Change for kids

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — The new head of the North Carolina Child Advocacy Institute in Raleigh wants the research group to become a catalyst working with local communities both to identify local priorities for children and families, and to push for changes in local and state policies, practices and resources to address them.

“We will be bringing all sectors of the community together to work on behalf of children’s well-being,” says Barb Bradley, who joined the institute in October as executive director after serving as vice president for America’s Promise, United Way of America and Communities in Schools.

Over the next 18 months, she says, the institute plans to hire staff members to work in up to eight regions throughout the state, plus three new Raleigh staffers to provide research and technical assistance for the regional staff.

Through a “comprehensive community-engagement strategy” that integrates local and statewide research and advocacy, Bradley says, the institute can spur improvements in the way communities and the state serve children and families.

The institute also wants to become a clearinghouse of research-based practices and programs that local communities can use to improve services for children and families.

Expansion of the institute’s staff of four people working full-time and five working half-time will cost up to $800,000 a year, more than doubling the current budget of $750,000, Bradley says.

Robin Costello, the institute’s new senior director of development and external affairs, says increasing the budget will depend on raising awareness about the organization, particularly among corporations, which account for roughly one-sixth of its annual funding.

“We’ve got to get back on the radar screen, particularly in the corporate community, which in the past knew who we were and considered us partners through corporate support,” Costello says.

Durham philanthropist Michael Brader-Araje has agreed to head the institute board’s new fund development committee, which will develop a plan to raise money and awareness, she says.

The institute also will expand its board to 26 members from 20, and is talking with a public-relations firm about working pro-bono to develop a branding and public-awareness campaign, she says.

In addition to stepping up corporate support, Costello says, the institute will continue to apply for foundation grants and state funding, each accounting for one-third of its budget.

And it aims to increase individual giving, accounting for one-sixth of its budget, through direct-mail appeals and events.

On June 2, for example, the institute will present its Lifelong Child Advocate Award at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville to Dr. Olson Huff, a retired pediatrician who was medical director of the Ruth and Billy Graham Children’s Health Center at Missions Hospital there.

The institute also plans, in about six months, to begin “cause marketing,” raising money by teaming up with a commercial enterprise, Bradley says.

In another two years or so, she says, the institute likely will launch a capital campaign, and even later will begin a separate, long-term campaign to significantly increase its $1 million endowment.

“Americans talk about children representing our future, and they say we all value children above everything else, but our behaviors and our actions don’t back that up,” Bradley says. “Children are not a social and political priority right now.”

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