Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation

OVERVIEW: This funder supports causes in North Carolina related to community economic development, strengthening democracy, environment, public education, and social justice and equity.

FUNDING AREAS: Strengthening democracy, healthy and sustainable environment, advancing public education, promoting social justice & equity

IP TAKE: This foundation set a great example by taking an inclusive and transparent approach to strategic planning. Funding interests have been all over the board, so watch for them to be refined and more specialized over time.

PROFILE: The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation (ZSR) is a private family foundation dedicated to improving the lives of people in North Carolina. The foundation is based in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and supports nonprofits at the local, statewide, and regional levels.

Zachary Smith Reynolds was the son of R.J. Reynolds, the tobacco business mogul. Zachary was an amateur aviator who was murdered in the Reynolds family home at the age of 20. R.J. Reynolds’s daughter, Mary Reynolds Babcock, and her siblings established this foundation to commemorate their brother who died far too young.

Areas of focus are community economic development, strengthening democracy, environment, public education, and social justice and equity. Education grants focus on building leadership capacity of school principals and instructional capacity of young teachers. Economic grants cover asset building, small business development, sustainable agriculture, and affordable housing. Environmental grants touch on issues like energy efficiency, clean energy sources, and clean water initiatives. And the ZSR democracy program is all about making sure public institutions and processes are effective, transparent, accountable, accessible and inclusive. Like many foundations across the country, ZSR also has an equity focus and promotes both racial and gender equality with fair criminal justice system and immigrant integration grants.

Between 1936 and 2015, the foundation paid out at least $536 million for grants. Current financial information can be viewed in the annual reports.

In 2016/2017, the foundation embarked on a strategic assessment of North Carolina's dramatic recent transformations. Changing demographics, the economy, and the expansion of cities at the expense of rural areas contributed to this funder’s choice to take a step back and reevaluate its giving strategy. Following the assessment, the funder chose these four priority areas to focus on: strengthening democracy, healthy and sustainable environment, advancing public education, and promoting social justice & equity. 

In the past, ZSR has had two grant cycles per year, with deadlines falling on August 1 and February 1. It has also categorized grants by size (small or strategic) and type of use (general operating support or project support). The funder now has an annual fall grant cycle for its State-Level Systemic Change Strategy that is open to eligible organizations and an annual spring grant cycle that is by invitation-only. To be more flexible and take more risks, ZSR's exploratory plans include the All for NC Fellowship and the Inclusive Public Art initative. 

In addition to grantmaking, the foundation also has a nonprofit internship program that aims to diversify the pool of young nonprofit professionals in North Carolina. This is a collaboration of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation, The Foundation for a Healthy High Point, Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust, Weaver Foundation, and The Winston-Salem Foundation.

General questions can be directed to the foundation staff at 336-724-7541 or via online form. You can keep up with this funder and its changing giving strategy by following the foundation’s news/blog page.


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