Aiming high – Endowment drive eyed

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — In his first fundraising effort as the new president and CEO of the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County, Robert Chumbley is mounting not one but two campaigns.

The council has kicked off its annual drive targeting $1.95 million — $500,000 less than last year’s goal but 1 percent more than was raised.

“We wanted to set a goal that could be reached and would let our members budget accurately,” Chumbley says.

The council also aims by Feb. 21 – extended from an initial deadline of Jan. 31 — to raise half the $1.1 million it would need to stage an international arts festival this fall.

To meet both fundraising challenges in a still-slumping economy, the council plans to increase big gifts by individuals, and to coax foundations and corporations either to support the festival by giving for the first time, or to maintain or increase their support for the annual drive.

Fundraising for the festival, which began before Thanksgiving and has raised about $400,000, is part of a larger study to test the feasibility of the proposed festival.

The study also is assessing plans for programming, marketing and production logistics.

The council agreed to consider staging the festival after initial planning by the Winston-Salem Arts and Entertainment Partnership, a group that included R. Philip Hanes Jr., retired executive of the Hanes Companies; arts activist Mary Robert, former general director of the Piedmont Opera Theatre; and Wade Hobgood, chancellor of the N.C. School of the Arts.

Winston-Salem fundraising consultant David Winslow is working on the fundraising and marketing assessments, while George Alexsovich, former general manager of the Atlanta Symphony, is handling the programming and logistics assessments.

While no conclusions have been reached yet, Chumbley says, he is “upbeat” about prospects for the festival, which would include opera and theatrical productions, at least one large ballet production, chamber music, films, eight to 12 large-scale outdoor sculpture pieces placed along Fourth Street and other activities involving “all of the disciplines in the arts.”

Chumbley says the festival would benefit all local arts groups by focusing attention on the arts, and that council members would be compensated for taking part in the festival.

This year’s annual drive for the first time has co-chairs targeting corporations and individuals. Will Spence, state CEO for the Carolinas at Wachovia, chairs the corporate campaign, while community activist Robbi Irvin chairs the individual campaign.

Chumbley wants to increase large gifts by individuals. He and Irvin’s campaign committee will court donors who have given $1,000 or more in the past by inviting them to arts or social events. And in addition to encouraging them to boost their workplace drives, Spence’s committee will solicit corporate executives for individual gifts.


In addition to shifting more of the council’s fundraising focus from institutional support to big gifts from individuals, Chumbley wants the council to create an endowment, make more productive use of its facilities, boost the emerging downtown arts district and help assess the city’s need for performing-arts space.

Chumbley, who headed the Atlanta Ballet for nearly six years and also helped build and headed big performing arts complexes at the University of Nebraska and the State University of New York at Buffalo, joined the arts council last October in the face of a slumping economy that helped keep its 2001 annual campaign $178,000 short of its $2.1 million goal.

The council to embark on a campaign, lasting three to seven years, to build an endowment, says Chumbley, who at the Atlanta Ballet helped eliminate debt and deficits, and increase revenues and fundraising.

Conceding it’s tough to raise endowment dollars, even in a strong economy, he says it is “critically important” to begin the effort.

“The stronger we are on an annual basis without being in the fundraising marketplace,” he says, “the more freedom our funded members will have for their own fundraising efforts, and therefore the stronger they will become.”

He hopes the council will begin, possibily this year, a study to identify and test a possible endowment-campaign goal.

Chumbley also wants the council to make better use of the Sawtooth Center, which it owns, and the Hanes Community Center, for which it manages 60 percent of the space.

Sawtooth, for example, should not give up the idea of using some space for a restaurant, he says, and should help boost the arts district taking shape downtown.

Chumbley also wants arts groups and patrons to assess the city’s need for more performing arts space downtown.

“I think Winston-Salem might be well serviced as a community through public and private partnerships to examine the entire facilities issue for the arts in this town,” he says.

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