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United Arts retools grantmaking

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By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — The United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County has shifted the focus of its fundraising and grantmaking, and aims within three to five years to double, from $800,000 this year, the funds it gives to arts programs, individuals and schools.

To reach its new goal of making sure arts programs are delivered to everyone who lives, works and studies in the county, the council starting next year will make grants in four new categories of arts programs, including arts in education, youth arts, community arts, and festivals.

The new grant categories replace grantmaking that has focused on support of arts groups’ operating costs, and are designed to engage more donors, generate more funds for the arts, and better highlight the impact of those dollars, says Eleanor Jordan, president and CEO.

“We want everyone to have access to arts programming,” she says. “We highly value organizations that produce and present arts programming, but we want to emphasize what it is they deliver to people, not simply the fact that they are there.”

Arts programs, individuals and schools seeking grants must attend one of two training workshops scheduled for Jan. 18 and 25, and submit grant applications by March 6.

Applicants also must meet with council staff to review their grant requests, which then will go to citizen review panels and then to the council’s board for approval.

To help meet needs that in the past may have been eclipsed by the council’s focus on operating support, Jordan says, the council also will provide “seed” funding.

And to increase funding for groups that offer arts services, not programs, such as assistance to audience members with disabilities, the council is creating separate funding for those service organizations.

Groups seeking arts-services funding can attend either of the two workshops, and must meet with council staff and submit applications by March 6.

Groups seeking seed funding also can attend either training session and may submit applications any time in the fiscal year that begins next July 1, and also must meet with council staff.

With an annual budget of $1.6 million, the council has set a goal of raising $560,000 privately in the fiscal year that began July 1, with the remainder of the budget to be covered through government funds and earned income.

As part of its fundraising goal, the council in October launched “Guess who’s coming to dinner?”, a fundraising event it will hold each year.

The inaugural event netted roughly $100,000 and consisted of dinners at 18 private homes, each featuring a celebrity artist.

Jordan says the council’s new strategy reflects in part a shift among donors, whose giving has become more pragmatic and marketing-oriented.

“They tend to want to support arts events,” she says. “They want to put their name with an event. And that means that some of the fundraising that 15 years ago United Arts might have done on behalf of arts organizations now is being done by the organizations themselves.”

By focusing on arts programs and the people they serve, she says, the council can boost its appeal to donors and generate more funds for arts programs.

“With this shift,” she says, “we’re in a much better position to talk collectively about the power of all the donated funds.”

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