By Emma Castleberry
In 2007, a group of property owners at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove came together to create the Walnut Cove Members Association (WCMA), a nonprofit organization that raises money and distributes grants to local charities. “Giving back to our community is the primary reason the WCMA was created,” says Donna Bailey, a founding member and also the group’s first president from 2011 to 2014. WCMA raises money with annual dues from more than 225 household members, as well as fundraising activities like the group’s annual Weekend of Giving. Any member actively involved in a local charitable organization that meets WCMA guidelines can request a grant for up to $10,000. To date, more than 270 grants have been distributed, totaling more than $930,000.
The group’s most recent Weekend of Giving, June 1–4, raised a record $330,000. The Weekend of Giving has grown from a simple golf tournament in 2007 to a full schedule of events, including an opening gala dinner, tennis tournament, luau party and croquet tournament, as well as performances by Brevard Music Center, Flat Rock Playhouse and the Asheville Symphony, all beneficiaries of prior grants from WCMA.
The sponsors for this year’s Weekend of Giving were Mission Health and Wicked Weed Brewing. Bob Ireland, lead organizer for the 2018 Weekend of Giving, says that partnering with businesses has been a game changer for the organization. “In the last couple of years, we have linked local businesses to our fundraising efforts, so we have been able to grow much more quickly and return bigger levels of giving to the community,” he says.
Karen Spacek, who has administered WCMA grants for the past three years, says she joined the group in 2013 for a number of reasons, including the social opportunity it provides to connect with community members in a meaningful way. But she was also drawn to the WCMA’s sensible donation strategy. “The model of giving makes a lot of sense,” she says. “Individuals join as members and, in some cases, make additional donations. That money is pooled and, as a result, we are able to give grants to more than 30 different nonprofits that serve WNC. That would be very difficult to do on an individual basis.”
WCMA members act as “member sponsors” by nominating a charitable organization for a grant. The member sponsor and a representative from the applying organization each fill out a form. A grant committee, comprised of WCMA members, reviews all of the grant applications and allocates the funds raised each year. “Our primary focus is on human services, but we also fund projects for education support, health care and cultural resources,” says Ireland. “The organization is entirely volunteer-run, so we have very little administrative overhead and almost all of the money raised is returned to local charities.”
Bailey says the Weekend of Giving has benefits for both The Cliffs at Walnut Cove community and the greater WNC community, as well. “The WNC community receives both funding and volunteers for important programs, and our residents have the opportunity to learn more about these terrific organizations and get involved by serving.” Application forms for WCMA grants are available online in midsummer and grants are usually announced by the end of the year. For more information about WCMA, visit walnutcovemembers.com.