In high gear: The NCAR Dashboard

[Note: This article was written for MPrint, the magazine of the Meadows School of the Arts at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, and was published in its summer 2017 issue.]

By Todd Cohen

In 1987, the year Zenetta Drew joined the Dallas Black Dance Theatre as executive director, the 10-year-old company unveiled an ambitious growth plan: find and move into downtown quarters; begin a touring program; pay full-time salaries to its dancers.

It was a tough time for arts organizations; the much older and larger Dallas Ballet had just announced it was facing financial distress, and folded soon after. And Drew had no professional arts training.

For the previous 12 years, she had held accounting and management jobs at ARCO Oil and Gas Co. But she knew how to use data. Over countless hours, she studied the Dance Theatre’s books, organized and analyzed information, and conducted feasibility studies and audience surveys.

After weeks of assessment, she was able to share metrics with board members and prospective donors. The metrics, such as the expected ticket sales resulting from increased marketing, showed them the return they could expect on their investment in the company’s growth plan.

The strategy worked. During Drew’s tenure, the programs, performances, audiences and revenue the Dance Theatre operates with an annual budget of $4.9 million – up from $175,000 in 1987.

But analyzing finances and performance no longer has to be a manual, time-consuming job for arts leaders.

Now, when Drew wants to assess the Dance Theatre’s financial and management performance, she turns to a new, free online dashboard from the National Center for Arts Research at SMU.

Building the capacity to improve

The easy-to-use NCAR Dashboard allows arts organizations to assess themselves on 24 broad measures in such areas as revenue, expenses, marketing and staffing, and see how they compare to peers throughout the U.S. that are similar in size, field of interest, and audience and community demographics.

Known as the KIPI Dashboard (“KIPI” stands for Key Intangible Performance Indicators), it launched in 2016; Drew was an early tester.

“With this free tool, arts organizations can more easily gauge how well they’re doing in the areas that are important to them, and can make more informed decisions to reach their particular goals,” says Zannie Voss, director of NCAR and professor of arts management and arts entrepreneurship in SMU’s Meadows School of the Arts and Cox School of Business.

Moreover, adds Drew, the tool gives arts philanthropists information to help them make donation decisions. “Donors are able to get a better feel for how to evaluate programs and their return on time, money and resources,” she says.

For smaller organizations in particular – which represent most arts and cultural nonprofits – the KIPI Dashboard provides a highly sophisticated diagnostic and analytical capacity they otherwise likely would lack, says Drew, a founding member of the NCAR advisory board.

A grantmaker’s perspective

Dwight Walth, director of cultural facility and grant services in the Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture, is a proponent of the KIPI Dashboard. Walth encouraged a number of nonprofits that receive grants from his agency to sign up for one of NCAR’s monthly dashboard webinars.

According to Walth, the arts sector represents a volatile marketplace, and the business model for arts organizations can be complex. In many ways, he says, nonprofits face “different kinds of stresses and issues” than for-profit companies, including their overall dependence on both contributed income and earned income. Nonprofits often get special grants “that can go away next year, so it’s just sort of riding waves of production and exhibits that go well and don’t, special exhibits that do well and don’t,” he says.

“Clearly, what the dashboard offers is a way for the organization to tell the story of their successes and challenges beyond the raw data by looking across the sector peer group as a whole,” he says. “An organization would then have a powerful tool to show to their board of directors and to funders to put in context how they’re doing. They could see in their trend reports, in the trend data or in the final score within an index, that they are performing lower or higher than they would expect.

“And when they dip into their scores, they get trend information and details about how they can increase their score, what factors need to change to increase a score.”

Insights for board members

In June 2016, when the Dallas Black Dance Theatre launched a new strategic plan, its board wanted a clear sense of the financial baseline from which it was setting out, and how it compared to peer organizations throughout the U.S. As a relatively small organization, the board also wanted to know how it stacked up against peer groups in contributions from board members.

