SECCA aims to reconnect with community


Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — When the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem reopened in June 2010 after 18 months of renovations, it had become a state institution and no longer charged an admissions fee.

And until this past May, when Mary Beth Johnson took the job, SECCA had gone nearly a year without a director of development.

Johnson, who had served as director of major gifts for the School of Music, Theatre and Dance at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, says the museum’s top priority will be to continue to reconnect with the community, while her top priority will be to focus on raising money from individuals.

“We’re working to bring the community back to SECCA,” Johnson says.

Operating with an annual budget of $1.5 million, the center employs 10 people working full-time and two working part-time.

Two of those employees work for the SECCA Foundation, an arm of the N.C. Museum of Art, and six are partially funded by the state.

The center receives roughly 25 percent of its funding from the state, 30 percent from the James G. Hanes Foundation, 32 percent from fundraising and grants, and 13 percent from the Arts Council of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County.

For the past year, SECCA has contracted with Winston-Salem consulting firm Whitney Jones Inc. to support its fundraising from corporations and foundations, and since January with Excalibur Advancement Services to support its fundraising from individuals.

For the fiscal year that began July 1, Johnson aims to increase individual fundraising alone to 25 percent of the organization’s annual budget from 10 percent, or $150,000, in the fiscal year just ended.

She has been working with Excalibur, for example, on developing a campaign to acquire new donors that is set to begin this month.

She also wants to double, to 500 households, the number of SECCA members, an effort that would generate $50,000 in new funding.

And she hopes over the next year or two to triple, to 75, the number of “leadership” gifts, or those totaling $1,000 or more.

To help do that, she says, she will be meeting face-to-face with prospective donors, and using the SECCA Foundation board’s “influence and contacts in the community to begin building those relationships.”

And by generating more individual and leadership gifts, she says, SECCA hopes to “create a foundation” for developing a “major-gifts” program to secure individual gifts of $15,000 or more, and for launching a planned-giving program to develop deferred gifts through wills and estate plans.

The fundraising strategy will build on SECCA’s effective efforts in the past to generate corporate and foundation support, Johnson says.

Efforts to continue to reconnect SECCA with the community include Crossroads, an annual series of four performances that blend visual arts and music, and The Intersections Project, an initiative in which the organization’s education curator works closely with the arts coordinator for the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools to integrate the visual arts into academic courses such as chemistry and physics, and to bring artists into the schools for workshops or residencies.

SECCA also will be increasing its use of e-marketing and social media to reach out to a younger audience.

And in June, it hosted a “house party” that it hopes to make a signature fundraising event it plans to hold every year.

The event, which attracted about 240 people and raised about $50,000, included an auction at which people bid on over 23 properties the owners offered for short vacations.

“SECCA’s overall goal,” Johnson says, “is to reconnect with the community after being closed for renovation. We’re working to bring the community back to SECCA.”

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