Gearing for growth – Biggest campaign ever

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte Country Day School is doing its homework.

To keep pace with rapid growth and equip itself to meet future needs, the school is waging its biggest fundraising campaign ever, mapping its strategy and gearing up to build its endowment.

“The school is poised to take some exciting, giant leaps forward,” says Margaret Gragg, the school’s head. “We have visions for how to be better and better.”

Enrollment has more than doubled to nearly 1,600 – with most grades still facing waiting lists — since Gragg joined the school 25 years ago as chairman of the English department.

Despite more than 15 renovation and construction projects over the past decade, however, investment in buildings and endowment has not caught up with rising needs.

So in late August, the school launched the public phase of a $30 million drive that had raised $20 million quietly over the previous year — and now has added another $2 million.

The campaign — which will finance new buildings and repairs, along with scholarships, faculty chairs and endowment — is chaired by James H. Hance Jr., vice chairman and chief financial officer of Bank of America and chairman of the school’s board of trustees.

The biggest gift so far, for an undisclosed amount, is from the Brand Dalton family and foundation. Other big gifts include $1 million from the family of John Belk and $750,000 from the Gorelick family, says campaign manager Lauren Batten, who heads Charlotte fundraising firm Vandever Batten.

Campaign goals include $11.7 million for a new field house; $7.6 million for a new fine arts classroom building and renovation of an existing fine arts theater; $3.4 million for a new lower-school classroom building and renovation to existing lower-school facilities; and $7.3 million for endowment to support upkeep of the new facilities.

The school also aims to boost its fundraising operation and endowment by hiring a director of institutional advancement, says Gil Webb, associate head of school for development and head of the middle school.

 Over the next few years, as donors fulfill their pledges to the current campaign – which ends next spring — the school will launch a series of individual major-gift drives to add a total of $25 million to $30 million to its endowment to support financial aid, faculty chairs and arts equipment.

And with 3,200 alumni, many of whom are now old enough to be philanthropic prospects, the school will begin to solicit future gifts through wills and estate planning.

Trustees also have just launched an effort to write a blueprint for the school for the next five years.

Gragg, the school’s head, says other big challenges include

integrating technology into the curriculum and working more closely with local public schools.

Country Day parents, for example, work as reading tutors at Hidden Valley Elementary, and the school hosts training workshops in the summer for public school teachers.

“Both public schools and independent schools are needed to serve the enrollment demands the city is confronted with,” says Gragg.

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