Among several other aspects, the DBDT learned from the new tool that its board donations covered eight percent of expenses – two percentage points higher, on average, than expenses covered by boards of larger arts groups such as symphonies.

“When measuring ourselves as a $5 million organization, compared to a $40 million to $50 million organization, it helps our board understand they’re carrying a larger proportional contribution,” Drew says. “It helps them value the level of contribution they’re making.”

The Dance Theatre now uses information from the dashboard throughout the year as it recruits prospective donors and board members who otherwise might not have wanted to get involved because of the mistaken belief they “can’t make much of a difference,” Drew says.

Gauging financial performance

The dashboard has been a goal that Voss and her team at the National Center for Arts Research have been working on since NCAR’s founding in 2012. NCAR was created to assess the health and stability of the arts sector in America by compiling and analyzing the most comprehensive set of data ever assembled on the arts industry. The dashboard is the next evolution of NCAR, providing a free, customized resource that allows arts organizations to look at their own performance relative to the field.

The dashboard draws on data from nearly 8,000 cultural nonprofits that have submitted their information to NCAR partner DataArts over the past five years. The dashboard lets an organization access its own confidential, individual scores that show how it ranks relative to its peers in nine broad indices of finance, operations and attendance. Each index consists of multiple metrics.

The dashboard gauges tangible factors that affect performance, such as an organization’s age, sector and marketing budget, as well as intangible factors such as good decision-making and artistic

Arts leaders can track their company’s performance in each index over five years, and use what they learn as a catalyst to inform and guide their staff and board in planning, decision-making and development.  A nonprofit could use the dashboard to conduct a benchmarking analysis, for example, before undertaking a capital campaign.

And by clicking an “Increase My Score” button on the dashboard, nonprofits can see what they would have needed to do to improve performance in areas such as attendance, corporate contributions or return on fundraising.

The dashboard also features articles on best practices for each of the nine indices. They range from governance and contributed income to community engagement and staffing.

And while NCAR does not provide consulting services itself, its website features a list of national consultants it has worked with over the years that dashboard users can turn to as they work to improve their performance.

Key Data Source: The Cultural Data Profile

The KIPI Dashboard represents a collaboration among a network of partners, including Philadelphia-based DataArts. Founded in 2004 as the Cultural Data Project by a Pennsylvania group of public and private grantmakers and advocates, DataArts now has collected data from 16,000 arts, cultural and science organizations throughout the U.S., ranging from ballet and opera companies to symphonies, museums and performing arts groups.

Those nonprofits – about 15 percent of the roughly 100,000 cultural nonprofits in the U.S. that file Form 990 returns with the IRS – have completed annual Cultural Data Profiles for DataArts totaling several million data points.

“DataArts was started to better understand how to help cultural nonprofits become more sustainable,” says Beth Tuttle, DataArts president and CEO. “The organizers were in the business of giving grants and investing in cultural nonprofits, and were seeking greater insight into those nonprofits’ financial and operational health.”

Also prompting creation of the effort, she says, was the overall “lack of detailed data in standardized form to help make decisions as funders, to look at trends and figure out what actually was happening with organizations they were funding.”

The millions of data points represent an unparalleled, broadly available asset for the cultural sector.

Both arts organizations and granting organizations make use of the Cultural Data Profiles. Arts organizations that submit a profile are then able to generate a variety of analytics and reports, such as balance sheets and annual reports; apply for grants; and more. Funders, many of whom require grant applicants to submit data to the profile, can get a report from DataArts for each individual applicant, and can compare applicants to peers and see grantee trends.

Completing the Cultural Data Profile is also the first step in creating an individual KIPI Dashboard. Nonprofits that complete a profile can then seamlessly access the dashboard from either the DataArts platform or NCAR website.

Tracking an audience’s likelihood of buying tickets

Large arts organizations like museums and symphonies “have become increasingly sophisticated about understanding their communities and how to do targeted marketing that understands where in their community their attendees come from and which are more loyal,” says NCAR Director Voss.

