The New Hanover Community Endowment is preparing to award its inaugural round of grants next month.
Formed by the multi-billion sale of New Hanover Regional Medical Center to Novant Health last year, the nonprofit New Hanover Community Endowment has spent the year formalizing as an organization.
President and CEO William Buster, who began his role in March, and Chairman Spence Broadhurst shared updates Monday on the endowment’s progress with the New Hanover Board of Commissioners.
After opening up grant applications in September, the endowment received nearly 300 proposals. The board has a goal of dispersing up to $10 million in its inaugural grant cycle.
Awards will be announced internally to recipients on Dec. 1, Buster told commissioners, and revealed in a public meeting to take place on Dec. 9. “We hope that they'll hold until the ninth because we want to make this grant announcement along with our goals for next year,” he said.
Per the endowment bylaws, created by commissioners in October 2020 upon approving the hospital sale, the group must hold two yearly public meetings.
Buster told commissioners the endowment intends to disperse funds twice annually.
As a nonprofit charitable organization, the group must give away a portion of its value each year. The endowment’s bylaws state it cannot exceed 4% of its fair market value in its annual disbursements. This would have started at around $50 million, given the endowment’s initial value from sale proceeds, about $1.25 billion.
But an unforgiving economic climate prompted the endowment’s value to dip about 10% this year, officials with its new investment advisor BlackRock told the Greater Wilmington Business Journal last month.
Asked by Commissioner Deb Hays to confirm whether the endowment had amended its bylaws due to the downturn, Broadhurst confirmed it had.
“We aligned our bylaws with the North Carolina General Statutes,” Broadhurst said. “The wording that was given to us was not consistent with the North Carolina General Statutes and the management and the leadership of endowments.”
This change was made last year, according to vice chair Hannah Gage, while the market was still booming.
As initially passed, the bylaws explicitly prohibit the endowment’s funds from dipping below its initial value. “With our attorney’s direction, we aligned with the law, so to speak,” Broadhurst said. The new policy basically states, Broadhurst paraphrased, that “we are 100% committed to the perpetuity of the endowment, but within that, we operate as reasonable people, as the market can go down, can go up, can go down.
“So as the endowment is preserved for the long run, we can zig-zag as we go.”
Broadhurst, who was named chair along with vice chair Gage in late 2020, said their terms will end at the end of the year. “We feel it’s healthy to rotate, have new leadership periodically,” he said.
Board member Bill Cameron, who has chaired the endowment’s investment committee, will be the new chairman effective Jan. 1. Cameron co-founded local family-run real estate firm Cameron Management. Edelmira Segovia, the director of the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Centro Hispano, Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, will serve as the new vice chair.
The endowment staff has grown to four including Buster, he told the board. Since beginning his role, Buster said he has participated in more than 100 private listening sessions with nonprofit leaders and community advocates to “better understand the local landscape and the need – what’s worked, what hasn’t worked and what [the] community appetite is for change.”
Update: This story has been updated with additional information from the endowment.