Nonprofit news roundup, 02.27.15

Giving expected to grow in 2015 and 2016

Charitable giving in the U.S. is expected to grow 4.8 percent in 2015 and 4.9 percent in 2016, a new report says.

Giving by individuals and households is expected to grow 4.4 percent in 2015 and 4.1 percent in 2016, while giving by estates is expected to grow 2.7 percent in 2015 and 6.3 percent in 2016, says The Philanthropy Outlook prepared by the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University and released by consulting firm Marts & Lundy.

Foundation giving is expected to grow 7.2 percent in 2015 and 6.7 percent in 2016, while corporate giving is expected to grow 6 percent in 2015 and 4.8 percent in 2016.

The report says the expected growth of overall giving in both years will exceed the estimated 3.1 percent estimated annualized average rate of growth in total giving in the years after the economy collapsed in 2008, and the 3.8 percent estimated long-term average for the 40-year trend in total giving from 1973 to 2013.

The report is based on 10 key predictors of giving drawn from over 16,000 combinations of economic variables that might affect each source of giving.

Forsyth United Way raises $16.93 million

United Way of Forsyth County raised $16.93 million in its 2014 community fundraising campaign, exceeding its goal by $430,000.

United Way says it is on track to meet its total resource-development goal of $20.8 million. That goal includes the community campaign, as well as grants, foundation donations, and major gifts. 

Chairing the community campaign was Cantey Alexander, Triad Regional President of BB&T.

Greensboro adopts nonprofit’s ID-card program

Greensboro has become the first city in the South to adopt a nonprofit identification-card program for immigrants, homeless people, the elderly and others in the community who may lack access to government-issued forms of identification, says FaithAction International House, the Greensboro nonprofit that created the program.

The Greensboro Police Department and the city’s water resources department, parks and recreation department, and library system now are accepting the FaithAction ID cards, says FaithAction.

The nonprofit, which is working with the city to clarify regulations for the ID program, and its benefits and limitations for each department, also says several cities in Alamance County will be adopting its ID program this spring.

The group says 1,700 FaithAction ID cards have been issued to individuals who are from Greensboro or live in the city and are from over 30 different nations and over 50 cities throughout North Carolina and Virginia.

FaithAction will host a conference on March 27 at Hospice and Palliative Care of Greensboro for government officials, law enforcement, academics, nonprofits, and immigrant and faith leaders from throughout North Carolina.

The conference will focus on the purpose, logistics ad impact of community ID programs.

BCC Rally gives $199,000 to Komen Charlotte

BCC Rally, an all-volunteer group in the Ballantyne area of Charlotte that raises money ad awareness for breast cancer, has given $199,000 to Komen Charlotte

In its 11th year, the group generated $116,000 from sponsorship support and a weeklong series of fundraising events in September, plus $83,000 from donations for pink bows.

BCC Charlotte says it the largest Rally organization in the U.S. and the single largest donor to Komen Charlotte.

Of the total gift, 75 percent will benefit local breast health organizations that provide screenings, treatment and education to under-insured and uninsured residents. The remaining 25 percent goes to the Susan. G. Komen National Research Fund.

BCC Rally says its contribution equates to roughly 750 mammograms. Breast cancer is the second most common form of cancer in women.

Marcia Myers Gainer, a member of BCC Rally’s board of directors and its vice president, has been elected president, effective immediately.

Sue Dockstader, who held the position for the past three years, remains on the board.

Carl Carande, national managing partner of the Advisory practice at KPMG, and Maura Sanborn, owner of Green Oaks a professional life and career coaching consulting firm and a breast cancer survivor, have joined the board.

The group will kick off its 2015 efforts on March 18 with a “wine and nibbles” event from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. hosted by Jeff and Fran Lyons at 10925 Ballantyne Crossing Ave.

Camp Grier governance restructured

The three Presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church, USA, that have overseen Camp Grier in McDowell County in western North Carolina since it was founded in 1952 have  created a new nonprofit to oversee the 650-acre camp.

As a result of the restructuring, which began nearly a year ago, enrollment in the camp last summer grew 17 percent, and early registrations for summer programming in 2015 have grown 34 percent, the camp says.

Julian Wright, a lawyer in the Charlotte firm Robinson Bradshaw Hinson, chairs the new Camp Grier board that now governs the program and oversees the property.

Wright was a camper, counselor, summer director and parent of campers at Camp Grier, and a member of the Joint Outdoor Ministry Committee that oversaw the camp for the Presbyteries of Charlotte, Salem and Western North Carolina.

Empty Bowls event to benefit Urban Ministries of Durham

Urban Ministries of Durham aims to raise $80,000, up from $66,700 last year, at its annual Empty Bowls event on March 5.

The “Best Soup in Durham” competition, presented by United Therapeutics, will be held from 5:30 p.m. o 7:30 pm at the Durham Convention Center.

Urban Ministries will use the funds to help serve over 241,000 meals a year to those in need.

Executive director at National MPS Society to retire

Barbara Wedehase will retire in October as executive director of the National MPS Society in Durham.

The group’s governance committee is looking for a new executive director.

The nonprofit works to find cures to mucopolysaccharidoses and related diseases, and to support affected individuals and their families through research, advocacy and awareness of the diseases.

