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Targeting new donors

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By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — To promote the Arts & Science Council’s annual drive last year, Carolinas HealthCare System produced an employee talent show, holding two days of tryouts to kick off its workplace campaign and, to close it, a final competition for an overflow crowd in its auditorium.

Fueled by the effort, the 14,000-employee system raised $226,560, exceeding its goal by more than $50,000.

“We got our employees more actively involved in the campaign, and we were featuring our own talent,” says Lois Ingland, director of corporate community relations for the hospital system, which will hold another talent show for this year’s drive.

After several years of only modest growth in giving, the council aims to attract donors who are new to the region or have not contributed before, says Lee Keesler, president and CEO.

“To raise more money, we need to reach more people,” he says.

After raising nearly $10.4 million last year, the council set a goal of $10.5 million for this year’s drive.

Workplace giving is critical for the drive, accounting for nearly two-thirds of the dollars raised.

“The companies and people who are already giving are being very generous,” Keesler says, adding that 9/11 and the slumping economy in recent years typically reduced giving to arts drives in other communities.

In addition to retaining those donors, and reaching new workplace donors and employers, the drive also is looking for donors outside the workplace, a group that accounts for only 5 percent of giving.

The council has recruited 25 volunteer couples and is asking them and its 50-member board to identify prospective new donors.

It also has segmented the business community, targeting groups such as small and mid-sized firms, which on a national basis accounted for nearly 90 percent of $3.3 billion that business gave to the arts in 2003, according to the Business Committee for the Arts in New York.

Representing other opportunities for new workplace campaigns and donors are industries such as financial services, insurance and residential real estate.

The drive also will feature special promotions such as an employee talent show at Presbyterian Healthcare, employee art show at Bank of America, discount cards for local arts events for donors, and workplace performances and exhibitions by artists.

Assuming people may not know about the council or the role the arts play, Keesler says, the drive aims to “tell the story.”

A study by UNC-Charlotte several years ago found the economic impact of the council and its 27 members totaled $94 million, and preliminary results from a new study show significant growth, Keesler says.

The arts make the city more attractive as a place to live and work, he says, and enrich education, with students in kindergarten through high school accounting for more than 40 percent of local arts groups’ nearly three million customers a year.

“A gift to the cultural system through the Arts & Science Council is an investment in this community,” Keesler says, “and in assets that will continue to contribute to this community.”

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