Giving declines as United Ways target ‘collective impact ‘

By Todd Cohen

Annual fundraising at the four biggest United Way campaigns in North Carolina has taken a sharp dive during the decade or more they have revamped how they invest donor dollars back into their communities.

Embracing a strategy known as “collective impact,” United Ways in Charlotte, Forsyth County, Greensboro and the Triangle have reduced their funding over time of the health-and-human-services agencies they traditionally supported, and instead have invested a big share of dollars they raise in collaborative efforts to address targeted community needs.

Fundraising by United Way of Central Carolinas in Charlotte declined to $28.5 million in 2016 from $45 million in 2007, while fundraising by United Way of the Greater Triangle fell to $8.8 million in 2016 from $26 million in 2001, according to data from United Way Worldwide. Data from 2016 are the most recently available.

In the Triad, fundraising by United Way of Forsyth County fell to $14.8 million in 2016 from $18.3 million in 2007, while fundraising by United Way of Greater Greensboro fell to $10 million in 2016 from $15 million in 2000.

Fundraising declined in seven of the last 10 years in Greensboro, and in five of the last seven years in the Triangle.

Among the nine local United Ways in North Carolina that raised at least $1 million each in 2016, only United Way of Greater High Point raised more than it did the previous year.

High Point United Way has bucked the collective-impact tide and continues to focus its funding on its traditional partner agencies. Its campaign grew each of the last seven years to just over $5 million in 2016.

Among the top nine United Way campaigns in North Carolina, Forsyth County, High Point and Greensboro raised the most money per capita in 2016 — $39.63 for Forsyth,  $35.03 for High Point, and $25.55 for Greensboro.

That compares to $19.03 per capita in Charlotte; $17.64 for United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, which raised $4.5 million, down from $6.1 million in 2006, and saw its campaign decline nine of the past 10 years; $8.29 for Catawba County United Way, which raised nearly $1.3 million; $7.53 for United Way of Davidson County, which raised $1.2 million,  down from $2.6 million in 2000; $5.21 for the Triangle; and $4.59 for United Way of the Cape Fear Area in Wilmington, which raised nearly $1.9 million, down from $3.1 million in 2002.

Among the nine United Ways in the state that raise over $1 million year, High Point is one of the only United Ways — and the largest — that has continued its traditional strategy of providing operating and program support to its partner agencies that provide health and human services.

United Way of the Greater Triangle, in comparison, now gives 80 percent of its funding to collaborative efforts involving two or more agencies that address needs its defines, with the remaining 20 percent going to traditional partner agencies that apply for funding to address basic human needs.

In addition to funding focused on basic needs, United Ways in Forsyth County, Greensboro and Charlotte all provide funding to defined focus areas.

Building a regional arts hub

By Todd Cohen

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — Artists and arts groups in the Triangle wanting to hold “pop-up” events, and property owners with available space, can turn to a pop-up toolkit, prepared with the help of law students at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The toolkit spells out logistics and details of planning and staging the events, from permits and insurance to rules on access to parking and restrooms.

Emerging local arts leaders who want to increase their arts revenue through more effective use of marketing, social media, fundraising and other business functions can attend monthly workshops, while photographers, filmmakers, writers and other creative artists can learn about copyright law and other legal issues at monthly talks by lawyers.

And artists, nonprofit and for-profit arts groups in the region, and anyone else looking for information, resources or opportunities, from funding  and technical support to exhibit and performance space and calendars, can visit a website devoted to arts in the region.

Spearheading all those efforts is Triangle ArtWorks, a nonprofit formed in 2010 that aims to serve as a resource hub and advocate for the region’s arts community.

“We are working to make it easier for artists and arts organizations and businesses to thrive, which is good for the entire Triangle, not just the artists,” says Beth Yerxa, executive director and co-founder of Triangle ArtWorks.

When she chaired the Raleigh Arts Commission in the 2000s, Yerxa and Leigh Ann Wilder, who at the time served on a Commission panel and now is director of arts in communities for the North Carolina Arts Council, saw a gap in resources and infrastructure for the region’s arts community.

“There were a lot of organizations doing various levels of support for different types of artists,” such as fundraising by local arts councils, or professional support for segments of the arts community such as visual artists, says Yerxa. “But no one really was looking at how best to get the arts, as a business community, the resources they need to thrive and be financially sustainable.”

Lawyers, in comparison, can turn to county, state and national bar associations for professional development, networking, insurance, newsletters and other resources, says Yerxa, a lawyer.

But as a “business community,” she says, “artists have nobody doing that work.”

So she and Wilder launched Triangle ArtsWorks.

An all-volunteer nonprofit that operates with an annual budget of $10,000, and 30 to 40 active volunteers, the group serves artists and arts groups, both nonprofit and for-profit, in Chatham, Durham, Johnston, Orange and Wake counties.

