A Welcome From Golden LEAF

Golden LEAF was created to receive 50 percent of the annual payments made by cigarette manufacturers to North Carolina under the historic 1999 Master Settlement Agreement that included 46 states. State leaders at the time recognized this rare opportunity to create an organization and build an endowment dedicated to meaningful economic transformation across our state, rather than simply spend the money every year in the state budget.

Through the efforts of our talented and dedicated Board of Directors, we have built an endowment that has funded hundreds of millions of dollars in grants and covered all of our operating expenses with investment income alone. It’s a story that makes other states envious. It’s a story that we pledge to build upon to make even better.

Golden LEAF’s mission is to increase economic opportunity in North Carolina’s rural and tobacco-dependent communities through leadership in grantmaking, collaboration, innovation, and stewardship as an independent and perpetual foundation. I thought I’d share the meaning behind the words we chose to describe our mission.


Given our responsibility, we cannot idly wait for things to happen that might result in some good for the communities and the people we were created to serve. We must be proactive, bold and aggressive to meet the challenges facing us in an increasingly global, urban and competitive economy.


Since its inception, the Foundation has made grants across North Carolina. We actively work to learn from the grants we make – the successes and the setbacks, the trends and the laggards – and to communicate those lessons to government, the private sector, and to other funders and nonprofits. We do not hesitate to capitalize on big opportunities to make transformative change, nor do we hesitate to make relatively smaller investments to provide benefit for communities most in need.


We simply can’t wait in our Rocky Mount offices for ideas and invitations to arrive in our email or mailbox. Our Board and staff consistently work with state and local government partners, private and community foundations, and the private sector to complement our grantmaking. Golden LEAF cannot and should not work in isolation, so we work in partnership to maximize the reach of our efforts.


We believe that philanthropy can and should take risks that others might not be able to take. If we do the same thing over and over again, the situation will not change.


Golden LEAF was entrusted with funds on behalf of all North Carolinians. It’s not the Foundation’s money. Golden LEAF invests it carefully and thoughtfully, earning returns in line with foundations of similar size while taking far less risk than average. On this site is a list of all the grants the Golden LEAF Foundation has awarded since our very beginning. We report annually to the General Assembly on what actually happens as a result of our grants, not merely on what we hope will happen. Golden LEAF is accountable to public officials, as our Board – the only people who can approve grant proposals – is chosen by the Governor, the Senate President Pro Tempore, and the Speaker of the House.

LEAF stands for Long-Term Economic Advancement Foundation. As we approach 25 years of service to North Carolina, we recommit to our goal to be here in perpetuity because North Carolina’s rural and tobacco-dependent communities deserve and demand our assistance to help them continue to be excellent place to work and live.

Mission, Vision, Goals Charter

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