Event to benefit Pat’s Place

Pat’s Place Child Advocacy Center will hold its second annual “Rhythm and Blues” fundraising event on March 28 at The Peninsula Club in Cornelius.

The event will be held from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m.

In 2014, Pat’s Place served 478 children in Mecklenburg County who were affected by sexual abuse.

Baby Bundles to hold annual coffee

Baby Bundles, which provides clothing for newborn babies, will hold its annual coffee on March 11 from 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. at Myers Park Country Club in Charlotte.

Two join Bookmarks board

Regan K. Adamson, an associate at Kilpatrick/Townsend, and Richard L. Williams, president and CEO of Black Business Media, have joined the board of directors of Bookmarks, a literary arts nonprofit in Winston-Salem that works to engage readers and and connect  them with authors. 

Reading Connections to hold volunteer training

Reading Connections, which provides free literacy literacy services for adults in Guilford County, will hold an orientation and two training sessions for volunteers on March 11, 16 and 18 the Self Help Building at at 122 North Elm St. in Greensboro.

A legacy of inspired educators

By Todd Cohen

[Note: This is excerpted from a report written for the Public School Forum of North Carolina.]

North Carolina faces a critical decision about our schools and our future. While our state’s continued growth and prosperity depend on the quality of learning students get in classrooms throughout the state, the teaching profession we count on to provide that learning faces huge challenges.

Fourteen percent of North Carolina’s teachers left the profession each of the past two years, up from 11 percent in 2010-11. From 2009-14, individual districts experienced five-year average annual turnover rates of up to 28 percent. Every year, public schools in our state look to other states to hire thousands of teachers to lead our classrooms. And enrollment at teacher-education programs in the University of North Carolina system — the main incubators for our state’s teacher workforce — has declined dramatically.

Compounding the strain on the teaching profession is the elimination of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, which between 1986 and 2011 recruited nearly 11,000 of the state’s best and brightest high school students to agree to teach in our classrooms in return for competitive four-year scholarships at teacher-education programs throughout the state, along with a rigorous program of support, enrichment, leadership development and classroom training.

Breakthrough initiative

The Teaching Fellows Program, created in 1986, was a breakthrough initiative that addressed a critical need for teachers in the state by recruiting top North Carolina high school students into teaching.

The program provided holistic training and support to develop Teaching Fellows as exceptional teacher-leaders. To underscore the message that teaching was a career as prestigious as law, medicine, business or other prominent professions, the Teaching Fellows Program offered competitive, four-year scholarships in return for a commitment to teach in North Carolina public schools for at least four years. If a recipient could not repay the scholarship through teaching service, the loan had to be repaid to the state with 10 percent interest.

Creating excellence

The strategy worked, creating a corps of inspired and dedicated educators who continue to lead schools, classrooms, school districts and education programs throughout North Carolina.

Studies of the initiative conducted in 1995 and 2012, and interviews conducted with former Teaching Fellows, program officials, and education leaders and experts, point to a common conclusion:

The Teaching Fellows Program made a big difference — in the quality of students it attracted, in the education they received, and for the students and schools they served. The program:

* Elevated the status of the teaching profession.

* Recruited top high school students from throughout North Carolina.

* Gave those students a holistic preparation for teaching that went far beyond traditional teacher training.

* Helped those teacher candidates better understand their state and the deeper role they could play as teacher-leaders.

* Produced exceptional educators and leaders who have continued teaching in the state longer than other teachers.

* Shaped educators who continually strive to inspire their students and improve themselves, their schools, their communities and their state.

* Helped meet the demand for teachers in low-performing, high-poverty rural and urban schools, and for male and minority teachers.

* Would have been self-sustaining and self-funding had it not been for regular transfers from the Teaching Fellows Trust Fund to the General Fund.

Leaving a big gap

The end of the program — which was funded through an annual appropriation by state lawmakers, overseen by the nonpartisan North Carolina Teaching Fellows Commission, and staffed and administered by the Public School Forum of North Carolina — will leave a big gap in the pipeline for excellent teachers after state funding for the program ends on March 1, 2015. No new Fellows have been recruited since 2010.

The challenge for education, government and business leaders will be to find ways to continue to create incentives for our most promising students to become teachers, and to give them the training and support they need to be the best teachers they can be, continue in their education careers, and serve as leaders and change agents in their schools and communities, and in the profession and the state.

Critical questions

The philosopher George Santayana warned that “those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

The North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program was created in 1986 in the face of an imminent crisis in the supply of new teachers to meet rising student enrollment, to prepare new teachers to be the best educators they could be.

Now, with state funding for the program ending, the state again faces the critical questions of how it will inspire the best high school students to become teachers, and provide the tools and resources they need to become exceptional teachers who will inspire our children to become informed, engaged and productive adults.

Sustaining the legacy

Leaders in education, government and business are looking for ways to preserve and build on the best practices and lessons of the Teaching Fellows Program. Those ideas include:

* Creating Teaching Fellows 2.0 to offer financial incentives or scholarships for top students to become teachers, but possibly through a shorter program, or one targeting hard-to-staff subjects and schools.

* Forming cohorts among college students in teacher-education programs and between programs at different campuses so they can learn from and support one another.

* Grounding teacher-education programs in the realities of public schools, society, government, politics and the marketplace.