Yet the vast majority of arts organizations in the U.S. are small and lack the financial and human capacity to use data to improve their performance and drive their growth, says Voss, a former man- aging director of the PlayMakers Repertory Company at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

To help equip them with that capacity, NCAR is developing a new tool, known as an “audience development heat map,” that will show arts organizations the “likelihood of purchase” for households in every census tract within 20 miles.  “If my goal is to increase purchases, I can look at census tracts and my own organization’s ticket sales, and see areas we haven’t targeted,” she says. Or if an arts organization wanted to diversify its audience by attracting younger or more culturally diverse people, the interactive map will help target areas where those audiences live.

The tool, expected to be launched in 2018, will be designed to be “flexible enough for organizations to use that have different marketing objectives,” and will help small and mid-size nonprofits with limited capacity better understand their audiences and target their marketing, says Voss, who also is a member of the DataArts board.

Rising to challenges: marketing, budgets and politics

Together, the KIPI Dashboard and future audience development map represent breakthrough tools designed to help arts organizations, particularly those that are small or mid-size, navigate an increasingly challenging and complex cultural marketplace, Voss says.

People-per-program-offering – a key metric – generally has declined over time, for example, while the number of offerings has grown. And funders sometimes press cultural groups to come up with new initiatives. As a result, arts organizations are looking for ways to market themselves and their new programs more effectively.

Cultural organizations also have seen the share of their budgets provided by government funding decline, on average, from 5.4 percent in 2011 to 4.8 percent in 2014, she says.

And with the White House and Congress considering elimination of agencies like the National Endowment for the Arts, Voss says, the cultural sector could lose a key source of funding that typically helps drive support from state and local funders, both public and private. In rural areas that lack philanthropic capacity, NEA funding can be critical.

The KIPI Dashboard and the planned heat map from NCAR are tools that give cultural nonprofits otherwise hard-to-get data that make it easy to track their performance, compare themselves to peer organizations, and inform planning and decision-making by their board and staff – along with articles on best practices and success stories – to drive continual improvement, Voss says.

“We are at a moment in time in the field of arts and culture when we’re finally starting to have robust data from the organizations themselves,” she says. “These tools are intended to give them additional knowledge from their own data, useful to them on a personalized basis, to help them move the dial in the performance areas that are important to them.”

Tuttle, who serves on NCAR’s advisory board, says smart, well-organized data is critical for cultural organizations. “Data plus stories equal impact,” she says. “Data alone doesn’t tell the story. Anecdotes alone don’t make the case. But you put those two things together, and you can tell a much more compelling story to a broader set of listeners. And that is imperative in the current political context we’re in.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 08.25.17

Groups team up on hub for regional health data

Local medical centers, health departments, foundations, United Ways and other health and human services providers have partnered to create Piedmont Health Counts, an online database focused on health and other social issues in Guilford and Alamance counties.

The data hub is part of a national initiative, known as Healthy People 2020, that includes targets for preventing disease and promoting health, and aims to help communities assess their health status and build lan agenda for improving community health.

Piedmont Health Counts, at, includes dashboards tracking community health and disparities; data on demographics and “socioneeds;” and comparisons of current data to future targets.

It also tracks health priorities and local reports for Guilford and Alamance counties, and provides other tools and resources.

Parters in Piedmont Health Counts include Alamance County Health Department; Alamance Regional Medical Center; Alcohol & Drug Services of Guilford; Cardinal Innovations; Cone Health; Cone Health Foundation; Foundation for a Healthy High Point; Guilford Adult Health; Healthy Alamance; High Point Regional Health; Impact Alamance; Public Health Division of the Guilford County Department of Health and Human Services; United Way of Alamance County; United Way of Greater Greensboro; United Way of Greater High Point; Department of Public Health Education, University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Stevens to head Alamance Community Foundation

Gavin Stevens, former senior director of resource development for United Way of Greater Greensboro, has been named executive director of the Alamance Community Foundation in Burlington.

