leadership initiatives, Foundation For The Carolinas accepted the gift of a building from Bank of America. Currently occupied by the Mint Museum of Craft + Design, the facility will become the Foundation’s new headquarters in early 2011. Additionally, Sonia and Isaac Luski of Charlotte announced they will gift a significant portion of their art collection to the Foundation, which will be housed in a gallery in the new Foundation offices.

The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded a $3.3 million grant to Foundation For The Carolinas in support of Crossroads Charlotte, a long-range public engagement initiative designed to transform Charlotte’s civic landscape and increase social capital. In late 2008, the declining economy took its toll on Foundation assets, which dipped to $646 million dollars at year-end. Contributions to the Foundation totaled $78 million dollars, while grant awards totaled $103 million -- only the second time in the Foundation’s history that grants exceeded contributions.

In December, Foundation For The Carolinas launched the Critical Need Response Fund in partnership with The Leon Levine Foundation, The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, The United Way of Central Carolinas, and Mecklenburg Ministries to shelter, clothe, feed, and keep warm a growing number of residents who find themselves in dire circumstances. Sandra and Leon Levine made a lead gift to the fund of $1 million.  


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Foundation For
The Carolinas

220 North Tryon St.
Charlotte, NC 28202

Main phone:


Toll free:


Office Hours:

8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.

Gallery Hours:

Open to the public
10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.