* Creating a scalable model for preparing teachers that will include financial and other incentives to build on regional and national best practices and will include University of North Carolina system campuses as well as innovative, public-private initiatives.

* Creating a broad and flexible menu of best practices for the preparation of teachers, including those entering the profession from other fields.

* Developing a continuum of choices for prospective educators — from teaching through serving as principals — that clearly shows the career options they can pursue and the career paths they can follow; what will be expected of them in pursuing those options, including the investment they should expect to make themselves and the resources and rewards they can expect to receive; and metrics that will be used to track their progress and determine rewards.

* Improving connections between the training that teachers receive while they are in teacher-preparation programs and the support they receive after they enter the classroom.

Culture of caring

“It’s more than the content you teach the kids,” says Greg Little, a Teaching Fellow who is superintendent of the Mount Airy City Schools and whose parents both were teachers.

“The human part of teaching is the most important part,” he says. “The relationships are what drive teaching. Kids don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. Teachers have the ability to build those relationships.”

Who would not want their child to learn from teachers who care, who continually strive to do better, and whose commitment and motivation are rooted in an understanding of the complex issues and policies affecting children, families, education, society, the economy, government, and our communities and state?

What’s next?

Addressing the urgent challenge of who will teach our children is essential because while our public schools face a growing demand to prepare students who can thrive in the global economy, they receive limited resources to effectively educate children who face unprecedented challenges, many of them rooted in systemic problems outside the classroom and school.

Recruiting and preparing the most qualified students to become exceptional educators was the mission of the North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program and its legacy.

To make our public schools the best they can be, we need to work together to find ways to preserve what worked best in the Teaching Fellows Program, and to address what did not work, in any future teacher-education scholarship programs. We need to enlist top high school students and prepare them to be inspired teachers who will inspire their students.

At stake is nothing less than North Carolina’s hopes and dreams for a better future.

[To read the full report, click here.]

Wake Salvation Army fights human trafficking

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — In 2011, when Salvation Army of Wake County launched a program to rescue foreign-born victims of human trafficking, it served 12 individuals in its first three months — a number it had expected to serve in its first two years.

So it expanded the project, known as Project FIGHT, to include clients born in the U.S. and now has served 207 individuals, including victims and their family members. It also has trained over 4,500 people across the state to help identify individuals caught in the web of human trafficking, and raise awareness about the issue.

Now, with a two-year, $458,000 federal grant, the Salvation Army is expanding the program to New Bern and Salisbury.

“It’s modern-day slavery, which a lot of people don’t realize still exists,” says Christine Shaw, director of social ministries at Salvation Army of Wake County. “There are more slaves in the world that at any other time in history.”

Wake’s Salvation Army first got involved in statewide anti-trafficking efforts in 2005.

“Those efforts were mostly focused on foreign-born victims,” Shaw says. “But we quickly began to realize the domestic side as well — trafficking within our own borders.”

Foreign-born victims, many of them from Latin America, South America and Asia, often arrive in the U.S. “believing they are coming legally,” she says. Their families often pay for their travel, and they believe they are coming to work in a hotel or restaurant or as a nanny, for example.

But once in the U.S., many victims are put into organized brothel rings that may move them frequently up and down the East Coast. They are cut off from their families, and threatened that if they don’t do what they are told and pay off what they are told is their “debt,” their families will be hurt. And room and board are deducted from whatever “pay” they may receive.

Victims born in the U.S. often are befriended by someone who becomes a “boyfriend” before making the relationship commercial.

Most cases, especially in the Triangle, involve forced or coerced prostitution or pornography, Shaw says. Some cases involve labor trafficking.

Project FIGHT — an acronym for “Freeing Individuals Gripped by Human Trafficking” — partners with 150 groups such as hospitals, clinics, domestic-violence shelters, and agencies that focus on law enforcement, legal services, job-readiness and emergency assistance for needs such as clothing, food and housing.

For foreign-born victims, Project FIGHT works to get their documentation for residency.

And working with the North Carolina Coalition Against Human Trafficking, Wake’s Salvation Army is part of an effort to create teams of professionals across the state that can respond within 24 hours after a victim is found.

“We first try to stabilize people, make sure they have services they need,” Shaw says.

Operating with an annual budget of $350,000 and a staff that will grow to five people from three, Project FIGHT raises money through grants, contributions and an annual event, Just Art, a project of Red Light Film and Art, a nonprofit arm of Ekklesia, a Raleigh church.

In 2014, Project FIGHT served 66 victims, and likely will serve 75 this year. Just over a fourth of its cases involve minors, 37 percent are ages 18 to 25, and most victims trapped in commercial sex trafficking began at ages 12 to 14, Shaw says.

What is driving human trafficking, she says, is “the demand for cheap labor and commercial sex.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 02.20.15

Higher education adds $63.5 billion to state’s economy, study says

Institutions of higher education in North Carolina add $63.5 billion to its economy, a new study says.

That combined economic impact from the 16 universities in the University of North Carolina system, from the state’s 36 independent colleges and universities, and from its 58 community colleges, represents roughly 14.6 percent of the “gross state product” of North Carolina, and is equivalent to creating over 1 million jobs, the study says.

And while taxpayers invested $4.3 billion to support higher education in the state in fiscal 2012-13, the return on that investment totaled $17 billion.

