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Arts & Science Council launches drive

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Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE,N.C. — As it begins its annual fund drive, which this year has set a goal of $11.2 million, the Arts & Science Council is looking ahead, aiming to strengthen and get more peopleinvolved in the arts.

This year’s drive is focusing on the impact a gift to the council will have on the arts while also encouraging people to participate in arts programs and contribute their time and money to individual arts groups,says Lee Keesler, the council’s president and CEO.

“There’s a lot available and there’s a wide variety and there’s something for everyone in the cultural sector,” he says. “We want people to understand it takes more than just the dollars that come to the Arts& Science Council to fund the cultural sector.”

Co-chaired by Ann Caulkins, president and publisher of The Charlotte Observer, and Bob Hambright, CEO of Balfour Beatty Construction, this year’s drive will include workplace campaigns at over 400 businesses andcorporate gifts from over 650 companies.

The council, recognizing the squeeze the weakening economy may put on individual and corporate givers, set a goal for this year’s drive that is $300,000 less than the total raised last year, although organizers hopeto exceed last year’s total, Keesler says.

The council will use funds raised in the drive to fund activities for arts groups and artists in the fiscal year that begins July 1.

The council aims to broaden its base of donors through direct-mail appeals to individuals who have not given to the council in the past, by targeting employers that previously have not held workplace campaigns,and through online giving.

Last year’s drive generated contributions from 4,000 to5,000 new givers, and $100,000 through online giving.

The council also is asking corporate CEOs to join its “Vanguard Circle” bymaking gifts of $1,000 or more, up from $750.

Since it launched the initiative in 1999, the council hasrecruited 3,300 CEOs giving $750 or more each.

Teaming up with Wachovia and Tivoli Partners, the council also is targeting givers in geographic markets.

And with creative support from Wray Ward Lasseter, the councilis promoting the drive using billboards and other media.

This year, Kessler says, the council is developing a”roadmap” for its work over the next five years that focused on broadening engagement in the cultural sector and building its sustainability.

The council will invest more in marketing to raise awareness about arts programming.

A key investment has been in an online arts calendar at www.charlottecultureguide.com that the council launched last February.

The council also plans, starting in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2009, to begin making competitive grants to help arts groups improve their programs or strengthen their ability to generate more earned or contributed income, Keesler says.

In addition to its current financial support, which provides basic operating support for arts groups, he says, the new grants program will focus on “building the kills or capacity or muscles of an organization to sustain itself long-term.”

The council also has begin offering workshops for artsgroups and artists on topics such as marketing, branding, fundraising and board development, and will offer group-purchasing programs for products and services that arts groups need to run their business.

And within five years, Keesler says, the council aims tohelp develop an “auxiliary” facility of roughly 150,000 square feet that could house space to accommodate a variety of uses such as rehearsals, storage,classrooms and scene shops.

“We want to make sure everyone in Mecklenburg County has access to arts and culture,” he says. “The more people we can attract to participate in the cultural sector, the better.”

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