ASC trims 2015 fundraising goal by 12 percent

Charlotte’s Arts & Science Council will slash its annual fundraising goal by 12 percent from last year as part of a new strategy encouraging donors to give money directly to organizations they want to support.

In all, the ASC said Monday it hopes to raise $6.1 million in unrestricted gifts by April 30 for cultural organizations in the region, matching what it raised in the 2014 drive, which fell short of its $6.9 million goal.

More than 20 arts, history and science organizations – including the Mint Museum and Discovery Place – get unrestricted grants each year from the ASC, which also provides money to artists, manages the government’s public art program and runs a variety of other programs. This year’s drive is being led by William Farthing Jr., a partner at Parker Poe Adams & Bernstein LLP.

ASC workplace drives have been faltering in the last decade, and a yearlong community task force recommended last year that the group concentrate more on connecting patrons to organizations they would use and decrease emphasis on the annual fundraising duty. That would enable potential donors to channel more money directly into groups and activities that excite them personally.

“We are seeing that many of the groups are doing much better in individual and corporate fund-raising, which is encouraging,” Robert Bush, ASC president, said Monday. “We think this is a trend, but we’re not declaring victory yet.”

New approach by ASC

Bush said the ASC has reorganized staff to focus more intently on engagement, figuring out approaches to link people in the community to certain arts and cultural organizations. He said the ASC will be conducting surveys, building a donor database and working with the UNC Charlotte Urban Institute on strategies to connect organizations to people who would be interested in their specialties.

Bush said long term, the ASC and member groups want to be more regionally driven in their outreach, targeting 16 counties in the area from Anson in the east, Cleveland in the west, Catawba in the north and Chester, S.C., in the south.

Another change to the drive this year is that instead of launching it uptown on a workday when limited numbers of people can be involved, it will begin on Saturday with a “Connect with Culture Day” featuring free events spread across the county.

Among the attractions will be Charlotte Ballet holding a jazz movement class at the Siskey YMCA in Matthews, On Q Performing Arts founder Quentin Talley leading a slam poetry workshop at the University City Library, Opera Carolina’s educational touring company performing at the Steele Creek Library and A Sign of the Times of the Carolinas will performing at International House in Plaza Midwood.

ASC is expected to invest $13 million in the cultural sector this fiscal year in public and private money.

Task force report

Organized by the ASC, the Cultural Life Task Force examined how other cities, from Miami to Minneapolis, pay for museums and other cultural initiatives.

Its recommended new ways to ensure financial stability for the cultural sector, which includes everything from the Charlotte Symphony to the museums at the uptown Levine Center for the Arts to the Carolina Raptor Center in Huntersville. It recommended that the ASC change its mission to identify people that various groups should be marketing their programs to.

It also recommended that local governments increase contributions to the arts and a significant increase in private donations be sought. It called for raising at least $40 million over 10 years to invest in fundraising and marketing and an additional $125 million for an endowment campaign. Government investment should total about $35 million over 10 years, the task force said.