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United Arts Council drive humming

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By Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The United Arts Council of Greater Greensboro is on a roll.

Basic operating grants that Arts Council distributes to 15 affiliate arts groups are up 6 percent from last year, and the organization’s annual fund drive is ahead of last year’s pace, thanks in part to a doubling in the number of volunteer fundraisers soliciting larger gifts.

The Arts Council also is taking part in a study to measure the arts’ impact on the local economy, launching a new effort to recruit more volunteers for arts groups, and talking to other local organizations about creating an arts website for the community.

Based on funds raised in its annual drives last year and this year, the Arts Council is awarding nearly $767,000 in basic operating grants to arts affiliates, including two that became affiliates last year.

While Triad Stage and the Music Academy of North Carolina had been eligible for several years to become affiliates, the Arts Council’s board first wanted to assure that making them affiliates would not reduce its funding for other affiliates, says Jeanie Duncan, the council’s president and CEO.

Operating grants range from $5,200 to the Greensboro Oratorio Society to $134,815 to the Eastern Music Festival and represent 5 percent to 18 percent of affiliates’ operating budgets.

The Arts Council’s board reviews and approves grants based on recommendations from volunteers who review affiliates’ applications and assess their performance in a range of areas, including programming, artistic excellence, community service, leadership, and financial and organizational stability.

The addition of the two new groups reflects several years of improved financial performance at the Arts Council, including elimination of debt of roughly $300,000 four years ago, and an annual fund drive that has exceeded its goal and raised over $1 million each of the past six years.

Chaired by Rob Kidwell, a lawyer at Smith Moore, this year’s drive kicked off February 2 with a goal of $1.45 million, up from just over $1.4 million raised last year.

Through mid-August, the drive had raised 86 percent of its goal, compared to 83 percent of the goal the drive had raised at the same time last year.

Duncan says a big factor in this year’s fundraising pace is a doubling, to 90, in the number of campaign volunteers soliciting larger gifts from individuals and corporations.

Overall, 340 volunteers participate in the drive.

Continuing to increase volunteerism for the arts is the focus of several Arts Council initiatives.

In its annual fund drive, for example, the Arts Council is working to develop stronger volunteer relationships with its top 25 corporate donors, Duncan says.

As they visit those companies, she and Ann Lynch, director of development, along with volunteer fundraisers led by Angie Orth, vice president and site administrator for Wesley Long Community Hospital, will be recruiting volunteers to serve on arts boards and contribute their business expertise to arts groups.

That effort will continue with next year’s drive, to be chaired by Harry Wellons, second vice president for Smith Barney.

The Arts Council also is working with the Volunteer Center of Greensboro and with arts groups to increase the number of arts volunteer opportunities the center posts.

And it is talking to the News & Record and other groups about a possible partnership to develop an arts Website for the community.

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