By Todd Cohen
CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Charlotte-area nonprofits are wrapping up or planning an estimated $500 million in capital and endowment campaigns – the region’s biggest crop of fund drives ever.
To help campaigns succeed – particularly in a slowing economy — a volunteer group that has reviewed and helped schedule big drives since 1950 plans to give them sharper scrutiny.
“We’d like to be helpful in imparting to the groups trying to raise the money what their potential contributors are going to be looking for,” says Jim Hance, vice chairman and chief financial officer at Bank of America and chairman of the Charlotte Capital Campaign Planning Board.
Akin to a fundraising consultant crossed with a traffic cop, the board helps nonprofits think through their plans, schedules campaigns so they don’t collide – and alerts funders about big drives.
To better cope with growth in the size and number of campaigns, the board will assess them more closely and more frequently.
Instead of reviewing drives of $1 million or more just once a year, the group now will meet every three months to review campaigns of $3.5 million or more.
Six months before each meeting, nonprofits planning campaigns will be asked to document their financial practices, business strategies, internal operations and fundraising plans.
Staff provided by United Way of Central Carolinas, plus a new volunteer Work Group, will study the documents, ask questions, suggest changes and make recommendations to the board. The Work Group also will screen drives of $1 million or more.
The board — executives of corporations, foundations and nonprofits – then will review plans and schedule campaigns, which its Web site will track from “quiet” fundraising to the collection of pledges.
Charles Page, a United Way vice president staffing the board, says the economic downturn could delay up to a third of planned campaigns.
Hance agrees nonprofits are nervous but is upbeat.
“I think the capacity is here,” he says. “Organizations will have to prove their case.”
The board’s scrutiny is so rigorous, says board member Michael Marsicano, president of the Foundation for the Carolinas, that nonprofits it clears – and the public – should expect the campaigns to succeed.
And the slump could cause new donors to emerge, and prompt more nonprofit collaboration, says board member Harriet Sanford, president and CEO of the Arts & Science Council.
She adds that the council’s $10 million goal for its annual drive that begins Jan. 14 “respects what we believe the community can do without causing harm to other organizations also raising money.”
“Ultimately, a good process like this bolsters the reputation of the nonprofits’ quality and the philanthropic nature of our region,” he says, “and that benefits everybody.”