The position is new for the foundation, which was established in 1991.

Stevens also serves as chair of the board of directors of Reconsidered Goods, a creative reuse center in Greensboro.

Penny named executive director at Family Abuse Services

LaTonya McIver Penny, a bi-vocational senior pastor at New Mount Zion Baptist Church, has joined Family Abuse Services of  Alamance County in Burlington as executive director.

Penny, a Roxboro native who also will continue in her role at the church, succeeds Tammy Smith, former director of residential services, who served as interim executive director starting in January 2017 after Lynn Rousseau, the former executive director, departed to accept a position in Georgia.

V Foundation wine event raises $9 million

The V Foundation for Cancer Research in Cary raised nearly $9 million at the 19th Annual V Foundation Wine Celebration in Napa Valley, Calif., including over $7 million in donations to support the study of BRCA mutation research in laboratories and clinics across the U.S.

In its 24 years, the V Foundation has awarded over $170 million in cancer research grants.

Over the last 19 years, the Wine Celebration has raised over $88 million for cancer research and related programs.

The 20th Annual V Foundation Wine Celebration will be held on August 2-5, 2018.

Funds at endowment honor High Point lawyers

Two North Carolina Bar Foundation Endowment Justice Funds have been dedicated at the North Carolina Bar Center in Cary to honor two long-time High Point attorneys — James F. “Jim” Morgan and his father, the late James V. “J. V.” Morgan.

Established in 1987, the Endowment has awarded nearly $5.8 million for 729 grants across North Carolina.

Addiction Recovery Care Association gets $20,000

The Addiction Recovery Care Association has been awarded a $20,000 grant from the Winston-Salem Foundation to fund a feasibility study to determine community partners and support for a newly planned medical/dormitory facility at the ARCA Campus on Union Cross Road that will more than double the agency’s capacity.

Conducting the study over the next three months will be Winston-Salem consulting firm Whitney Jones Inc.

Cooper Academy gets $25,000

The effort to revitalize space in the former Cooper Elementary School in Clayton, now Cooper Academy, for programs in science, technology, engineering, art and math has received donations of $15,000 from One27Homes and a total of $10,000 from the Parkview and Ashcroft communities, Jaclyn Smith Properties, HomeTowne Realty, and Adams & Hodge Engineering.

One27Homes also donated nearly 200 hours of labor to help with the renovations.

ALS Association to benefit from Restaurant Week

The North Carolina Chapter of the The ALS Association will benefit from proceeds from a pop-up dinner on August 27 from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. at The Cadillac Service Garage in downtown Greensboro.

Hosted by local chefs and restaurants that are donating all the food, beverages and staff,  the event, will kick off the third annual Downtown Greensboro Restaurant Week.Free Marketing blitz for nonprofits

August 30 at 5 the deadline for nonprofits in the Triad and Triangle to submit applications to SFW for pro-bono marketing services the firm will provide as part of CreateAthon, an annual 24-hour creative blitz by agencies across the U.S. and Canada to develop and deliver advertising, branding and marketing services for local nonprofits with little or no marketing budget.

In last year’s blitz, SFW served 33 nonprofits and completed 88 marketing projects, serving the most clients and producing the most work out of any agency participating.

Event to benefit service-dog program

The Inaugural maCares Tribute 5K Run/2.5K Walk will be held on September 9 at Country Park/Jaycee Park in Greensboro to honor service members and first responders.

All proceeds will support the maCares & faith Cares Service Dog Support Program, which works to relieve the financial burden of caring for a service dog so  the veteran, child, or adult can focus on living a full and productive life with the aid of the service dog.

The program covers the initial and re-certification training expenses, plus daily care expenses such as food, supplies, veterinary, medications and grooming.

