The Arts & Science Council needed every minute it had but finally reached the target of its annual fund drive: $7.3 million.
Only late Monday afternoon - when its leaders needed to be leaving for the campaign-closing event at Discovery Place - did the ASC receive the pledges that pushed it to the goal.
"We met at lunch," board chair Mary Lou Babb said, "and we were still nervous."
The ASC had already extended the campaign two weeks beyond the original closing date. As with the United Way's recent campaign, the recession made fundraising slow.
When the ASC decided March 10 to push back the deadline, it was $1 million from the goal.
The ASC was still $200,000 away last Thursday. Then it got a boost when the Foundation for the Carolinas and the Leon Levine Foundation announced challenge grants of $50,000 apiece.
Those grants lured other donors, ASC president Scott Provancher said. Some people who hadn't made pledges finally decided to do so. Some who had already given opted to increase the amount.
"They had already done their part. They were already donors," Provancher said. "And they called us and said, 'I want to do more.'"
About $25,000 came in over the weekend through the ASC's Web site, Provancher said.
"Making that $7.3 million... shows that the city still backs arts and culture" despite the economy, said Tom Zweng, the drive's co-chair.
"But more important... is the impact that number will have," Zweng said. About $900,000, he said, will go to educational programs for young people.
The goal represented roughly the same amount the ASC raised in last year's drive.
That campaign, which took place as fears about the recession and its effect on Charlotte were fresh, marked a drop of more than 30 percent from the previous year's $11.2 million total. That was the sharpest decrease of any arts drive in the United States.
Though the fundraising this time was still difficult, Provancher said, the results included positive signs:
Out of 406 companies that ran workplace-giving drives, 167 beat their goals.
The three biggest workplace drives - at Bank of America, Duke Energy and Wells Fargo - brought in 14 percent more money than last year, reversing the 2009 declines.
"We had a lot of things going against us," Provancher said. "But we had a lot of people saying, 'We're not going to use the economy as an excuse.'"
The money from the campaign will go into grants the ASC will give to its beneficiaries during the 2010-11 season.
The fund, founded in 1958, benefits dozens of cultural groups across Mecklenburg County. It also makes grants to individual artists.
After last year's plunge in fundraising, the ASC laid off staffers and made sharp cuts in its grants.
The fact that this year's drive avoided a further drop may signal that a turn upward can come next, said Bruce LaRowe, executive director of the Children's Theatre of Charlotte.
"All of the groups made tremendous cutbacks" after last year's drive, LaRowe said. "I think we're seeing the light at the end of the tunnel."