Golden LEAF’s mission is to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural, tobacco-dependent, and economically distressed communities through leadership in grantmaking, collaboration, innovation, and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation.

About Golden LEAF

The Golden LEAF Foundation was established in 1999 to administer a portion of the tobacco settlement agreement monies back into North Carolina's rural and economically distressed communities. For 25 years, the nonprofit has partnered with state and local governments and other foundations to build economic opportunity across North Carolina through leadership in grantmaking, collaboration, innovation, and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation.

The Foundation, governed by a board of directors appointed by leaders of NC's legislative and executive branches, has focused on critical issues facing rural communities including bringing jobs and building industry by providing resources to communities, awarding scholarships to local students and administering the state's relief efforts following natural disasters.

The Foundation has provided lasting impact to tobacco-dependent, economically distressed and rural areas of the state by helping create 68,000 jobs; $780 million in new payrolls and more than 98,000 workers trained or retrained for higher wages. Golden LEAF has awarded 2,256 grants worth over $1.3 billion since its inception.

Learn more about the Foundation

Our History

National Cigarette Manufacturer Settlement Agreement

National Cigarette Manufacturer Settlement Agreement – A major settlement (Master Settlement Agreement) between 46 states and cigarette manufacturing companies was reached.

Creation of the Golden LEAF Foundation

North Carolina's leadership created the Golden LEAF Foundation to administer one half of the NC MSA monies back into the state's economically distressed, tobacco-dependent and rural communities.

Golden LEAF Scholarship Program

Golden LEAF awarded its first scholarships for rural students to attend NC colleges and universities.

$69 million NC BioImpact Initiative

Golden LEAF awarded grants to help create a consortium to assist with workforce development requirements in the biotech and life science industries. Grants were awarded to NCSU, NCCU, and the NC Community College System.

$85.9 Million Community Assistance Initiative

Golden LEAF reacted to a need to work directly in Tier 1 counties in North Carolina and through a process established the top priorities for these counties and awarded grants to help move the needle for economic progress.

$24 Million Rural Broadband Initiative

This initiative helped secure $78 million in federal funds and leveraged other private and public resources to bring high-speed broadband fiber to 69 counties across North Carolina.

$38.8 Million+ Community-Based Grantsmaking Initiative

This initiative is an expansion of the Community Assistance Initiative – expanded to all regions in the state – to identify those projects that are ready for implementation and have the potential to have a significant economic impact. Total investment in this initiative is $38.8 million, as of February 2018.

$25 Million Major Site Development Initiative

This initiative was developed to help ready large sites to attract major employers to rural, tobacco dependent, or economically distressed areas of North Carolina through providing infrastructure grants.

$65 Million Disaster Recovery Program

Through appropriations from the North Carolina Legislature from the Disaster Recovery Acts of 2016, 2017 and 2018, Golden LEAF was tasked to make grants to local governmental entities and 501(c)(3) nonprofits working to recover from the 2016 natural disasters, especially Hurricane Matthew.

Golden LEAF celebrates 20 years

On December 4th the Golden LEAF Foundation celebrated two decades of service in rural North Carolina. Current and former Board, staff, grantees, partner organizations along with State and Local officials gathered to recognize this milestone.

Launch of Strategic Plan

To help address some of the economic challenges facing North Carolina, the Golden LEAF Board of Directors embarked on a strategic planning process in 2020 that concluded with the adoption of a long-term plan in February 2021.

SITE Program

The $10 million SITE Program will help communities identify potential industrial sites for economic development, complete the due diligence necessary to prepare sites for industrial development, and extend public utilities to or conduct rough grading and clearing of sites for which due diligence has been completed.

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