Normally, “exits” by entrepreneurs mean payoffs and cashing out for the company founders as well as investors. But in the case of the sale of email marketing services firm iContact the exit meant a nice payday for the Council for Entrepreneurial Development as well.

Stock in iContact pledged to CED by co-founders Aaron Houghton and Ryan Allis led to a $270,000 donation to the CED, the group says.

It’s the largest donation in the history of the organization.

“Ryan and Aaron are ‘paying it forward’ with their very generous gift to CED,” said Joan Siefert Rose, CED’s president, in a statement.

“It is especially gratifying to see successful entrepreneurs support an organization designed to help the next generation of entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses,” she added. “I hope their actions will inspire others to make similar pledges to ensure a strong future for this unique community resource,”

Houghton, the chairman, and Allis, the chief executive officer, made the pledge to CED in 2003 while they were students at UNC-Chapel Hill. They have often credited the CED for helping them build a company that was sold last month to Vocus (Naasdaq: VOCS) for some $169 million in cash and stock.

Houghton donated $150,000 and Allis $120,000, according to the CED.

“CED is a vital organization for the entrepreneurial ecosystem in the Research Triangle and North Carolina,” said Allis. “The organization has been absolutely key to the success and growth of iContact and I am extremely happy to make this gift to the organization.”

“CED provided us with encouragement and credibility in the early years at iContact,” added Houghton. “With this gift, I know I am helping CED support the next generation of great entrepreneurs in this area.”

The stock pledge to CED is part of a program launched in 1998.

“Stock pledges are fulfilled at the time of an exit, either through an initial public offering of stock or a liquidity event through a merger or acquisition,” the CED said. “All fulfilled pledges are considered tax-deductible charitable contributions to CED, a 501(c)(3) organization.”

When the sale closed, Houghton resigned as chairman of iContact. Allis remains with the firm.

iContact is based in Morrisville. 

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