Based on data from fiscal 2013, the study was commissioned by the UNC system, North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities, and the North Carolina Community College System.

In fiscal 2013, the state’s higher-education institutions spent $10.7 billion on payroll and benefits for over 186,000 full-time and part-time employees, and another $11.3 billion on goods and services, says the study, “Demonstrating the Collective Economic Value of North Carolina’s Higher Education Institutions.” It  was prepared by Economic Modeling Specialists International.

The combined economic impact included $27.9 billion from UNC system schools, $21.4 billion from community colleges, and $14.2 from independent colleges and universities.

Today, the study says, 40 percent of wage earners in the state have received education or training at a North Carolina community college during the last 10 years. Former students contributed a total of $19.6 billion in added state income, or the equivalent of creating more than 322,000 new jobs.

UNC’s 16 universities enroll 222,000 students and confer over 70 percent of all undergraduate and graduate degrees in the state. The added state income generated by those schools are equivalent to creating more than 426,000 new jobs.

UNC alumni contributed $17.9 billion of added income to the state. And added state income created through UNC medical operations, faculty research, and related inventions, patents and start-up companies totals $5.2 billion,or the equivalent of created over 57,000 new jobs in the state.

The 36 independent colleges and universities in the state together enroll nearly 90,000 students, generate over $4 billion in payroll and benefits for over 66,00 full-time and part-time employees, and $6.8 billion in goods and services to carry out day-to-day operations, research and clinical activities.

The total state income they add also includes spending on construction and the spending of students, visitors, start-up companies and alumni, or roughly 3.2 percent of the gross state product, the equivalent of creating nearly 219,600 jobs.

Total spending by institutions of higher education creates more spending across other businesses throughout the state economy, resulting in what are known as “multiplier effects,” the study says.

It says its analysis of the net economic impact of higher education in the state directly takes into account the fact that state and local dollars spent on institutions of higher education could have been spent elsewhere in the state and still would have had an impact on the economy.

North Carolina education lagging, should lead U.S., business group says

North Carolina’s education system is trailing those of other states and needs to improve for the state to succeed in the competitive global economy, a report by a business group says.

A draft report from BEST NC, or Business for Educational Success and Transformation, a nonprofit coalition of business leaders, paints a bleak picture of North Carolina’s readiness to compete in the global economy.

While 67 percent of North Carolina of jobs in the state by 2020 will require some education after high school, for example, only 58 percent of adults in the state in 2013 had reached that level of education, it says.

Last year, it says, 40 percent of North Carolina employers reported “absolutely critical” vacancies.

And only 16 percent of North Carolina students graduate from high school ready for college and careers, while 56 percent of North Carolina’s public school students come from low-income backgrounds and enter school and life “with greater barriers to overcome.”

In its “Proposed North Carolina Education Vision for Discussion,” BEST NC spells out a “vision” that it says will help North Carolina make the highest academic progress in the U.S. by 2020 and lead the U.S. in academic achievement by 2030.

It says those goals can be achieved through “three overarching strategies” that span the “education continuum” from pre-kindergarten through post-graduate study.

Those proposed strategies, spelled out in the draft report, call for:

*Supporting students “early, often and comprehensively” by creating a “seamless system of educational support that provides every student the opportunity to  succeed academically.”

* Elevating educators by putting “teaching and leading on par with other top professions in the nation, fostering the talent we need to help students become highly skilled and prosperous professionals.”

* Raising expectations by “meeting each student where they are and taking them where they need to be to participate and collaborate in the 21st century economy.”

The report is based on over 600 recommendations from 17 working groups and a process that included 52 meetings involving over 300 education “stakeholders” from over 200 organizations throughout the state interested in North Carolina education.

The report says North Carolina’s education system is guided by dozens of “disconnected” local and state strategic education plans, each affecting one or many pieces of education “but with no alignment.”

In the past, the report says, North Carolina has led the U.S. in many aspects of education, and has had a series of visions for education.

“But without a clear vision for over a decade, student academic achievement has flatlined,” it says. “We have seen a slew of well-intentioned but disjointed efforts to improve education, but each has had only moderate success because they are formed and implemented in the absence of a comprehensive vision.”

The report invites feedback through March. Starting in April, the group aims to engage “all education stakeholders in North Carolina to participate in moving North Carolina toward this shared vision.”

Civic engagement in North Carolina on par with rest of U.S., study says

Contrary to widely held views, current levels of civic engagement in North Carolina are no better than national averages, a new study says.

Twenty-six percent of North Carolinians volunteer, compared to 25.4 percent in the U.S., for example, while 53.3 percent of North Carolinians contribute $25 or more to charity, compared to 50.1 percent in the U.S., says the 2015 North Carolina Civic Health Index.

Prepared by the Institute for Emerging Issues at North Carolina State University and produced in partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship, the study measures “civic health,” or the “social vitality that results when citizens interact productively with their neighbors, involve themselves in community institutions, and actively engage in public issues.”

In some measures, the study says, North Carolina departs from national averages.

North Carolinians, for example, participate at higher levels in schools, neighborhoods, community groups and religious institutions, compared to national averages, and at lower rates in sporting and recreational groups.

North Carolinians have lower trust in the media than the national average, and a high number of veterans who are “engagement superstars,” the study says.

Other findings include:

* Young adults’ participation rates on several measures lag those of older adults by more than 25 percentage points.

