The following is an interview with Mary (MC) & Dale (DC) Carey, Foundation Fundholders, conducted by Meg Buckingham (M), senior marketing & communications officer for the Foundation.

M: Mary & Dale, tell me a little about your passion, and how you connect it to your philanthropy.

MC: That’s easy. Literacy and Hunger. Hunger, because we have so many people who can’t read and live productive lives so we want to ensure their basic needs are met first. Literacy, because the only way to access your education is to be able to read and it’s shocking in an area as educated as ours that 85% of black male 8th graders in Chapel Hill are failing their reading tests. When you see those numbers, you realize that all of these children who can’t read will become adults who can’t read, and that’s really scary.  We are working to change the direction of those numbers.

We use that passion when we select nonprofits to support. We want to send a clear message to these organizations that we are available to help them in whatever means they need – operations, fundraising, and advocacy. We want them to know we are in their corner for any other needs beyond dollars, to make the greatest impact.

DC:  I’d add that we definitely don’t just check the box. We are careful in vetting organizations we support in our philanthropy, as well as the folks behind the organizations, and we develop real relationships. We don’t get involved with a nonprofit unless we feel close to it and can have a real impact around the issue.

M: If you had one piece of advice for our donors, what would it be?

MC: Leverage and Strategy. I think that if a donor is in a position to make a gift, they should leverage their funds to create a challenge grant or really address a need in the community. A lot of times the donors mail the check, but could have a great conversation with the nonprofits about how that check could be used to grow the database, the bottom line, what they really need it for to make a difference.

There are so many incredible organizations doing important work, and if you can impact all of them, please do, but if you aren’t in that position – rather than the spray and pray method, pick an area where your passion lies and where you think your time, treasure and talent can have an impact.

DC: People matter. It’s not simply financial leverage – look at what Buffett and Zuckerberg are doing – they are moving the needle. If you have a passion or are moved in a particular area, you need to leverage your personal capacity, whatever that may be. People tend not to think that through. What are your contacts, who can you connect, how can you move things further down the road that wouldn’t if you didn’t help? There are plenty of people locally who are good examples of that – and those spheres of influence really matter.

M: How have you partnered with the Foundation to support this cause?

MC: We love the Foundation! Talk about strategy and leverage! Triangle Community Foundation can play such a huge role in solving the problems in the Triangle, and so we see it, under Lori’s leadership, building consensus and having stakeholders voices heard and taking really strategic steps with the resources they have in order to make a big impact. It would be interested for the Foundation if all of its donors would consider giving a percentage of their fund to the discretionary needs that the Foundation identifies through their community programs – that’s where you see the big impact on problems affecting the region we live in, when we all work together.

M: You have a soapbox here – get on it and tell us what is the one thing you want readers to learn more about this year so they can make a greater impact?  

MC:  In Chapel Hill particularly, 1/3 of students cannot read. In Wake County, more than half of students can’t read. In Durham, 2/3 of students can’t read. In Orange County, nearly half can’t read. In Chatham, over half can’t read. Those are all of the children who failed their end of year reading tests. We need to do more in that K-3rd grade window. If we can get that right…we’re golden.