East Henderson High graduate Brandon Baird has a career path that’s taken him all the way to Denver, Colorado and to Washington, DC, and it’s all thanks to the Community Foundation of Henderson County.
Just prior to graduating from East in 2008, Baird, 33, was the recipient of two scholarships (the George and Helen Stowell Scholarship and the Grace B. Etheredge Scholarship), and those made it possible for him to continue his education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Fourteen years later, his career has come full circle, as he has returned home after being hired as the Program Officer for the Community Foundation.
“A quote from TS Eliot keeps coming to my mind: Arriving where I started is to know the place for the first time,” Barid said. “Joining the professional team at the Foundation feels like a full-circle moment and I’m grateful for the opportunity to do what I love in service of my home community. In my first few weeks, I’ve begun the process of connecting with , listening to, and learning from our nonprofit community to understand their work and how I can help optimize grantmaking for even greater community impact.”
According to a news release from the Community Foundation, Baird’s primary role will be to implement all aspects of the Foundation’s grantmaking and programmatic work. Those are tasks he knows very well. After earning his bachelor’s degree from UNC in 2012, Baird began his professional career in Washington, working in resource development for two nonprofits before moving to Denver in 2016 to work for The Denver Foundation.
While in the nation’s capital, Baird said it taught him how to “work with all manner of personalities, philosophies, and political persuasions, how to speak truth to power, and that each new encounter can hold unknown potential.”
“Washington, DC was a very inspiring and motivating place to be, particularly for someone fresh out of college and interested in affecting cross-sector social good,” he said. “I seized any opportunity to meet government, business and foundation leaders and was fortunate to learn from and work alongside incredible mentors in the nonprofit sector while discovering the city, and its people, beyond the Capitol Hill bubble.”
Baird said after leaving Washington for Denver that he missed the free museums, but not the humidity. In his past five years at The Denver Foundation, he specialized in grantmaking committee leadership, donor and grantee stewardship, family philanthropy and bespoke charitable gift planning, the Community Foundation’s news release said. During his tenure, he also oversaw the Foundation’s Community Legacy Society, was a core grantmaking team member for the COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Fund and led the Environmental Affinity and Arts Affinity Groups.
“Working with donors and grantees in my five years with The Denver Foundation deepened my belief in the power of community foundations and the unique role they can play as convener, coalition builder and local philanthropic engine,” Baird said. “I’m excited to build on what has already been accomplished by members of this community and contribute to the legacy of impact that McCray Benson, the Board of Directors and the entire team at the Community Foundation of Henderson County have developed and stewarded.”
On Nov. 7, he and his wife relocated back to Hendersonville, where he began his role at the Community Foundation of Henderson County. As he looks back now, he said at the time of receiving the scholarships from the Foundation, he didn’t yet have a “full understanding of the foresight, charitable planning, and radical generosity of the very real individuals behind the gifts that made those scholarships possible.”
“Nor could I have known that my own professional path would lead me to community foundation work, and that I would find my own way back to the philanthropic table here in Henderson County,” he said.
And he’s now embracing his new role to help students reach their career goals.
“I’m excited to be here,” he said.
Any student wanting more information about applying for a Community Foundation grant or other Foundation projects can contact Baird at [email protected] or y calling 828-697-6224.