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New Hanover Community Endowment Seeks Public Advice

By Neil Cotiaux, posted Oct 11, 2021
Leaders of the now $1.29-billion community endowment created through the sale of county-owned New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health are seeking the public’s advice as they head into their second full year of operations.
 
Late this month and in December, the New Hanover Community Endowment (NHCE), a private charitable nonprofit, will hold “listening sessions” so the public can express their opinions on how the organization should go about making millions of dollars of grants each year to improve education, health and social equity, public safety and community development in the region.
 
The two sessions, the first at 7 p.m. on Oct. 26 at the Wilmington Convention Center and the second at 4 p.m. on Dec. 1 at a venue to be determined, will allow area residents to sound off on how the endowment’s 13-member board, working with its first president and CEO, should go about the business of awarding a projected total of $50 million or greater each year for projects that address NHCE’s designated areas of community need.
 
“It’s called a listening session for a reason,” said Spence Broadhurst, the board’s chair and president of First National Bank’s Eastern North Carolina Region.
 
“We’re there to listen, not answer questions. We really want input. We want ideas, thoughts, direction,” Broadhurst said, emphasizing that the sessions will not be a platform for people to request grants.
 
The local meetings come on the heels of months of visits that endowment leaders have had with officers of more established charitable organizations around North Carolina, seeking their advice on best practices.
 
Since NHCE came into being in October 2020, leadership has been mostly focused on organizational, legal and financial issues in anticipation of selecting its first CEO, building staff, structuring a process for making grants and awarding the first ones in late 2022.
 
The endowment now acts as steward for $1.296 billion, up $52.8 million from the original amount it received in February of this year at the close of the hospital sale. The additional funds were received by NHCE as the result of a settlement of a sale-related escrow account.
 
Going forward, no more than 4% of the endowment assets’ average net fair market value as defined in the group’s bylaws can be drawn down annually and used for grants. For now, the nearly $1.3 billion is being transferred incrementally into a conservative equities index fund, Broadhurst said. Requests for proposals from potential investment managers on how to invest the holdings long term should go out late this year or early next, Broadhurst added.
 
Individuals can sign up to speak at the Oct. 26 or Dec. 1 event at nhcendowment.com/get-involved. Those unable to attend either event can leave a written comment. The sessions will be streamed live on NHCTV.
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