A Word from Our President: Renewed Strategies for the Journey Ahead​

When he created The Duke Endowment in 1924, James B. Duke directed it to help improve life in North Carolina and South Carolina. All these years later, we still take that mandate seriously. We don’t make grants simply to feel good about supporting good causes. We do it to achieve measurable positive impact through our four program areas: Child and Family Well-Being, Health Care, Higher Education and Rural Church.

That is why we have spent the past few years reviewing and revising our grantmaking strategies. We did it to reach greater clarity — for ourselves and our grantees — about what we are trying to accomplish, which strategies we use to achieve our aims, and how we will know if we have succeeded. You will find detailed explanations of those new strategies here on our new website.

Through thoughtful reexamination, we learned that no single model of effective philanthropy applies to all four of our program areas. We also learned that despite differing grantmaking contexts and approaches, our program areas face similar challenges, such as the complexities of systems change, evidence building and sharing what we learn.

After all the reflection and work, we have reached a pivotal point. Each program area has settled on an updated, clearly defined set of grantmaking strategies, and we have established processes to capture, document and use the lessons we are learning for continuous improvement. We plan to gauge our progress toward our goals, knowing frequent adjustments could be required as new insights emerge. 

Woven through these new strategies is our understanding that we cannot maximize our impact in today’s diverse society without a firm commitment to racial equity, diversity and inclusion. We recognize that we and our grantees must be more proactive, intentional and thoughtful about connecting with families and communities that have been marginalized.

To our grantees and partners, we say thank you. Many of you contributed your ideas as we reworked our strategies, helping us sharpen our focus for the work ahead. 

The past few years have brought challenge and change as we all navigated the COVID-19 pandemic. It reminded the Endowment’s staff that we need to be flexible enough to adapt and meet today’s needs, even as we remain true to Mr. Duke’s directives. In 2024, we will celebrate the Endowment’s centennial — 100 years of work to lift people and communities across North Carolina and South Carolina. We look forward to sharing that great occasion with you.

In the meantime, let’s keep striving together to strengthen communities across the Carolinas by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits.

Thank you,

Rhett Mabry
President, The Duke Endowment