Funding available for arts project

September 22 is the deadline for submitting proposals to the Longleaf Collective for seed funding of up to $20,000, plus volunteer support from members of the giving circle, to explore or put into effect a new arts program, with a particular focus on art that engages underserved communities in nontraditional spaces.

Members of the giving circle aim to raise $10,000 to $20,000 for the effort.

Nonprofit news roundup, 08.18.17

Healthcare Foundation of Wilson gives $1.6 million

Healthcare Foundation of Wilson has awarded 23 grants totaling $1.6 million to address critical community needs in the areas of adolescent pregnancy; alcohol and substance abuse; obesity; and sexually transmitted diseases.

Southern Documentary Fund getting $900,000

The Southern Documentary Fund is Durham is getting $900,000 over three years from The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and will used the funds to make grants for documentary makers living in the region; to expand a screening series to more cities; and to establish a peer-to-peer mentorship program for movie makers.

Longino named CEO at Camp Corral

Leigh Longino, chief operating officer at Camp Corral in Raleigh, which serves children of military families, has been named CEO.

Hurricane relief getting $207,500

North Carolina Community Foundation in Raleigh allocated $207,500 from its Disaster Relief Fund to go to 15 of its affiliates that serve parts of eastern North Carolina still recovering from Hurricane Matthew.

Food Bank gets $40,000 plus 50,000 pounds of food

The Food Bank of Central & Eastern North Carolina has received over $40,000 and nearly 50,000 pounds of food as part of the Lowes Foods ‘Bag Childhood Hunger’ initiative.

More than $10,000 of that total will go directly serve the Wilmington region.

Pepper Festival to benefit Abundance NC

Abundance NC in Pittsboro will benefit from the 10th Annual Pepper Festival, which will be held September 24 from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Briar Chapel, a master-planned community in Chapel Hill.

Beaufort-Hyde Community Foundation gives $1,440

Beaufort-Hyde Community Foundation, an affiliate of the North Carolina Community Foundation, awarded two grants totaling $1,440.

Community service focus of Exchange Club

By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — Exchange Family Center, formed 25 years ago by members of Exchange Clubs in the region to help prevent child abuse, received $15,000 in the fiscal year ended June 30 from the Exchange Club of Greater Durham.

Through its Durham Blues & Brew Festival and a beer concession its volunteers staff at Durham Bulls Athletic Park, the Club raises about $30,000 a year to support the Family Center and other local causes.

“The premise of Exchange is to promote Americanism and community service, to do good in our community,” says Debbie Mangum, president of the all-volunteer civic group and co-owner of Mangum Benton Ventures.

Since it was formed in 1981, the Club has contributed roughly $700,000 to community groups, including a total of $83,000 in the past three years, when half the funds each year have gone to Exchange Family Center, and half to another to 10 to 12 groups that each receives a grant of $500 to $1,000.

Operating with an annual budget it generates from $150 dues each member pays each quarter, the Club meets for lunch the first four Thursdays of each month from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. at the University Club in University Tower.

Three of those meetings each features a speaker from a local nonprofit, or a local expert to talk about a community issue, with the fourth meeting focusing on Club business.

Each quarter, in a month with five Thursdays, it also hosts an after-work social event at various locations for members and their families.

“We believe our Club can only be successful if we have the support of the Club members’ families,” Mangum says.

The Club awards funds to nonprofits once a year based on recommendations from, and then a vote by its members.

A nonprofit is eligible for funding if a representative of the organization has been a speaker at a weekly lunch meeting of the Club within the previous two years, or if a Club member has a strong relationship with the nonprofit, such as volunteering, making a donation or receiving services.

In addition to making contributions, the Club also provides a range of programs, typically once a year for each program.

To promote Americanism, for example, it works with all the teachers, typically on three grade levels, at a local elementary school. The teachers assign essays on the American flag, and a Club committee selects a winner from each grade level.

