Designs on the future

School of the Arts prepares for capital campaign.

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — As a conservatory, the N.C. Carolina School of the Arts faces the twin challenges of attracting top students regardless of their ability to pay, and drawing and keeping top faculty to attract those students.

Money is key to addressing those needs, spelled out in a new strategic plan, and the school is in the early stages of preparing for a capital campaign that could total $75 million to $100 million and begin its public phase in fall 2007.

Michael R. Franco, a veteran fundraiser the school hired last summer as vice chancellor for advancement, is working to retool its marketing and fundraising operations.

Franco, who succeeded the retiring Bill Porter and most recently was vice president of college advancement at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, N.M., plans by May to hire an associate vice chancellor for development to oversee daily operations and manage the capital campaign.

He also is converting the database in the advancement office so that individual development officers can better analyze donor data, and better identify and segment prospective donors, all of which he says are necessary first steps in getting ready for the campaign.

Based on the school’s new strategic plan, he says, the development office is beginning to test its “case” for the campaign with major supporters, and this spring and summer will form a campaign-planning steering committee to keep testing the campaign’s feasibility.

That will include identifying specific funding priorities, analyzing the giving potential of the school’s donor base, sharpening the school’s “message” and testing it with key constituencies, Franco says.

A big campaign goal will be increasing to at least $50 million the school’s endowment, currently nearly $17 million.

“We don’t have a huge amount of money earmarked for financial aid,” he says, adding that financial aid is critical because the pool of prospective students is limited for a “focused” conservatory like the School of the Arts, which offers programs in dance, design and production, drama, filmmaking and music.

The capital campaign will be “comprehensive,” including the school’s annual fund, which raises about $5 million each year, as well as planned gifts, which Franco says will be the focus of a stronger effort backed by more systematic marketing and likely to be headed by the new associate vice chancellor and advised by a volunteer committee of deferred-giving experts.

Research shows that donors whose first gift is made through a planned-giving vehicle such as an estate plan or charitable trust often follow up with outright gifts, Franco says.

Planned giving represents “not only a wise strategy for an institution, but also a fundamental, broadly-designed cultivation strategy for gifts for future campaigns,” he says.

He aims to get the school’s 9,600 active alumni more involved through expanded career services, appointment to advisory groups, and special events in North Carolina, which is home to 2,000 alumni, and in cities like New York and Los Angeles with big concentrations of alumni.

“One way to really showcase what the School of the Arts is about,” he says, “is to highlight what our students, and increasingly our alumni, do.”

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