Hoping to start building back its fundraising after being clobbered last year by the recession, the Arts & Science Council will try to raise $7.3 million in its annual campaign - a little more than in 2009.
The ASC announced the target Tuesday during the kickoff at the Two Wachovia Center atrium uptown. The campaign runs through March 12.
Last year, as the banking industry's troubles hit Charlotte, the ASC drive raised about $7.2 million. That was far short of its goal of $11.2 million - the amount it actually raised in 2008. The year-to-year drop was the sharpest felt by any arts drive in the United States.
This time, the ASC wants to make a point by doing a little better.
"We felt it was important to show the community that we're building off what we hope was a low point," ASC president Scott Provancher said.
Some ASC leaders wanted to shoot for more than $7.3million, board chair Mary Lou Babb said. But the group decided to play it safer.
"There still is a lot of uncertainty in the economy," Provancher said. "We believe this is a number we can deliver."
About $2.5million is already pledged.
That includes a total of $1.25million from Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Duke Energy, Provancher said. That is an increase of about $115,000 from the companies' total contributions last year.
The fact that some businesses are giving more than last year hints that there may be optimism about the economy, said one of the drive's co-chairs, Tom Zweng.
Because of that, "I think we're in a better position for the start of the campaign," Zweng said.
Zweng is an executive at Presbyterian Healthcare. The other co-chair is Wells Fargo executive Madelyn Caple.
The ASC, founded in 1958, raises money for many Charlotte-Mecklenburg cultural groups and individual artists. It also funds educational programs, and manages the public art programs of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County.
The ASC's top strategy for bringing in more money: reaching out to past donors who dropped out last year. It also will start on tactics that it hopes will pay off more over time, Provancher said. Seeking donors who are beyond the reach of its workplace-giving drive is one. Using social media to build buzz around the campaign is another.
The ASC has already lured more money from one source: its own board. Board members beefed up their personal donations by 25 percent to a total of $125,000, Provancher said. The board has about 55 members.
As it always does, the ASC is pushing board members of groups it supports to contribute, too.
"Anyone who serves on a board ought to know that they should support not only the board they sit on, but the entire cultural scene," ASC chair Babb said after the kickoff.
A committee made up of groups' executive directors is working to get all 600 board members of ASC-supported groups to give, said Light Factory executive director Marcia Kelso.
The Charlotte Symphony's board will meet next month to decide "how to be a good partner" for the ASC, said Jonathan Martin, the orchestra's executive director. The roughly 40 symphony board members have donated about $535,000 to the orchestra in the past year - plus another $500,000 for a multi-year bridge fund.
The financially struggling orchestra's relationship with the ASC was strained last year when the ASC cut its support of the group. The ASC said it didn't want to put so much into an organization whose finances weren't healthy.
But the orchestra should look beyond that, Martin said.
"Our board understands the importance of the (ASC) campaign succeeding," Martin said. Since Provancher's arrival as ASC president last summer, he added, the groups have been trying to work as partners.
"We need to think about our work together not based on the past," Martin said, "but based on the future."