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Arts council targets individuals, young adults

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Todd Cohen

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Aiming to raise more money than last year in the face of a declining economy and the loss of county funding, the United Arts Council of Greater Greensboro has set a goal of $1.42 million in its annual fund drive.

Chaired by Angela Orth, vice president for regional development and quality at Advanced Home Care, the drive will focus on recruiting more individuals to make larger gifts, and working with young-adult members to recruit more of their peers, says Jeanie Duncan, president and CEO.

The struggling economy poses a big challenge, says.

“It’s a tough time, not just in Greensboro and Guilford County, but nationally,” she says.

Last year’s drive raised $1.36 million, falling $100,000 from the previous year in the wake of a cut by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners of $140,000 for the council.

After suspending its $20,000 arts-grant program for teachers because of the cuts, the council raised an additional $10,000 in private support to restore part the program.

Individual giving represents 28 percent of the arts council’s annual drive, compared to 37 percent, on average, for arts councils throughout the United States, Duncan says.

So the drive aims to increase the share of giving from individuals, particularly those giving “leadership” gifts of $1,000 or more.

Last year, the drive generated 156 gifts at that level, up from 141 the previous year, although most of the increase reflected corporate gifts.

“We want to focus, too, on the corporate and foundation market,” Duncan says, “but more of our energy will be focused on the individual market.”

Young adults also will be a big focus of the drive.

In surveying the community over the last six months as part of an effort to develop new strategies for the next three years, the arts council found that while residents age 25 to 34 represent 18.7 percent of the city’s population, only 9.3 percent of that group reported attending arts events, Duncan says.

And 89 percent of young professionals said it was important to have arts and cultural events geared to their specific interests.

But the survey also found the arts in Greensboro fall short of what young adults want.

Key to enlisting more young adults for the drive will be the arts council’s Prelude Society, which has at least 100 young-adult members who donate $50 or more.

The council, which also has found that Latinos and African Americans are not being effectively engaged in the arts, may form advisory councils to help get those groups get involved.

Overriding challenges for the arts community are to “do an even better job delivering a strong, compelling message” about the availability of arts and culture, and their impact on the local economy.

A study last year said the nonprofit arts industry in Guilford County had an economic impact of $30.7 million and provided nearly 1,100 jobs and $2.9 million in revenue for state and local government.

But the council has found that “traditional methods of getting the word out about arts events and activities are not effectively reaching all of our market,” Duncan says.

To find out about arts events, she says, individuals surveyed say they rely most heavily on their social networks.

So the arts as an industry must develop e-communication tools and make more effective use of informal networks like schools, churches, fraternities and sororities to spread the word about the availability of arts programs, Duncan says.

The arts council this year also aims to help develop and execute new strategies, beyond its annual drive, for generating revenue, possibly including an endowment campaign for the arts; an “enhancement fund” to help arts organizations grow and build their capacity; and alternative revenue streams such as tax revenue dedicated to the arts.

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