Fundraising challenge – Indviduals, firms lag in giving

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Private support for the arts is seriously lagging in Wake County, a deficiency that Margot Knight aims to reverse.

“We know there’s enormous potential we’ve just been unable to tap,” says Knight, president and CEO of United Arts of Raleigh and Wake County.

United Arts, which raised a record $1.6 million in its just-ended 2000 annual campaign, recently analyzed its campaigns for the five years through 1999.

Individuals and corporations aren’t giving as much as they might, the analysis found, and growth in United Arts’ fundraising has failed to keep pace with the budgets of the 34 arts groups it supports.

Total income generated by groups supported by United Arts, for example, grew 117 percent during the period, compared to a 51 percent increase in United Arts’ own campaign. Wake County’s United Way campaign, by comparison, grew 57 percent.

And while United Arts’ support for arts groups grew to $839,000 from $595,000 during the period, that support represented a declining percentage of those groups’ budgets – 9 percent in 1999, down from 13 percent in 1995.

The analysis also found that individuals and corporations could give more.

In 1998, for example, per-capita individual giving to the arts in Wake County totaled $1.21, compared to $10.99 in Mecklenburg County, $5.24 in Forsyth County and $1.54 for all United Arts funds in the United States.

Per-capita corporate giving to the arts in Wake County totaled 60 cents, compared to $4.25 in Forsyth County, $3.50 in Mecklenburg County and 86 cents in Durham.         

The average gift by employees at the six private workplaces that contributed the most to United Arts was $158, compared to $83 for all 49 public and private workplaces participating in the campaign.

If all 5,083 individuals who contributed through the workplace campaigns of 40 private employers gave $158, Knight says, total dollars raised in private workplaces would double to more than $800,000.

Continuing growth in giving among some groups, as well as poor results among others, both indicated room for future growth, Knight says.

Individuals contributing outside the workplace, for example, gave $396,000 in 1999, up from $267,000 in 1997, while individuals giving $250 or more accounted for 29 percent of total giving in 1999, up from 20 percent in 1995.

During the same three-year period, the average residential gift grew to $265 from $100.

Yet individual gifts were made by top executives at fewer than half of the 102 companies making corporate gifts.

“That’s a rich pool of potential donors,” Knight says.

The number of private-sector workplace campaigns grew slightly to 34 during the five-year period, while the number of corporate gifts more than doubled to 80.

Based on its analysis, United Arts plans to be more aggressive in promoting its campaign, including using email to communicate with corporate executives.

It also aims to solicit corporate gifts at more companies and to increase the number of workers and the size of their gifts in its workplace campaigns.

United Arts also will create a full-time position to coordinate donor relations and manage the organization’s database.

“We have enormous potential to grow the arts in this community,” Knight says.

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