United Arts builds on momentum

By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The United Arts Council of Greater Greensboro has completed its biggest annual fund drive ever, set an even bigger goal for its new drive and is working on several fronts to focus greater attention on the arts.

“We’re trying to get the arts more on the radar screen in everyone’s thinking, and that will drive engagement in — and resources for – the arts,” says Jeanie Duncan, the council’s president and CEO.

The council exceeded the $1.4 million goal in its 2005 drive by more than $29,000, marking its biggest drive ever and the sixth straight year the drive beat its goal and raised over $1 million.

Chaired by Denny Kelly, executive vice president and principal at communications agency Bouvier Kelly, the drive raised $370,000 in public support, $100,000 from individuals through workplace-giving campaigns and the remainder from companies, foundations and from individual giving outside the workplace.

Public support included $210,000 from Guilford County, up 5 percent from 2004, and $160,000 from the state, nearly three times the total in 2004.

For the third straight year, the council secured matching contributions from local foundations for meeting its goal for new gifts from companies and individuals.

Those matching funds totaled $33,000 in 2005, $42,500 in 2004 and $37,500 in 2003.

Duncan says growth in the annual drive is the result of “continued pleasant persistence” by the council’s volunteers, staff and board leadership in keeping “the brand of our arts and cultural system in front of our citizens as a priority.”

The council has set a goal of $1.45 million for its 2006 drive, which kicked off Feb. 2 and is chaired by Rob Kidwell, a lawyer at Smith Moore.

For this year’s drive, the council plans to double, to 100, the number of volunteers visiting and making solicitation calls to donors and prospective donors, Duncan says.

It also plans several initiatives this year under a strategy its board set a year ago for the council to champion and promote the arts and the community role the arts play.

“There’s a growing awareness and understanding of how the arts impact” business, education, health and well-being in the community, Duncan says.

To help track that impact, the council is among 100 cities participating this year in a study by Americans for the Arts on the economic impact of the arts.

Teaming up with the High Point Arts Council, the study will measure the impact of spending by local nonprofit arts groups and their audiences in Guilford County.

The council also will launch a “volunteer for the arts” program to boost volunteerism, and match arts groups and volunteers, and may become a franchise of Business Volunteers for the Arts, a program of Americans for the Arts that connects business professionals and arts groups.

And it plans work more closely with the Volunteer Center of Greensboro groups to connect it with arts needing volunteers.

Other initiatives the council plans for this year include developing a web portal to serve as a central calendar and inventory for the arts, and developing an arts and culture “benefit card” it might give donors who give at a specific level to the 2007 fund drive.

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