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When One Becomes Two

By Courtney Leeper, Writer

Posted May 22, 2017

You know you've captured a crowd's attention when their coffee cups freeze mid-air.

Bill Buckner, president and CEO of our organization, had just announced to 80-plus Ardmore community members that the Noble Foundation had split its agricultural operations from its philanthropic activities.

Steam continued to rise in front of familiar faces – retirees, local nonprofit leaders and city officials – but all coffee sipping stopped. Pretty impressive, considering it was barely 9:45, the morning of May 10.

Then Buckner and Jessie Nance, a great-granddaughter of Lloyd Noble and part of the Board of Trustees that unanimously voted to make the change, unveiled the new name and brand identity. Yes, we are now officially the Noble Research Institute.

Today, we welcome a new chapter in our history. Bill Buckner, our president and CEO, unveiled our new logo during a special announcement with our Ardmore community, May 10. He and other leadership team members explained how our research, education and consultation activities will continue forward under a new name, the Noble Research Institute. The philanthropic activities, including grant-making and scholarship programs, of the original organization are being placed in a new, private foundation, which carries the name traditionally associated with the organization's community giving, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation. Learn more about our work to deliver solutions to great agricultural challenges at noble.org and about the new Noble Foundation at noblefoundation.org. #TheNextChapter #ScienceServingAgriculture #NobleResearchInstitute #nonprofit #AgProud #agriculture #EveryNobleStory #Ardmore #Oklahoma #science #SciComm #GreatSouthernPlains #VSCOcam #iPhoneography #iPhoneonly #ShotOniPhone

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Introducing the Noble Research Institute

So what does this mean?

Basically, one organization has become two.

We have the Noble Research Institute, which continues all the same agricultural operations.

And we have a new private foundation with the original name, The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation, which continues all the same philanthropy activities.

Public Announcement of the Noble Research Institute by Bill Buckner

So if all the activities are the same, why the change?

To answer that question, we have to take a step back in time.

In 1945, Lloyd Noble established The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation to advance agriculture and land stewardship. He had lived through and seen the devastation of the Dust Bowl, and he wanted to use his resources to create a new resource that would equip farmers and ranchers with tools and knowledge to build up the soil and prevent future disaster.

Noble was a man of action, and he set his foundation up as a place of action, a place where real-world research and education would take place to help with real-world problems.

But in today's time, the Noble Foundation was incredibly unique as a private foundation. Most private foundations don't conduct their own operations. Instead, they give grants to others who do.

When Mike Cawley, Noble Foundation president from 1992 to 2012, and Steve Rhines, vice president and general counsel, began discussing how the Noble Foundation could better serve its purpose from an official organizational structure standpoint back in 2008, they realized staying a private foundation wasn't it.

They saw the benefits of becoming a public charity, similar to universities and other peer research institutes, but at the time, there weren't any types of public charities that would be an ideal match. So, the Noble Foundation continued to adjust its operations to fit into the private foundation.

Seven years later in 2015, Congress passed the Charitable Agricultural Research Act, which created a new option: a 501(c)(3) public charity called an agricultural research organization (ARO). This option allows a person or family (in our case, the Nobles) to designate their resources for agricultural research.

Why Transition from Noble Foundation to Noble Research Institute?

A Birth

The Noble Foundation Board of Trustees decided to seek ARO status, but the organization's philanthropic activities could not continue under the ARO model.

So, the first step to becoming an ARO would be to separate activities, hence the creation of the new The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation.

Lloyd Noble named his foundation after his father, Samuel Roberts Noble, who he said was the most charitable individual he'd ever met. Because of this, the trustees decided to continue that charitable legacy through the organization now committed to the traditional philanthropic activities, like grant-giving and scholarships.

This new organization is a private foundation. Find out more about the new Noble Foundation at noblefoundation.org.

Granting and the new Noble Foundation

And a Rebirth

So that left the agricultural operations (consultation, research, farm and ranch operations, and educational outreach).

On May 1, 2017, the paperwork was filed in Oklahoma City for these operations to be turned into a nonprofit, 501(c)(3) public charity. The IRS' consideration of this request could take several months, then there will be a 60-month standard transition process to convert from a private foundation to an ARO.

A new name connects the organization to its history and founder, Lloyd Noble, while also demonstrating reliance on research to meet agriculture's greatest challenges.

You can learn more about the Noble Research Institute at www.noble.org. Be sure to check out our frequently asked questions about this transition.

The Bottom Line

We have a new name, a new logo and a simplified mission ("To deliver solutions to great agricultural challenges").

Best of all, new opportunities for our science to serve agriculture are now available. The door is open to more commercialization opportunities that would enable the Noble Research Institute to move research and ideas into real-world solutions in the hands of farmers and ranchers for the benefit of producers, consumers and the land.

But really, we're the same people doing the same things.

We're still following in Lloyd Noble's footsteps. Still producer-focused and science-oriented. Grants and scholarships will continue to be processed and awarded as normal, and Ardmore is still our home.

Life is full of change. It's how we grow and develop. It's how we keep moving toward a better tomorrow. So it makes sense that organizations also must move forward.

This is a moment in time meant to be celebrated. Thank all who came out to celebrate with us in Ardmore and, later in the day, Oklahoma City, and thank you for your interest in this exciting time.

In Buckner's words, "Now, it's time to get to work."

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