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Fundraising in focus at School of Arts

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By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — With a new chancellor, named May 12, the N.C. School of the Arts in Winston-Salem hopes to speed the rebuilding and reorganizing its advancement operation as it steps up its annual fundraising and prepares for a capital campaign.

Hurt by the loss of key advancement staff, and by the departure of its previous chancellor after a state audit found accounting irregularities at the school, plans have been put on hold for a capital campaign.

The school’s former vice chancellor for development said in an interview over a year ago that the campaign might total $75 million to $100 million and could kick off its public phase in fall 2007.

With the appointment as chancellor of John Mauceri, music director of the Pittsburgh Opera and director of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, a search can begin soon for a new vice chancellor for advancement, says Jeffrey S. Johnson, associate vice chancellor for development.

The advancement office also expects to fill three other key jobs by July, says Johnson, who joined the school in July 2005 and has headed the advancement office since the previous vice chancellor resigned in October to pursue other interests after just over a year on the job.

“For development, this has been a rebuilding year,” Johnson says.

While plans for the campaign still are up in the air, he says, schools that name new chief executives typically wait at least two years to three years before beginning high-level fundraising in a campaign’s initial quiet phase.

“There will be pressure to do it as soon as possible, I’m sure, because of the needs of the school,” he says. “And there will be pressure to have a goal as large as possible.”

The School of the Arts has not conducted a study to test the feasibility of a campaign, and its board of trustees, board of visitors and foundation board all are assessing and restructuring themselves, great timing for Mauceri to be involved, Johnson says.

Despite uncertainty about details of the campaign, the school is stepping up efforts to increase annual support for scholarships, the top priority of the last two chancellors, Johnson says.

“Unfortunately, the solution to do that was seen as the campaign,” he says. “Everyone realizes we can no longer wait for the campaign to build our scholarships.”

So the school aims to “build a solid annual scholarship program” that can direct some money from endowment gifts to help meet annual-fund goals, Johnson says.

In recent years, for example, the school has asked donors who previously endowed scholarships to make annual gifts to offset the erosion in the payout from those endowment gifts resulting from a drop in their investment value caused by market declines.

“We’re going to continue to ask those people to do that until the market value of their endowments is above their original gifts,” Johnson says.

The school also will ask donors who pledge to endow scholarship funds over several years to let the school spend part of each year’s contribution on annual scholarship needs, with the hope that the market will generate investment income at least equal to the amount spent annually.

And as it prepares for the capital campaign, Johnson says, the advancement office aims to strengthen its communications and one-on-one meetings with donors and prospective donors.

It also might consider increasing the number of student performances for alumni in New York City and Los Angeles, and possibly expand them to Atlanta, Chicago and Washington, D.C.

As the only free-standing public arts conservatory, the only conservatory offering programs in five disciplines, and the only residential conservatory serving students from eighth grade to graduate school, the School of the Arts has “all the elements in place,” Johnson says.

“We have incredible stories share that always excite people about what we’re,” he says. “There is no place like this.”

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