Professional advisors are important partners for Triangle Community Foundation. Without them, we would not have nearly the reach with prospective donors, and we are very appreciative of these relationships. Curi Capital CEO, Dimitri Eliopoulos and Senior Director of Family Office Services, Sheldon Fox (also a previous Foundation Board member and Investment Committee chair) are two such professional advisors who the Foundation greatly values as collaborators in the community.
Dimitri Eliopoulos feels fortunate to have realized early on in his undergraduate years that he wanted to work in finance, while also getting to work closely with people. “Through an internship I did as an undergrad, I learned that there was a lot more to being a financial advisor than tracking the market and selecting investments. I really love the relationship-building aspect, so I was very fortunate to join a great team that taught me the industry and the business from the bottom up. I learned to focus on delivering great service and advice to families rather than meeting a sales quota, and to recognize the areas outside of my control—like the markets. After all, how is a 22-year-old going to sell anything to anybody? Especially when it comes to something as private as personal wealth? I initially centered my career around being an advisor and working among a team to serve families and individuals. I’ve since progressed to assume higher management and leadership responsibility.”
Sheldon Fox began his career right out of college as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), focused on tax advising at a CPA firm, before becoming Chief Financial Officer at a bank client. “The CFO move allowed me to grow my skill set far beyond tax expertise. After my banking stint ended, I joined an investment management firm focused on high net worth clients. After 15 years in various roles, I wanted to return to personal advising beyond investments. I believe that most people who need advice will generally fall across three major areas: taxes, investments, and philanthropy. As I’d always been involved personally in the philanthropic space, and had knowledge and experience in all three areas, I felt I could return to being a holistic advisor. I started doing that in 2019 and our firm became a part of the Curi Capital team at the end of 2021.”
Both Sheldon and Dimitri are deeply familiar with the community foundation model—Sheldon having opened his first donor-advised fund at North Carolina Community Foundation in 2004, while his wife was their CFO. Dimitri became acquainted with the model through innovative programs he participated in at Chicago Community Trust. “I'm a big fan of efficient philanthropy for families, and there's a lot of ways to do that. We advise our clients on how to be efficient and satisfy their goals with different forms of philanthropy—donor-advised funds at a community foundation are one, donor-advised funds at a commercial organization are another, and private foundations are a third,” shares Sheldon. Sheldon joined the Foundation’s investment committee and Board in 2015 to complement his investment work. He became a donor-advised fundholder at Triangle Community Foundation at that time as well.
Originally from Chicago, Dimitri lived there for 40 years before moving to North Carolina. At Chicago Community Trust, he got involved in their Young Leaders Fund which identifies small nonprofits with which to provide meaningful grants, and also with their Professional Advisory Committee. “Community foundations are near and dear to my heart,” he says. “I see the impact your organizations can have on a community because it comes at the intersection of social issues, political issues, economic issues, the needs of the community, and ties all that together.” Dimitri was introduced to the Foundation through his work with Sheldon after Curi Capital acquired KDI Capital.
Dimitri and Sheldon consider community foundations a “well-kept secret,” as in their experience, most donors are not familiar with community foundations even though they are all over the country. The pair try to intuit during conversations with clients whether or not a community foundation might be a good choice for them. "The key is to ask thought-provoking questions like their history with donating to charities, and whether or not they ever have,” says Dimitri. “If they have, then you ask how they’ve gone about doing it. Then you can introduce the concept of a donor-advised fund at a community foundation. I've had the most success when a family is passionate about a cause and wants more direction on where their dollars can make the most impact. A community foundation has all the bells and whistles for donor-advised funds in the infrastructure, and they're the type of organization that is in the community and knows the nonprofit landscape. And that's kind of how it all begins.”
When both Sheldon and Dimitri talk about Triangle Community Foundation specifically with clients, they point to how much money is granted locally as one of the largest grantmakers in our region. They also point to the collaboration between nonprofits and donors. “I’m a big fan of some of the gatherings you do, where you thematically showcase multiple organizations to help donors learn, or just let donors engage with other donors around particular topics,” says Sheldon. “I’d love to see even more of that.”
One of the challenges the Foundation faces when bringing in new donors is engaging with newcomers in the area. “I think it’s all about planting and watering the seeds,” says Dimitri. “It takes time for people to feel vested in their community, so it requires patience, but there will be a moment that all those bricks laid over the years will create the perfect landscape.”
In closing, Sheldon shares more about the professional advisor/client relationship. “There's a lot of power in partnership. The best advisors are great listeners who can identify the right solutions and resources for the client. Also knowing what they are experts at and what they're not. Partnering with organizations like Triangle Community Foundation, who are experts in understanding the needs of a community and social issues, and where grant dollars can be directed, is a great collaborative way for clients with philanthropic intent to have lasting impact. When we pool the efforts of hundreds if not thousands of donors and families, we begin to realize the Foundation’s vision of a vibrant Triangle that works together to ensure everyone thrives.”