Community Theatre launches drive

GREENSBORO, N.C. — The Community Theatre of Greensboro has kicked of a capital campaign to raise $2 million to buy the Broach Theatre property at 520 South Elm St. downtown.

Chaired by Greensboro lawyer Sally B. Cone and Adrian Smith, owner and operator of 10 McDonalds franchises in the Triad, the campaign already has raised over $750,000 in gifts and pledges from over 35 donors.

The Community Theatre, which was founded in 1949 and says it is the oldest arts organization in Guilford County, directly serves roughly 49,000 children, teens and adults a year, with its theater-education program serving over 600 children a year through classes, camps, workshops and productions.

The troupe has facing growing demand for services it says it can’t keep up with because of the performance locations it rents, and its small rehearsal and office spaces at the Greensboro Cultural Center.

“For the first time, our board and staff feel confident that purchasing our own home is a real possibility,” Mitchell Sommers, who has served as executive director for 22 years, says in a statement.

Lead gifts to the campaign include $250,000 from the family of Barbara and Herman Cone Jr., $150,000 from The Cemala Foundation, and $100,000 from Donald L. and Sandra L. Henson.

Honorary campaign co-chairs are community leaders Barbara Cone and Doris Tanger.

Bryan gives $1.5 million to Guilford

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Greensboro philanthropist Joseph M. Bryan Jr. has given $1.5 million to Guilford College to boost an endowment or a lecture series he established with a $1 million gift in 1994.

With the new gift, which increases the endowment to $3.5 million, Bryan has given a total of $9 million to Guilford in his lifetime.

The gift by Bryan, who chairs the school’s board of trustees, also increases to $2.8 million his commitment to Guilford’s ongoing $60 million campaign to support endowment facilities and annual operating expenses.

The campaign has raised over $45 million.

Speakers at the Bryan Series have included Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Desmond Tutu, Sidney Poitier, Toni Morrison and, last month, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Charities need to trust themselves

By Todd Cohen

A virulent strain of strategic paralysis threatens to afflict much of the charitable marketplace.

Deeply wounded by unprecedented financial distress, and looking for a quick fix, many charities are becoming smitten if not obsessed with trendy, philanthropically-correct management ideas peddled by nonprofit trade groups, consultants, foundations and academic researchers.

So in trying to cope with escalating demand for services and an increasingly grim market for charitable investment, many nonprofits are trying to swallow, without digesting, big concepts like logic models, market research, metrics, performance evaluation, social media, entrepreneurialism, and return on investment.

Any or all of those and other concepts, if they make sense for a particular nonprofit and are planned carefully and applied strategically, might help an organization inform the way it works and help it survive and thrive.

But many nonprofits simply grab onto those ideas in a panic and without scrutiny or thinking through their implications, including their true costs and possible downside, as well as how to put them into practice in the most productive way.

Strategic theories, whether borrowed from the world of business or developed in think-tanks or on university campuses, are no substitute for street smarts and common sense.

No matter what a consultant advises, a funder demands, or a study or textbook prescribes, nonprofits need to think on their own about how to cope in an economy that is deeply damaged, and a social and global environment that is evolving quickly in the face of multiple crises, sweeping demographic change, and rapid advances in technology.

A management theory or formula certainly can help inform the decisions a nonprofit makes about how to improve its services, operations or fundraising.

But no two organizations or sets of business challenges are alike, market forces continually shift, and theory is little more than a guess until put into practice.

Many nonprofits are fortunate to have experienced and gifted managers and leaders who can help their organizations set a vision, build a team, think for themselves, understand their challenges, and identify, sort through and select their most promising options and partners.

But far too many charities are willing to put their brains, experience and instincts on hold while embracing well-meaning but often vague and half-baked ideas prescribed by trade groups, consultants and funders who are quick to preach their pet theories but do not stand in the shoes of those charities and will not have to live with the consequences of the advice they give.

Instead of blind faith in these self-anointed experts, who often are clueless about or complicit in the cut-throat competition and shameless cronyism that corrupt the charitable marketplace, nonprofits need to trust their own ability to find their way out of the economic gloom and doom.

The best hope for charities is to have faith in their own vision and judgment.

Nonprofit jobs grow faster than business

Nonprofit jobs grew at an average rate of 2.1 percent a year from 2000 to 2010, compared to a decline of 0.6 percent a year for for-profit jobs, a new report says.

During the recession years of 2007 to 2009, nonprofit jobs grew an average of 1.9 percent a year, compared to an average loss in business jobs of 3.7 percent a year, says the report from the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

“Nonprofit organizations have been holding the for much of the rest of the economy over the past decade, creating jobs right through the recent recession and jobs crisis, while other components of the economy have been shedding jobs at accelerating rates,” Lester M. Salamon, author of the report and director of the Center for Civil Society Studies, says in a statement.

But with signs of recovery beginning to appear, he says, “there are serious qu4estions about whether nonprofits will be able to sustain this resilient performance in the wake of the impending sharp cuts in government spending.”

