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Bill Porter making way for new fund drive at N.C. School of the Arts.

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. [02.25.04] — The N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem is starting to gear up for a fund drive that could total $75 million to $100 million, an undertaking that prompted the decision by Bill Porter to step down this summer after 12 years as vice chancellor for development and public relations at the school.

The drive, which could begin its public phase in late 2006 or early 2007, would build on the base of donors Porter has helped double, and on the endowment he has helped triple.

“It seemed to me that this was the appropriate time for me to begin pursuing something else and to make a change,” Porter says.  “I wanted to do that in a way that was helpful to the school and not disruptive.”

Porter, who expects to remain in the Triad in a senior fundraising or management job at another nonprofit, says he is timing his departure to give his successor time to get to know donors and develop plans for the drive.

The school is preparing a request for proposals from search firms.

Porter, who grew up in Kernersville and earned an undergraduate degree at Duke University and an MBA at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, also has held fundraising jobs at Duke and at several nonprofits in Washington, D.C., including the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Since he joined the school in 1992, its endowment has grown to $18 million from $6 million, while private giving has grown 15 percent a year, on average, to $5.6 million.

The school also has more than doubled its development staff to 11 people and secured deferred gifts of more than $40 million.

In December 1998, it completed a $25.5 million comprehensive campaign that exceeded its goal by $500,000.

And in September 2000, it received its biggest gift ever, a pledge from the A.J. Fletcher Foundation in Raleigh to give $10 million over 10 years to create and support the A.J. Fletcher Opera Institute.

The school also has broadened its donor base, which had been mainly Triad donors but now is spread among local donors, other North Carolinians and supporters outside the state.

The school, which opened in 1965 and has 1,100 students, cannot depend only on alumni for support, Porter says.

Part of its fundraising strategy has been to create endowment funds totaling $1.5 million at six community foundations or funds throughout the state.

In the last 12 years, it also increased the number of individual donors giving $1,000 or more to more than 500 from roughly 50.

Porter says nonprofits face big challenges today because of the tough economy and growing competition for charitable dollars.

“So it’s a challenge for organizations to figure out how to set themselves apart from the crowd,” he says.

He credits a solid program, faculty and student body at the School of the Arts for its fundraising success.

After ranking near the bottom of the 16-campus University of North Carolina system 12 years ago, for example, the school now trails only UNC-Chapel Hill in annual fundraising from all private sources and in endowment assets per student.

“What we’ve been able to do,” Porter says, “is engage a lot of people who love the arts in supporting the school.”

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