* Young adults have more trust in corporations, the media and public schools than older adults.

* African Americans and Latinos in North Carolina report lower levels of civic participation than whites and non-Latinos.

* Families with incomes above $75,000 report civic engagement levels that far outpace those of families with incomes of no more than $35,000 on most, if not all, measures.

* Individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree are much more engaged for most measures than those with only a high-school diploma.

* Rural and urban communities are more challenged to engage residents than suburban communities, with rural residents reporting substantially less volunteering activity.

In 25 years, the study says, North Carolina will be one of the seven most-populous “mega-states” and likely will become a state in which minorities together constitute the majority of residents. The state also is “quickly greying, browning and urbanizing,” it says.

Yet  despite its “impressively advanced economy and leadership in many high-growth industries, median household incomes in our state are flat, the income gap is widening, and we are seeing rising poverty in our urban centers,” the study says.

Higher levels of civic engagement, it says, “will strengthen North Carolina communities and differentiate the state economically in an increasingly competitive world.”

Forsyth groups lead in statewide United Way awards

For the second straight year, organizations in Forsyth County received the most Spirit of North Carolina Awards from United Way of North Carolina recognizing commitment and support to the community through local United Way involvement. 

Of the 42 Spirit awards presented at the February 13 annual meeting and awards luncheon by United Way of North Carolina 11 Forsyth County groups received the award.

They include Aladdin Travel and Meeting Planners, BB&T, City of Winston-Salem, Deere-Hitachi, First Community Bank, First Tennessee Bank, HanesBrands, Pepsico, Reynolds American, Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, and Wake Forest University.

In a special recognition, Reynolds American won the state Excellence in Community Spirit award, given to a single company that shows the most outstanding community support based on year-round commitment through leadership and advocacy for community change, building a culture of volunteerism, and investing resources to improve quality of life for all. 

Five Greensboro groups honored by United Way

Five Greensboro organizations have received Spirit of North Carolina Awards from United Way of North Carolina recognizing their commitment and support to the community through local United Way involvement. 

Recipients of the award for their support of Unted Way of Greater Greensboro includeVF Corporation; Guilford County Human Resources Department; City of Greensboro and Guilford County Employee Campaign; E.P. Pearce Elementary School; and Guilford County Schools.

High Point University honored by United Way

High Point University received a 2014 “Spirit of North Carolina” award from United Way of North Carolina, marking the third straight year it has received the award.

The school raised $225,000 in 2014 to support United Way of Greater High Point and its 28 partner agencies. That was 13 percent more than it raised last year and an increase of nearly 500 percent from 2005.

Ellis-Stewart joints Mental Health Association

Ericka Ellis-Stewart, principal of GoodStewarts Consulting and at-large representative on the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Board of Education, has joined the Mental Health Association of Central Carolinas in Charlotte as donor relations specialist.

Variety show to benefit two nonprofits

Just Right Academy and Mental Health America of the Triangle, both in Durham, will benefit from an all-volunteer variety radio show that will be held on February 21 at the recently restored Murphey School in rural Orange county.

The ninth Murphey School Radio Show since October 2011 will include a matinee at 3 p.m. and a repeat performance at 7 p.m. The .

Seating is limited to 150 in the auditorium of the recently restored Murphey School. Two performances are planned for Saturday. The evening performance will be recorded for broadcast on WCHL 97.9 FM.

The Historic Murphey School is located at 3717 Murphey School Rd. at the intersection with Old NC 10.

The show is a program of the Shared Visions Foundation and is produced by Minnow Media.

Habitat Greensboro launches effort to pool contributions

Humanity of Greater Greensboro has launched a new initiative, Building on Faith, that aims to quickly pool contributions from multiple faith-based groups to support new housing.

The effort, which also includes study materials, devotions and volunteer opportunities for congregations, already has generated contributions from 31 churches.

It will kick off on February 28 with the start of two new houses at 3602 and 3604 Holts Chapel Road.

Health underwriters to meet

Rebecca Shigley, deputy commissioner of the Agent Services Division of the North Carolina Department of Insurance, will be the speaker at the March 3 meeting of the Triad Association of Health Underwriters.

She will talk about rebating regulations. The event will will be held at Starmount Forest Country Club in Greensboro and begin at 11:45 A.M.

Nonprofits aim to connect with donors

By Todd Cohen

[Note: This was written for Blackbaud.]

Fundraising is getting personal.

Whether big, small or mid-sized, nonprofits are looking for ways to better understand donors and focus their fundraising on creating opportunities for donors to support the particular causes and interests they care about.

Nonprofits use a broad range of strategies to focus their fundraising on donors. Those strategies can include segmenting appeals based on donor interest; giving donors the opportunity to create their own funds, and their own websites to raise money for those funds; and listening carefully to feedback from fundraising volunteers.

Roger Williams Park Zoo

Last year, the Roger Williams Park Zoo farmed out the marketing of its annual fund to a local mail house and marketing firm. The firm analyzed the Zoo’s mailing list and the results of a survey the Zoo had conducted that asked donors what interested them the most at the Zoo. The analysis found that donors who cared most about conservation and research, animal care, and general zoo activities gave more than other donors.

So for last year’s annual fund drive, the Rhode Island Zoo Society, which manages the zoo for the City of Providence, targeted those three donor groups.