Then, at a school assembly, an ROTC drill team from a local high school performs, U.S. Rep. David Price typically presents the school with an American flag that has flown atop the U.S. Capitol, students read their winning essays and receive a gift of $25 to $50 each, and each student receives a small American flag.

Other Club activities range from promoting fire safety and crime prevention to recognizing a student of the month and shopping for Christmas presents for children served by a local organization the Club selects.

“We’re all very different,” Mangum says of Club members. “Our ages are from the mid-20s to mid-70s. We’re like-minded but we’re very different. I’ve met people in our Club that I never would have met on the street otherwise.”

Two years ago, she says, the day after her father suffered a heart attack, “the very first person I called was an Exchange Club member. I just needed to talk to a friend, different from family.”

Nonprofit news roundup, 08.11.17

Duke raises $3.85 billion

Duke University raised $3.85 billion over the past seven years in the school’s largest fundraising campaign ever.

The campaign, which had an initial goal of $3.25 billion, received contributions from over 315,000 donors and foundations $3.25 billion, including $589 million in new commitments of gifts and pledges in the fiscal year ended June 30.

In that fiscal year, the school received $581 million in cash, up 15 percent from the previous year and posting a new high for the fifth straight year.

Carolina For The Kids gives $71,000

Carolina For The Kids in Chapel Hill awarded 17 grants totaling $70,755 to advance programs, services and other hospital-based initiatives that directly affect care and specific patient-related needs for patients and families of UNC Children’s Hospital.

The grants support educational waiting room activities; education sessions for parents with children in the neonatal intensive care unit; resources for understanding and managing diabetes; food models; art supplies; and knee calipers for children with disabilities.

Life Experience founder retiring

Mary Madenspacher, founder and executive director of Life Experience in Cary, will retire, effective March 23, 2018.

Power of the Dream names executive director

Nichole Brownlee, a former member of the  board of directors of The Power of the Dream in Raleigh, has joined the nonprofit as its first executive director.

Lung Cancer Initiative to host Advocacy Summit

Lung Cancer Initiative of North Carolina will host its 7th Annual Lung Cancer Advocacy Summit August 18-19 from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. at The Solution Center in Durham.

Keynote speaker will be Susan Braun, CEO of the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

Event to support cancer screening and mammography services

The Sixth Annual Pink Pint Night, which last year raised over $45,000 for Levine Cancer Institute, will be held September 28 starting at 4 pm. at NoDa Brewing Company at 2921 N. Tryon St. in Charlotte.

All funds raised at the event support local uninsured women in need of screening and diagnostic mammography services.

Sponsors are Charlotte Radiology and NoDa Brewing Company.

Prevent Child Abuse board elects officers

Jesica Averhart, executive director of Leadership Triangle, has been elected chair of the board of directors of Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina, and Jed Hysong, vice president for finance at Jaggaer in Research Triangle Park, has been elected board vice-chair.

John H. Jo of Wake Forest, a lawyer at Smith Anderson Law Firm, has joined the board.

Endowment gives scholarships, grant

The Jane Graham McKay and Katherine Hill McKay Endowment at Foundation for the Carolinas in Charlotte awarded $20,000 in scholarships to seven local students in Laurinburg.

The endowment also awarded a $25,000 grant to the Scotland County Humane Society to buy a van to transport animals.

Harvesting books to boost child literacy

By Todd Cohen

DURHAM, N.C. — Growing up in Atlanta, Ginger Young became a “voracious reader who thrived in childhood because of books, and took great comfort and solace and inspiration from books.”

Then, starting in the mid-1990s and living in the Triangle, she says, she took her own children to the public library once a week so they would have a “childhood full of books and reading and vocabulary development.”

But she also saw a troubling gap in kids’ access to books based on their parents’ income.

Children’s opportunity to get books “should not be connected to how much money their parents make,” she says. “There is no reason every child in our community can’t grow up in a book-rich home.”

