Thomas W. Lawrence III, President, The Leon Levine Foundation

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Episode Notes:

Allan and Clare interview Tom Lawrence, President, The Leon Levine Foundation

  • Leon Levine founded Family Dollar stores in 1959 and created the Leon Levine Foundation in 1980
  • Leon Levine was a great negotiator and passed savings to his customers, a philosophy that translates to the giving of the foundation – moving from poverty to self-sufficiency
  • The Foundation focused almost all giving in Mecklenburg County, until 2016. Now with a refined strategy, expanded to focus on NC and SC, just as Family Dollar did in its early expansion
  • Seeing many changes for nonprofits throughout the pandemic – shared several examples of increased needs that nonprofits are helping to meet; also shared examples of great innovations
  • What makes an agency strong:

1.Very effective leadership (staff and board)

2.Impact – measurable, trends, how do you consider success

3.Sustainability – comfortable with long-term operations

  • Innovation, preparedness for crises
  • Flex – to provide more general operating funds vs. restricted as nonprofits leverage innovation
  • Advice to nonprofits at this time:

1.Continue to focus on your mission (with a solid contingency plan)

2.Board engagement (staff and board aligned), use board connections

3.Finding the good, focus on the wins

4.Be aware of nonprofits’ staff’s mental health

  • Impact of pandemic on future of sector: additional pressures such as deferral of service needs will have lasting effects on long-term demands; risk of students falling behind due to lack of resources; housing needs increase as evictions become more likely in 2021 – – but also for the nonprofit sector “it’s a time to shine” – positive outcomes will happen as a result of crisis
  • Example of generosity: Leon Levine’s response to the 2008 economic recession – an inspirational $1 million gift during a time of a huge pull-back in giving and a huge spike in need

The Leon Levine Foundation:

Created in 1980 by Leon Levine (Founder and Chairman Emeritus of Family Dollar Stores, Inc.), The Leon Levine Foundation’s mission is to improve the human condition by creating permanent, measurable, and life-changing impact throughout the Carolinas. Based in Charlotte, N.C., the foundation invests in nonprofits with strong leadership, a track record of success, and a focus on sustainability in the areas of healthcare, education, Jewish values, and human services.

Tom Lawrence:

Tom Lawrence is the President and a member of the Board of Directors of The Leon Levine Foundation. In 2002, Tom joined the Levine Family Office as Chief Financial Officer to oversee the personal finances, tax compliance and investment portfolio management for the family and its Foundation. He previously worked in the Family Wealth Planning division of Arthur Andersen in Charlotte and with the general services group of McGladrey & Pullen in Richmond, Virginia. Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Tom is a graduate of the University of Richmond. He and his wife, Gina, have two children.

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