Nonprofits & Your Committee

Top Takeaways

  • Involving nonprofits in your broadband planning can help you get a more comprehensive understanding of your community’s needs and opportunities.
  • North Carolina has many nonprofits that can help you and your community in different ways.

As communities are putting together their broadband planning committees, making sure that the right people who bring the right experiences, benefits and opportunities are at the table can be critical to their efforts’ success.

North Carolina is rich with nonprofit organizations and associations that have worked to bridge the high-speed gap between the unserved and underserved areas of North Carolina by helping with efforts around broadband adoption and utilization.

Here is a list of some of the organizations that you should contact as you begin to put together your committee. This is not a comprehensive list but should serve as a starter’s guide for identifying the types of nonprofit organizations that can bring additional knowledge and expertise to the table.

Funding Your Project

Along the way, you might find that the nonprofits don’t need to be at every meeting. Depending on the direction your broadband planning committee is going, you might find that you are better off engaging private foundations or grant-making foundations as you are moving closer to the funding portion of your planning process.

N.C. Network of GrantMakers

The North Carolina Network of Grantmakers is the state’s only forum for sharing information and promoting cooperation among North Carolina’s grantmakers. The organization is committed to helping private foundations, corporate giving programs, donor advised fund holders and community foundations strengthen their impact and effectiveness. The organization is a resource for networking, news and information on philanthropy.

Golden LEAF Foundation

The Golden LEAF Foundation is a nonprofit organization established in 1999 to help transform North Carolina’s economy. The foundation receives one-half of North Carolina’s funds from the 1998 Master Settlement Agreement with cigarette manufacturers and places special emphasis on assisting tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and/or rural communities across the state. The Golden LEAF Foundation works in partnership with governmental entities, educational institutions, economic development organizations and nonprofits to achieve its mission. The foundation has awarded 1,216 grants worth over $538 million since its inception. To learn more about applying for a grant, visit or call (888) 684-8404.

Nonprofit Participation in the Broadband Deployment Process

Some broadband funding sources require that applicants are nonprofit organizations within the region where deployment will occur. In this case, the broadband planning committee will need to work closely with any available nonprofit partners to help with the application process.

In many cases, these organizations typically are not aware of details or even have experience associated with broadband deployments. However, through coordination and collaboration between local broadband planning committees, local councils of governments and our Technical Assistance team, we have been able to help facilitate grant awards that have furthered deployment without burdening the applicant with any of the broadband-associated logistical burdens or maintenance responsibilities.

There are also examples of a nonprofit being the applicant for a particular grant. Once it receives an award, the nonprofit then works as the administrator of the funds, allowing the partner to focus on installing, monitoring and maintaining services when necessary. This allows even the nonprofit to not have to work about the burden of managing a network, only the grant itself.

Other nonprofits provide valuable assistance and services focused on broadband access or adoption and digital literacy initiatives. Several examples of nonprofits that you may want to include are listed here.


While not a nonprofit, NC IDEA is a private foundation committed to supporting business innovation and economic advancement in North Carolina and serves as a catalyst for young, high-growth companies. Today, the organization fulfills this mission through four initiatives. The Ecosystem Partner Grant program funds organizations across the state that execute creative programs to support entrepreneurs. Over the last decade, the Seed Grant program has awarded over $4.5M to 109 high-growth companies. Since 2011, more than 100 companies have participated in the Groundwork Labs startup program. SoarTriangle, a program founded in 2012 to address the proven funding gap for female entrepreneurs, formally became a foundation program in August 2016.

Kramden Institute

Kramden Institute's mission is to provide technology tools and training to bridge the digital divide. Kramden was founded in 2003 as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) out of Durham and has since awarded more than 40,000 refurbished computers to deserving students and their families across 83 of North Carolina's 100 counties. In 2014, Kramden launched its educational programs to help teach people how to use computer technology for the first time. In addition to teaching basic computer skills, the organization offers numerous STEAM camps and after-school programs for youth across the Triangle region. More than 7,000 members of the community have since taken part in these educational programs.

