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United Arts upbeat

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Wake County drive expects to raise $580,000.

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. [05.17.04] — Hoping to reverse a decline in overall private support for three straight years, United Arts of Raleigh and Wake County aims to raise $580,000 in its annual drive this year.

The fundraising federation also aims to do a better job communicating with businesses and the community about the role and impact of the arts, says Eleanor Jordan, president and CEO.

During tough economic times, she says, lack of awareness about the arts has hurt the group’s annual drive, which has posted declines in workplace and individual giving for four straight years.

“We need to be better communicators,” Jordan says.

This year’s drive, which kicked off last October, is on target to raise $278,000 in unrestricted gifts from corporations, up $11,000 from last year and $12,000 shy of its goal, says Jordan.

Campaign officials have visited more than 200 businesses this year, up 25 percent from last year.

“We’re feeling good about the fact that we’ve raised more money on the corporate side,” Jordan says. “We hope we can bump it up and hit the goal.”

Corporate giving to the drive peaked at $414,875 in 2000, but has fallen each of the past three years.

The drive also is running campaigns in 28 workplaces, up two from last year, and aims to raise $200,000 in the workplace, down about $4,000 from last year.

The lower workplace goal reflects anticipated declines in giving at some employers that have consolidated workplace drives by United Arts and other fundraising groups.

A direct-mail campaign that will make a series of appeals to about 1,000 individuals is kicking off this month and aims to raise $80,000, up from nearly $64,000 last year.

Overall, Jordan says, “I think it’s going to be close.”

To assess United Arts’ effectiveness, Jordan and Brad Phillips, chair of its board and vice president for government and public affairs at Time Warner Cable, last year held roundtable talks and individual meetings with corporate leaders.

As a result, she says, United Arts concluded it needed to increase its connection with its strong supporters, and do a better job raising community awareness about the arts.

Faced with the economic downturn and fundraising declines, United Arts in recent years has halved its budget for awareness campaigns and public relations, Jordan says.

The budget for special events, for example, has been cut to $10,000 this year from nearly $30,000 when Jordan joined United Arts as CEO two years ago, while the budget for paid advertising has dropped to $5,000 from nearly $20,000 six years ago.

United Arts also plans this summer to begin working on a new long-term business plan.

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