In limbo – Growth in big drives

By Todd Cohen

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — The Triangle’s philanthropy traffic cop may walk off the beat.

For 10 years, nonprofits planning fund drives of $500,000 or more have been asked to submit their plans to the Major Campaign Review Board, a volunteer group that twice a year reviews plans and schedule campaigns.

The board aims to help nonprofits sharpen their plans, keep fund drives from competing with one another and alert big funders about campaigns. Nonprofits not submitting plans typically found it tougher to win corporate and foundation support.

In recent years, however, as the number and size of big campaigns have grown, many nonprofits and big colleges and universities have bypassed the board — yet still received corporate and foundation support.

“I think campaigns have proliferated to the point that either the corporate and foundation community is going to have to get really tough with themselves, or they’re just going to have to let [the review board] go away,” says Keith Burwell, executive vice president of the Triangle Community Foundation, which coordinates the review board.        

At its meeting January 17, instead of reviewing proposed campaigns, the board talked to foundation and corporate leaders about whether to keep operating – and decided that for the next year it simply will keep and publish a calendar of campaigns scheduled by groups in the region.

The calendar, to be distributed to foundation and corporate funders and published electronically, will include campaign goals, dates and financial impact on the budget of organizations planning campaigns.

“We expect every nonprofit to be doing this,” says Burwell.

With the number of campaigns growing, he says, the committee does not want to have to review and schedule them.

“However, if they don’t put themselves on the calendar, they’re going to receive a message that would not be flattering from the foundations and corporations in the Triangle,” he says, adding that funders “don’t want to be surprised” by campaigns.

In a year, the board will assess whether local groups are adequately policing themselves.

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