Kramden partners with numerous other nonprofits as well as school systems and military aid organizations across the state to broaden and deepen its impact. Through its e-waste recycling services, Kramden collects surplus and retired IT assets from several corporate and public sector clients by offering free equipment pickup, data sanitization and destruction and certified downstream recycling solutions. Computers that can be reused are refurbished through staff and volunteers while those that cannot are harvested for reusable parts and responsibly recycled. 


MCNC is a technology nonprofit that builds, owns and operates the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN) serving a growing number of research, education, nonprofit health care, public safety and other community institutions in the state for more than 30 years. NCREN currently serves as the fundamental broadband infrastructure for more than 500 of these institutions including all K-20 public education in North Carolina. NCREN is one of the nation’s premier middle-mile backbone networks with expanded capabilities allowing MCNC to customize services and applications for users more than ever before, further enabling private-sector providers to leverage high-speed fiber to bring cost-efficient connectivity to rural and underserved areas of North Carolina.

Wireless Research Center of North Carolina

The Wireless Research Center of North Carolina (WRCNC) is a nonprofit organization that offers engineering services and testing for wireless communications, and facilitates entrepreneurial development for wireless-enabled technologies.

WRCNC provides in-house access to network analyzers, engineering software and other engineering tools for visitors. Individual offices ensure that visiting engineers can work in private.

WRCNC works with local, national and global companies’ original equipment manufacturers in assisting them in their wireless development. This often requires local wireless experts to support these projects’ original design manufacturers. The center works with universities that are doing directed research, as well as evaluating research for its intellectual property and commercial merit. Several U.S. Department of Defense projects are underway supporting wireless projects for the military.


ERC is a project of the Education and Research Consortium of the Western Carolinas, Inc. ERC provides fiber-based network services to the Western Carolina region. Its fiber optic network allows it to provide fast, reliable and secure services to its clients in multiple locations.

ERC is a locally focused nonprofit organization that works in the areas of education, health care, government and economic development. ERC’s goal is to promote the adoption of new technologies to advance the growth of the broader community.

Goodwill Community Foundation

Since 1999, has created and provided quality, innovative learning opportunities to anyone who wants to improve the technology, literacy and math skills needed to be successful in both work and life. By delivering more than 1,100 lessons to millions of people in more than 200 countries absolutely free, has become a worldwide leader in online education.

Individual Resources Communities Should Consider

Some regions have nonprofit organizations that take on the responsibility of broadening broadband reach, whether through accessibility or the ability to use broadband services. Below is an example of one of those nonprofit organizations that you might look to bring in as a resource for your planning efforts.

Digital Charlotte

According to Digital Charlotte, digital and media literacy is the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create digital content in a networked environment where we can connect and engage with others to improve our lives and better our communities. Digital Charlotte seeks to serve citizens in ways that help everyone take full advantage of digital tools.

More specifically, through its efforts to provide digital and media literacy to everyone, Digital Charlotte is:

  • A collaboration devoted to raising the digital media literacy rate of the greater Charlotte area, promoting information access and awareness and providing a core community need.
  • A partnership that includes citizens, community leaders and municipal agencies to unleash the power of technology to improve the lives of Charlotte residents.
  • A virtual gathering place that connects groups promoting digital and media literacy, such as schools, libraries, city government, local industry and local community service providers.
  • A resource guide, an educational space and an arena for community-based activities.
  • An ongoing series of efforts driven to transform the greater Charlotte area into a connected learning laboratory with the stated goal of improving citywide digital and media literacy.
  • A centralized hub to connect individuals to area-wide digital literacy workshops, help them locate resources and provide skill building tools, activities and calls to action.

Wrapping Up

Nonprofit organizations can provide you with expertise that your broadband planning committee needs but might not have locally. Bringing nonprofits to the table can help with some critical thinking from an outsider’s perspective. Nonprofits are generally networked together and can refer you to others that might bring value to your planning effort.

There are some state and federal organizations that you should consider reaching out to as well, but we wanted to focus this piece on the nonprofit community and the benefits that they bring. This list shouldn’t be viewed as comprehensive.