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Arts drive beats goal


By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Overcoming expected donor anxiety in the face of the shaky economy and looming war, the Arts & Science Council beat the $10.1 million goal for its annual fund drive by $17,000.

The key, says Harriet Sanford, president and CEO, was to educate donors about the importance of the arts in their lives.

The drive, which aimed to raise $50,000 more than last year, included new initiatives to connect donors to the arts.

The council, for example, sponsored arts performances, classes and other events in workplaces, and offered free theater and dance tickets to health-care employees.

“They had been giving, but they hadn’t touched our product,” Sanford says. “They hadn’t sat in the seat or seen the creative process at work.”

The effort paid off, she says, with Carolinas Helathcare raising $174,000, up from $131,000 last year, and Presbyterian Hospital raising $64,000, up from $52,000.

“We educated our donor base,” Sanford says. “If people understand how the money is being used, the more generous they are.”

While results have not yet been analyzed, Sanford estimates the drive added several thousand new donors.

“To grow even by $100,000 takes a lot of small gifts and that’s what we got,” she says.

Exceeding their goal by $117,000, the 50 biggest employers raised $6.7 million, an estimated three-fourths of it from employees.

The drive also posted increases in the public schools, which raised $174,000, up from $149,000 last year, and among nonprofits, which raised $72,000, up from $60,000.

The council, which ranks first among all arts funds in the United States in per-capita giving and total dollars raised in workplace drives, does not plan to shift its strategy for the coming year but does aim to build on its strengths, Sanford says.

The effort launched this year to bring the arts to the workplace, for example, will continue at least through April, and probably year-round, she says.

Working with firms that launched workplace drives this year, the council plans to begin promoting the value of the arts to their employees much sooner for next year’s drive, which will be chaired by Frank Blanchfield, managing partner for the Charlotte office of Chicago-based law firm Mayer Brown Roe & Maw.

Roughly 30 new firms this year added workplace campaigns, which now total about 330.

Sanford says a council priority will be to continue to expand its base of donors, emphasizing that anyone can support the arts.

“What a united arts fund does is say you don’t need to have a certain last name because everybody’s dollar and how they choose to give it matters,” she says.

“Underlying that is the notion that it’s not what you keep but what you give that makes you happy,” she says. “People give to what makes them feel good, so we’re going to keep connecting with them in that way.”

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