Arts & Science Council launches $8.2 million fund drive

02/01/2013 12:00 AM

05/01/2013 1:26 PM

The Arts & Science Council kicks off its annual Make Your Mark fund drive Friday, passing the hat to refill Mecklenburg County’s cultural pot. But this year, the hat has shrunk a bit.

The $8.2 million goal is 5 percent smaller than the $8.7 million target last year, when the drive fell short by $300,000. The new goal reflects not only the economy in which Mecklenburgers find themselves but also the ASC’s determination to find new ways to raise money for culture, including the operations of 24 organizations.

“Our donors are under pressure,” says ASC board chairwoman Linda Lockman-Brooks. “They want to support us but have a lot of things coming at them. We feel this (total) is attainable, based on the changing philanthropic world. Last year, we didn’t quite attain our goal. This year, we could exceed it.”

ASC president Scott Provancher says forecasters “take into consideration what business a company is in, whether it added employees or had a strong year. Then we go to the company and have a conversation about what we hope it’ll achieve. We’ve met with all the major workplaces and a good many more modest ones, (so) we have a good lay of the land.”

Brooks and ASC board member Kevin Patterson will co-chair this effort; Jim and Mary Lou Babb are honorary chairpersons. They have eight weeks of phone calls, personal letters and donor visits ahead of them. (The drive ends April 5, though the ASC may wait until the last pledges are fulfilled to announce a total at the end of its fiscal year, on June 30.)

That $8.2 million still represents about 55 percent of the $15 million in revenue Provancher expects to take in this year. (About $300,000 of the drive comes from individuals outside companies, though that’s expensive to pursue.)

But as Lockman-Brooks points out, times have changed – and, if you’re raising money for the arts, times are harder.

She arrived in Charlotte shortly before Hurricane Hugo in 1989 and recalls the boom of the ’90s, when “we the ASC could increase the goal every year: There was more industry coming in, large companies were continuing to get larger, and the only big fund drives were ASC and United Way.” Today, corporations employ more employees who live outside the county and offer more choices to in-house donors.

So Provancher and his team will spend time considering new revenue models. Right now, about 35 percent of their money comes from government, led by $3 million from the city. The ASC’s unrestricted endowment is about $30 million, and 4.5 percent of it (about $1.4 million) can be added to the budget each year.

Power2Give, the Internet site that lets people donate directly to projects, should raise $600,000 in Charlotte this year. (The ASC also gets revenue from 10 Power2Give sites it developed for other locations.) The rest comes from grants and other sources, such as the 1 percent of budgets required to be spent on art during public construction; the ASC administers that fund.

“We still want everyone to dig as deep as they can for the drive,” says Provancher. “But (it’s urgent) to begin a public conversation: If growth is not coming from this campaign, how will we support organizations moving forward and invest in education and culture?

“We have to develop new ways, public and private, to work together to grow. The drive is not going to be the growth engine it once was.”

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