So in 2011, Young tested an idea: She asked friends and colleagues to donate their own children’s books. In return, she promised to distribute them to children who otherwise might not get a chance to read or own a book.

Within two weeks, her garage was stocked with bags and boxes filled with 6,000 books. By the end of the month, donations had grown to 10,000.

That was the start of Book Harvest, a Durham nonprofit that now has distributed nearly 700,000 books through home visits to families with newborn babies, and through schools, nonprofits and other partners.

Operating with an annual budget of $728,000, eight full-time employees, and nearly 500 volunteers, including 100 who volunteer regularly, Book Harvest works to get books into the hands of children up to age 18, and to promote literacy for kids and families.

It operates four programs in the Triangle that provide a “continuum” of books and literacy support based on a child’s age.

It also is developing plans to serve more people with its own programs, and find ways for other communities to adopt those programs.

And it is heading a collaborative effort in Durham that is part of a national initiative in over 300 communities to improve reading proficiency by the end of third grade.

In Durham, the effort aims to increase to 70 percent in 2025 from 45.7 percent in 2016 the number of children who read on grade level at the end of third grade — and to 66 percent by 2025 from 33.2 percent in 2016 the number from low-income homes who read at that level.

Key to the developing the most effective local strategies to inspire children to read will be parental leadership, says Young, founder and executive director of Book Harvest.

“The people who can best chart that path are the parents,” she says.

Book Harvest gears its delivery of books and literacy support to a child’s age.

Its Books Babies program, for example, is based on research that shows 80 percent of the brain is developed by age three, “which means we have to really front-load book access for families where there’s a newborn,” Young says.

So, through referrals from partner agencies such as Durham Connect, a nurse home-visiting program, Book Harvest enrolls newborns and their families starting six weeks to two months after birth.

It provides them with books. And three to four times a year for the first three years, and then two to three times a year for the next two years, it visits families’ homes and offers literacy coaching for parents.

Currently, 260 families are enrolled, each getting 20 books a year.

To address the challenge of summer “learning loss” for students while school is out, Book Harvest offers Books on Break, a program that provides 10 free books at the end of the school year the children select themselves — a total of nearly 71,000 books this year — for nearly 19,000 students at 44 public schools in Durham, Orange and Chatham counties and Chapel Hill-Carrboro public schools.

Once a week, through its Community Book Bank, it also stocks shelves it has set up in the waiting rooms of about 65 partner organizations– such as social service agencies, health clinics, and after-school and tutoring programs, mainly in Durham and Orange counties — where children can select books and take them to build their own home libraries.

That effort, which was Book Harvest’s initial program, this year will distribute just over 100,000 books to children.

And at Books to Go events it hosts three times a year, teachers and officials from about  80 schools and nonprofits that work with middle-school and high-school students can visit Book Harvest to pick books the students then can select and keep for their home libraries.

This year, that effort is expected to put at least 30,000 books into the hands of students.

This year, Book Harvest also launched a service that twice a week sends text messages to parents who subscribe, offering tips on reading to children, and on summer reading opportunities at libraries and other locations.

Partnerships are central to Book Harvest’s work, Young says.

In partnership with the Durham Housing Authority and Durham County Library, for example, Book Harvest aims to “make sure every child that lives in each of DHA’s eight housing communities, has a big stack of books next to their bed.”

It also provides “literacy-enrichment activities” for those children through after-school and summer programs in those eight communities.

Ultimately, Young says, improving child literacy depends on raising community awareness of the need, and getting the community involved in addressing it.

“It’s all about civic engagement and the public narrative about what is acceptable for our children,” Young says.

“There are hundreds of thousands of books, and thousands of book donors and volunteers who are well on their way to creating book-rich environments throughout our community,” she says. “What we are going to do next is to take that transactional experience of book provision, which is what we started with, and turn it into how we transform outcomes for children, to go from transactional to transformational.”