The appeal raised $75,000, setting a baseline for what the Zoo expects will be significant increases in future years.

Fundraising at the Zoo has become “very, very donor-centric,” says Brooke Fairman, director of development.

Personal touch

Operating with an annual budget of $7.5 million, the Zoo counts on memberships, events and corporate sponsorships for a big share of its budget.

With over 17,000 household memberships that generate over $1.6 million in annual revenue, the Zoo uses a personal approach to encourage members to increase their level of membership.

With members paying $99 on average a year, 1,500 members known as “Zookeepers” pay $150, and another 250 known as “Zoo Guardians” pay $250 or more.

During the annual renewal cycle, the Zoo invites Zookeepers to become Zoo Guardians.

“We are constantly looking to upgrade people,” says Elizabeth Grover, development and member services manager.

For Zoo Guardians, for example, the Zoo takes a more hands-on approach to stewardship, with personal phone calls, handwritten notes, and invitations to visit the Zoo, “go behind the scenes, feed an animal, and lots of tours,” she says.

“We’re constantly trying to move people up, finding out where their interest is,” she says.

Events fundraising

Events also are a big revenue-producer, including an annual event known as Zoobilee the Zoo has hosted for over 20 years.

Last June, the adults-only, after-hours event featuring live music, “animal encounters” and over 40 restaurants, caterers and beverage providers, attracted 1,400 guests who paid $125 or more for tickets, and sponsors that paid up to $25,000. The event generated $250,000.

And as the largest tourist attraction in Rhode Island, Fairman says, the Zoo generates a lot of support from corporations that want to reach the Zoo’s visitors.

The main supporters of Zoobilee, for example, are corporate sponsors, and most of the people at the event are the sponsors’ guests.

“Corporations, knowing the amount of people who go to the Zoo, tend to want to be involved with the Zoo,” Fairman says. “We have very longstanding relationships that we continue to nurture. It’s a lot of communications, touchpoints, constantly checking-in.”

The Zoo also offers special events for potential corporate sponsors.

During the week when Rhode Island and Massachusetts public schools are on vacation break, for example, the Zoo offers events throughout the week for families, and gives its corporate partners the opportunity to distribute brochures or demonstrate their products and services.

And this year, it launched “Brew at the Zoo,” a new after-hours event for people age 21 and older who could sample beer from over 50 breweries, providing an opportunity for corporate sponsorships.

Social media

Expanding beyond direct-mail appeals, the Zoo is embracing multi-channel marketing through email and social media.

It has found, for example, that most visitors to its website use mobile devices to look at the website. It also aims to capitalize on the following it has generated on Facebook and Twitter.

And this year, the Zoo is producing a mobile app that visitors to the Zoo can download to get information about animals, programs and their location in the Zoo.

It also is posting information every day on social media about topics like camp programs it offers, or any fundraising campaigns or appeals.

Making it personal

What matters in fundraising is understanding donors and getting them involved, Fairman says.

“It’s really the personal touch in all areas, corporate and individual donors,” she says. “We’re constantly touching them. We’re looking for what makes the donors tick, not just treating everyone the same.”

For the annual fund, for example, the Zoo drafted three appeal letters — one each for members with an interest, respectively, in conservation and research, animal care, or building a new exhibit.

The letters focus on “how the donor can help, what the donor has done so far, and what their gift means, and here’s why we still need your help,” Grover says. “We’ve really moved to a donor-centric model. It’s really about the donors’ interests and the impact they’ve had on the organization. It’s not so much about what we do, but it’s only because of the donor that we’re able to do it.”

CureSearch for Children’s Cancer

With events generating roughly 48 percent of the $6.1 million it raised in 2014 to support research, CureSearch for Children’s Cancer faces a big challenge in converting the 20,000 individuals who participate in its events into ongoing donors.

Among individuals who participate in a CureSearch event for the first time because they are family members, friends, neighbors or co-workers of parents who have children with cancer and who help raise money for the event, 60 percent agree to participate a second year. But only 20 percent to 30 percent agree to participate a third year.

“We’ve got a limited amount of time to capture them,” says Christine Bork, Chicago-based chief development and communications officer for CureSearch, which is based in Bethesda, Md.

CureSearch has developed a strategy to convert event participants to donors to its annual fund over 18 months to 24 months. The strategy includes five to seven “outreaches” that do not ask for money but provide educational materials and other information, as well as six to eight requests to give.

“The events are a portal to our individual giving strategy,” Bork says. “We bring them in through events, then have to retain them using other strategies.”

Events strategy

In 2014, CureSearch raised money through 50 community walks, and four 28-mile hikes. For the community walks, the nonprofit provides staff liaisons that help guide local volunteer committees that plan and raise money for the events.

The number of volunteers can range from 15 to 20 for an event that will attract 200 to 300 participants in a community like the Lehigh Valley region of Pennsylvania, to 30 to 40 volunteers for an event in a community like Chicago that will attract 2,000 participants.

CureSearch handles all the planning and logistics for its four hikes, each of which typically attract 25 participants who each must contribute at least $2,500 and sometimes give as much as $5,000 to $6,000, mainly through fundraising.

Annual fund and major gifts

CureSearch generates $700,000 a year through its annual fund, and $600,000 from major donors, or those who give $10,000 or more.

