Arts & Science Council drive grows

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — After raising nearly $10.9 million last year, exceeding its goal by nearly $400,000, the Arts & Science Council raised nearly $11.4 million in its annual drive this year.

The effort raised over $11 million for the first time and lifted to nearly $1 million the cumulative increase the drive has made in the past two years.

With more than half its donors giving $50 or less, the drive focused on recruiting new donors and enlisting new employers to hold workplace campaigns.

“We’re trying to reach more people and generate more growth out of people and businesses we’ve not solicited before,” says Lee Keesler, the council’s president and CEO.

Posting big increases were numerous divisions within the drive.

Giving grew 37 percent at Carolinas HealthCare System, for example, and 42 percent at Presbyterian Healthcare.

Chaired by Mary Mack, executive vice president of Wachovia Client Partnership, and Thomas Skains, chairman, president and CEO of Piedmont Natural Gas, the six-week drive targeted younger donors and individuals who were not part of workplace campaigns.

It also expanded its use of electronic appeals.

And to strengthen relationships with existing donors and engage new supporters in the arts and culture, the council is working year-round to get individuals and companies involved through volunteerism and in-kind contributions, says Terri Marshall, vice president of development.

“We want to make sure we’re creating a lot of entry points for a corporation or an individual to get engaged with the cultural community,” she says.

The council also will promote online giving throughout the year at its website.

Among groups the annual drive were retailers, small businesses, and the restaurant and hospitality industry, she says.

In an effort organized by Fuel Pizza, for example, 18 restaurants agreed to donate to the drive a percentage of their sales on Feb. 1.

The council also has formed a Young Donors Society targeted at individuals age 35 and younger who give $500 or more, and a CEO Vanguard Council to enlist more chief executives from large and small companies who give at least $1,000.

With employees solicited in 300 workplaces, Keesler says, workplace campaigns typically are more effective when the CEO gets involved and an employee coordinates the campaign and finds ways to involve the cultural community in the campaign through activities such as performances and exhibitions.

The drive also expanded to as many two-dozen companies the e-pledge system it piloted last year at seven companies.

Companies that last year used the new system, designed by the council with the help of NPower Charlotte Region, a nonprofit that provides technology assistance to other nonprofits, posted big increases in employee pledges, says Marshall.

Larger employers such as Wachovia and Bank of America, conduct electronic campaigns on their internal corporate websites.

Looking beyond the drive, Keesler says, the council is working with Montana consulting firm ArtsMarket on an audience-development study, and with Charlotte firm Wray Ward Lassiter to develop a strategy to communicate the value and role of the region’s cultural sector.

It also will contribute $135,000 this year, and more next year, to support cultural plans it has helped develop with six Mecklenburg County towns, where local advisory boards will use the funds to make grants for local cultural activities.

The council also is working to strengthen relationships with local colleges and universities to support cultural life on their campuses.

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