The report, Holding the Fort: Nonprofit Employment during a Decade of Turmoil, is based on data from the Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages, a data-collection program of state governments in cooperation with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Nonprofits in the U.S. employed 10.7 million workers in 2010, accounting for 10.1 percent of total private employment in the U.S. and representing the third-largest workforce among U.S. industries, trailing only retail trade and manufacturing, the report says.

Three service industries account for most nonprofit jobs, with health care     accounting for 57 percent, education for 15 percent and social assistance for 13 percent.

While nonprofit job growth overall outstripped business, for-profit employment growth outpaced nonprofits n the three key fields of social assistance, education and nursing-home care, with nonprofits losing significant market share to for-profits in those fields, the report says.

During the recession, nonprofit employment grew in 45 of the 46 states for which data were available, while for-profit employment fell in 45 states.

Nonprofit employment grew in all regions of the U.S. from 2000 to 2010, with average annual growth ranging from 1.5 percent in the East-South-Central region to 3.4 percent in the Mountain region.

In the same period, for-profit employment posted annual average declines in all but two regions, which saw a growth rate that was no more than one-seventh that of nonprofits.

Agency engaging donors to help serve patients

By Todd Cohen

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — In the fiscal year that ended June 30, 2011, the low-cost clinic at Care Ring served roughly 2,100 clients from Mecklenburg County, mainly uninsured or underinsured working professionals, some of them working poor.

In the current fiscal year, with the broken economy making it tougher for low-income people to make ends meet, the clinic is on pace to serve 3,500 clients.

“They make enough to disqualify them from free services, but don’t make enough to get private medical care,” says Susan Furtney, who joined the Charlotte nonprofit as executive director in September 2010.

Formed in 1955 and formerly known as Community Health Services, the agency operates with an annual budget of $2 million and a staff of 24 employees and serves roughly 7,000 people a year.

In addition to the clinic, Care Ring runs a program, known as Physicians Reach Out, that is akin to a private health insurer for low-income, uninsured residents of Mecklenburg County.

It also operates an “evidence-based” program known as Nurse-Family Partnership that provides intensive home visits by nurses to  first-time low-income mothers in the county.

To keep up with growing demand for services, Care Ring aims to do a better job building relationships with donors who give $1,000 or more.

The agency, which receives roughly $450,000 from United Way of Central Carolinas, and about $150,000 from Mecklenburg County, as well as funding from events and sponsorships from corporations, counts on private foundations and individual donors for most of its funding.

But it gets only about 45 donations a year of $1,000 or more, and now is working to help donors and prospective donors better understand its work and impact, Furtney says.

The low-cost clinic, which provides primary-care services for $50 a visit and also offers low-cost labs and nurse visits, was created three years ago “to serve people who fall through the gap” because they do not meet the financial eligibility requirements of the seven free clinics in the county, Furtney says.

Physicians Reach Out, launched in 2004 by the Mecklenburg County Medical Society and based on a program in Asheville known as Project Access, served 4,500 patients in the most recent fiscal year.

Care Ring initially provided administrative support for the program and took on overall responsibility for it in 2009 after startup funding to the Medical Society ran out, Furtney says.

Based on their applications and an evaluation of their eligibility, mainly involving their income and savings, Care Ring refers and assigns patients to a primary-care physician and issues them an insurance card.

Care is provided at the offices of health-care providers through a network of 1,600 physicians, dentists, allied health professionals and hospitals that donate their time and services.

And the agency’s Nurse-Family Partnership has served 200 mothers since the program was launched in December 2008.

Research into the national model has found it breaks the cycle of poverty for participants, improves pregnancy outcomes for the mother and child, improves child health and development, and improves the family’s economic self-sufficiency, Furtney says.

A key goal of Care Ring is to help educate clients, patients and their health-care providers.

“Care Ring exists to give a voice to the uninsured and underinsured,” she says, “and our mission is to create access, advocacy and education to build a stronger, healthier Charlotte.”

Blackbaud buying Convio

Blackbaud, a provider of software and services for nonprofits, has agreed to acquire Convio, a provider of on-demand constituent-engagement solutions for nonprofits, in a deal estimated to be worth over $312 million.

Under terms of the agreement, approved by the boards of both companies, Blackbaud will acquire all outstanding shares of common stock of Convio for $16 a share and will finance the deal through a combination of cash and debt.

The combined company will have over $440 million in annual revenue and net debt of roughly $240 million.

Gene Austin, president and CEO of Convio, will take on a leadership role at Blackbaud, reporting to Marc Chardon, its president and CEO.

Blackbaud, based in Charleston, N.C., has over 25,000 customers in over 60 countries that raise over $100 billion a year using the company’s technology.

Convio, based in Austin, Tex., has over 1,500 customers in the U.S., Canada and Britain.

In 2010, its U.S.  clients used its software and services to raise over $1.3 biolion online, send over 4 billion email message, power over 32 million advocacy actions, and manage relationships with over 248 million constituents.