Fundraising for the annual fund consists of eight electronic appeals, with the average gift totaling $160, while its major-gifts strategy focuses on personal visits to donors or prospects by one of the nonprofit’s two major gift officers, or its CEO or Bork.

For major donors, CureSearch in 2014 launched two events — one at the Huntsman Cancer Institute in Salt Lake City, and the other at the University of California at San Francisco — at which scientists presented the results of their research, and donors toured the research labs. It also held a research symposium that attracted mainly scientists but also a few parents.

Customized fundraising

The biggest success for CureSearch among major donors has been an initiative that identifies event participants with the capacity to give at least $25,000, typically by raising those funds.

Using a Blackbaud template that carries the CureSearch brand and can be co-branded with the name of the donor family, CureSearch lets parents of children who have died from cancer or who still have it create funds to support research, along with a website to raise money for those funds.

In the past two years, the number of funds has grown to eight from two, including two that raise six-figure totals annually. Collectively, the eight funds gave roughly $600,000 for research in 2014.

“What’s working for us right now is the customization of fundraising for different audiences, giving a very small but very important group of people exactly what they’re looking for,” Bork says. “We give them their own website, and we’re maintaining and supporting that and giving them the resources to help them fundraise.”

Using the same Blackbaud product, CureSearch offers similar opportunities for families that might raise much less, such as $500.

“We’re allowing people to do whatever they want to do to raise money for this cause whenever they want to do it,” she says.

Cultivating donors, showing impact

Using simple tools, CureSearch is working to better inform and engage donors.

It offers simple language donors can use to provide for CureSearch in their will, and received bequests totaling $250,000 in 2013, and $20,000 in 2014.

It distributes an electronic newsletter four times a year that focuses on the results of the research it funds, and sometimes a story about a donor who has raised money.

And it publishes an annual report and, twice a year, an “Impact Report” that features information graphics, optimized for a mobile device, on the research it has supported, such as the number of cancer cell line studies it has funded or the number of genes investigated with its support.

“You would think in cancer research it’s hard to demonstrate results because it might take years to show impact,” but the Impact Reports are generating “great feedback for us,” Bork says.

A key lesson is to “meet your donors where they are,” she says. “Give them 24/7 access, and help them understand the results and feel like they’re part of the results, that what they’re doing is truly meaningful.”

Darlington School

In its recent comprehensive campaign that raised $97 million, exceeding its goal by $7 million, Darlington School in Rome, Ga., learned about the value of listening to its volunteers and adapting to changing circumstances.

On Sept. 17, 2008, just before an event at the Capital City Club in Atlanta that attracted 300 guests for the campaign’s public kickoff, the school’s development staff met with the 40 members of its local campaign cabinet to talk about their assignments over the next 18 months to ask for gifts from the school’s top 200 prospects in the region.

That day, however, the Dow plunged nearly 500 points, triggering a collapse in the capital markets.

In the following weeks, campaign volunteers were “reluctant to call on their assignments and ask for a contribution,” says Joe Montgomery, chief advancement officer.

So in early October, the School reconvened its Atlanta cabinet, advising the volunteers not to “waste good prospects on a bad economy,” Montgomery says.

“Cultivate those relationships,” was the advice given to the volunteers, he says. “They’re your friends. If you’re tentative about asking, and they’re uncertain, then take them to lunch. Don’t avoid them. Cultivate them.”

Darlington also modified its campaign plan, focusing on markets west of Mississippi and north of Virginia.

And after exceeding its $90 million goal by its deadline on May 31, 2012, the campaign added a “Go the Extra Mile” segment that ended Dec. 31, 2013, and raised another $7 million.

Peer-to-peer fundraising

Volunteers were key to the success of the campaign, and to overall fundraising at Darlington, a coeducational day and boarding school that was founded in 1905, and has 800 students from 25 states and 30 countries in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade.

“Nothing works more effectively than peer-to-peer fundraising, and there’s no substitute for the personal visit,” Montgomery says.

After raising $35 million during a year-long feasibility phase, and then securing approval from the school’s board of trustees to raise another $30 million during a one-year quiet phase that began in September 2007, Darlington kicked off the $90 million campaign with the Atlanta event after raising a total of $65 million.

It held similar events throughout the U.S. in communities ranging from Miami and New York to San Francisco and Seattle. It screened a campaign video in each market, and assigned local volunteers to ask for contributions from peers.

“The video presented the case and the needs for the strategic plan, and set the stage for volunteers asking for gifts in those markets,” Montgomery says.

Early in the campaign, most donors were giving cash and appreciated securities. But as the markets sank, most major donors — those giving $25,000 or more — made planned gifts.

“In 2009, ’10 and ’11, donors became more tentative in making multi-year commitments because of the uncertainty of the economy,” Montgomery says. “But in order to achieve the level of commitment they desired, they finally got around to making that estate gift.”

Of the total raised in the campaign, planned gifts accounted for nearly $40 million, while cash and appreciated securities accounted for the balance.

Darlington, which has nearly 10,000 alumni and an endowment of $35 million, also sustained the level of giving to its annual fund during the campaign. The annual fund now has generated over $1 million a year for 17 straight years.

Campaigns within campaign

During the campaign, two donors each agreed to give $500,000 to support endowments — for faculty professional development, and for financial assistance for minority students, respectively — if Darlington could match those gifts with contributions from other donors.

