Social Capital and ECHO

We believe...Everyone Can Help Out

No force has the potential to do more good in a community than that which is created among people who feel meaningfully connected to one another. This is social capital - connections among people, based on trust, that enhance cooperation for mutual benefit. 

Academic research shows that when social capital is high, people in communities work better together, neighborhoods are safer, schools are more effective, health and mortality rates improve, government runs more smoothly, and resources are more equally shared. 

This is why in 1999 The Winston-Salem Foundation created the ECHO Fund - Everyone Can Help Out. The Foundation committed a minimum of $2.5 million over 5 years to be used for grants to organizations that increase our community's stock of social capital. The final ECHO grant was awarded in June 2005, but the Foundation's commitment to building social capital remains strong.

The Foundation is particularly interested in these aspects of social capital:

  • Broadening and diversifying leadership and involvement
  • Increasing trust, especially across lines of difference
  • Encouraging people to do more with others rather than for others


As the Foundation staff evaluate Community Grants applications, they highly value those programs that incorporate:

  • The strengths and assets of community residents
  • Asset-based approaches to address community challenges and develop opportunities
  • Lasting bonds of trust and cooperation that increase social capital
  • The contributions of individuals from diverse backgrounds and perspectives


In 2001, The Winston-Salem Foundation began presenting ECHO Awards to individuals and informal groups that were "caught in the act" of building social capital. The Foundation presents the ECHO Awards annually at the Foundation's annual Community Luncheon. Each ECHO Award winner receives a gift of $1,000 to donate to a charitable organization of their choice.

Video on ECHO's history (featuring past ECHO Award recipient Jeff Smith of Smittysnotes)


©2005-2018 The Winston-Salem Foundation • 751 W Fourth St, Suite 200 • Winston-Salem, NC 27101 • 336.725.2382