“In a bad economy, if you can double your money, you might dig a little deeper,” Montgomery says. “That was a tactic that resonated well and attracted donors of all sizes ranging from $25 to $200,000.”

The “campaigns within the campaign” also gave the school an opportunity to talk about two important needs, he says.

Each endowment challenge exceeded its goal.

Trustees and leadership

Of the total raised in the campaign, $50 million — or over half the total raised — was committed by trustees, former trustees and life trustees of the school. And every current member of the board of trustees made their largest gift ever to the school.

That trustee support also was important in securing grants from foundations, particularly in Atlanta, which claims Darlington as its boarding school, Montgomery says.

“When you’re sitting in a foundation board room and delivering a proposal, and you can say every member of the board has made their largest gift, that’s strong,” Montgomery says.

Overall, foundations contributed $20 million to the campaign.

Equally critical to the success of the campaign was its top leadership, Montgomery says.

The two campaign co-chairs were a former CEO of a Fortune 500 company and a self-made businessman in the Atlanta real-estate market.

“There was never a place too far for them to travel get the job done,” Montgomery says.

Social media

While peer-to-peer fundraising powered the campaign, Darlington used social media to promote big gifts and help fuel the work of its fundraising volunteers who were asking their friends and peers for donations.

“One of the key elements for success in our campaign, which was uniquely challenged by the downturn in the economy and the headwind that created,” Montgomery says, “was sustaining positive momentum by using social media particularly, and keying in on big wins on a regular basis so our volunteers didn’t get discouraged and kept their enthusiasm for working for us.”

And for younger donors, the school held text-a-thons, with small groups of alumni convening at “hotspots” and then texting classmates, raising money, and enjoying a social event.

Broader lessons

Securing and promoting big gifts should be a fundamental strategy for fundraising at any nonprofit, Montgomery says.

“Be thoughtful about engineering big wins and early victories to create positive momentum for the effort,” he says.

Equally important is valuing the work of volunteers, and their feedback.

“Listen to your volunteers,” he says, “and don’t be hesitant to modify your campaign plan or even recalibrate expectations.”

In the end, he says, meeting an organization’s fundraising goal depends on effectively cultivating the people critical to meeting that goal.

“Actively steward the relationships that will ultimately define your success,” he says, “whether they be trustees, campaign volunteers or major donors.”

Statewide online journal offers arts reviews, listings

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — In July 2001, aiming to fill a gap in reviews of classical music in the Triangle after Spectator Magazine in Raleigh and Independent Weekly in Durham dropped their classical coverage, local arts patrons helped launched Classical Voice of North Carolina, a Raleigh-based statewide online arts journal.

Edited and run for many years by its founder, John Lambert, who now volunteers as senior contributor, CVNC published over 500 reviews of classical music, dance, theater, jazz, world music, and visual arts in the fiscal year ended June 30, 2014.

It also published listings in that fiscal year of over 3,550 events representing over 7,230 individual performances, and since 2010 has posted listings of 15,000 events from nearly 1,000 presenters, performing groups and artists.

Writing its reviews are 40 critics from throughout the state who work as freelancers for CVNC.

“We are filling the gap that has been left by the print newspapers reducing their coverage of the arts,” says Carolyn Kohring, who began working with CVNC in 2005 as administrative manager and has served since July 2012 as executive director.

In addition to Kohring, CVNC employs two part-time editors — one for music and dance, the other for theater and the calendar listings — as well as three college interns it pairs with three of its freelance critics who serve as mentors to help the students learn how to write arts reviews.

While the Triangle accounts for the biggest share of its reviews, listing and philanthropic support, CVNC covers the arts throughout the state.

In the most recent fiscal year, CVNC posted 1,738 event listings from the central part of the state, including the Triangle; 918 from western North Carolina; 575 from the Triad; and 263 from eastern North Carolina.

In the same period, it published 275 review of events in central North Carolina; 120 in western North Carolina; 99 in the Triad; and 35 in eastern North Carolina.

Operating with an annual budget of $100,000, CVNC generates 20 percent of its funds through grants from the City of Raleigh Arts Commission, United Arts Council of Raleigh and Wake County, and North Carolina Arts Council; 20 percent from foundations; and most of the remainder from individual contributions.

“A very large number of our donors have been loyal donors from the beginning,” Kohring says.

In the most recent fiscal year, it also generated nearly $11,500 from advertising.

CVNC markets itself with “friendraiser” events it has held in Raleigh, Greenville and Greensboro. It also distributes bookmarks and brochures at ticket offices at symphony concerts and other events.

And it agrees to publish previews of concerts prepared by the presenters in return for advertising space in printed programs for the concerts. Kohring says CVNC works to ensure the editorial integrity of reviews through a strict separation between its editorial and administrative operations.

To increase philanthropic support, CVNC’s board two years ago created a fundraising committee, which this year plans to hold another event in Greenville.

CVNC also sends two solicitation letters each year to supporters, including a year-end appeal and another in early June that includes an invitation to an annual event at Ruggero Piano in Raleigh that features musical performances and a conversation between critics and guests about arts criticism.

“The arts represent the kind of people we are,” Kohring says. “Our residents and our visitors need to know what’s available and what the quality of that is.”