It operates in The Frontier in Research Triangle Park in space donated by Research Triangle Foundation.

And with a total of roughly $10,000 in grants from Duke Energy Foundation, Durham Arts Council and the Town of Cary, it has been building its own organizational infrastructure — including development of its board and raising money — with the assistance of consultant Maggie Clay Love.

The group also is redesigning a digital platform it built, including a website, database and social media network, to connect and provide resources for anyone involved or interested in the arts.

Triangle ArtWorks also is talking with local arts councils throughout the region about expanding its program of two professional-development workshops a month for artists and arts groups.

Its board recently created a fundraising committee that initially aims to raise $70,000 — including $10,000 through December — to continue to strengthen its organizational “capacity.”

And Yerxa, a member of the North Carolina Small Business Alliance who quips she has “no arts bone in my body,” works with a range of economic development and planning organizations to connect the worlds of business and the arts, and raise awareness about the value each adds to the other and to the region.

“The arts enrich our lives,” says Yerxa. “The arts create jobs and are jobs. Artists are innovators. If the Triangle is building itself as a technology and innovative community, the arts need to be part or that.”

Connecting families and schools to support kids

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — What are schools serving for lunch? How nutritious are the meals? Who makes up the menu? How do they decide which foods to serve?

Recognizing that children do better in school when their food is more nutritious, the North Carolina PTA is working with the Wake County School Health Advisory Council to find ways to get parents to work more closely with schools to make sure children eat healthier food, both in school and at home.

A key goal is to help parents better understand how their kids’ schools make the decisions behind the meals their cafeterias serve. The effort also aims to help parents see the impact of nutrition on academic performance, get them more involved in the food decisions schools make, and offer classes on preparing healthier meals at home.

Improving connections between families and schools is critical to helping students succeed, says Virginia Jicha, president of the board of directors of the state PTA.

“Research shows that in schools where the community and parents are involved in the education of their students, the students are more successful,” says Jicha, a fourth-grade teacher in Fayetteville.

Founded in 1919, the state PTA works as an advocate for 130,000 members of local PTAs that represent 40 percent of North Carolina’s public schools. Its top priority is school funding, particularly an increase in per-pupil spending, which Jicha says has not kept pace with rising public-school enrollment and costs.

The state organization operates with four full-time employees and an annual budget of $500,000, with member fees generating half the revenue, and grants to support health initiatives nearly the rest.

This fall, to diversify its funding, the state PTA will kick off its inaugural annual fund campaign, which aims to raise about $5,000 its first year, and $10,000 to $20,000 a year within three years, Jicha says.

A key job of the state PTA, which in November marks the start of its 99th year, is to provide training, tools and support for local PTA affiliates, says Catherine Peglow, who joined the state PTA in July as executive director and general counsel.

Late this summer, the PTA hosted training sessions for new leaders of local PTAs on their roles, their affiliates’ operations, and programs the affiliates and statewide group provide.

Local PTA leaders earned how to use the state PTA’s membership database — both for electronic collection of membership fees, and as a tool to get information to members and communicate with them.

And leadership in getting families engaged in schools was the focus of a training session at the School of Business at Campbell University.

Throughout the school year, the state PTA offers 11 webinars on topics ranging from the role of a local PTA treasurer to raising money and serving as an advocate.

It also fields questions from local affiliates on topics like recruiting new members, or forming partnerships between families and local schools to identify student needs and find ways to address them.

In May, at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, the state PTA will host about 200 members at its annual convention, held the past two years at N.C. A&T State University in Greensboro.

The PTA also hosts a statewide arts competition, with students creating arts projects — based on a single national theme based on suggestions from students — in art forms ranging from dance, film and writing to music, photography and visual arts.

And the national PTA, which supported the introduction of school lunches throughout the U.S. in 1946, now is spearheading efforts to encourage parents to partner with local schools to make school meals healthy and to promote healthy behavior.

Making children’s potential a reality is the PTA’s mission, says Peglow, who most recently was director of continuing education for the North Carolina Bar Association.

Student success in school — including higher literacy and overall academic performance — depends on improving students’ health and wellness, she says.

A critical step, she says, is to get more parents more involved and active in working with schools to make sure children are healthy and ready to learn and succeed.

Aquarium Society casts wider net for donors

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — In 2008, the total number of students visiting North Carolina’s three aquariums and a facility at Nag’s Head peaked at 70,000.

Last year, in the face of cuts in spending by local public schools, that number had fallen to 50,000, and many of those who did visit were from more affluent communities or schools with strong parent-teacher associations able to raise private funds to support field trips, says Jay Barnes, director of development for the North Carolina Aquarium Society, a Raleigh-based nonprofit that generates private support for the state-run aquariums.

“Schools that were left out were poor schools across the state,” says Barnes, who served for 20 years as director of the aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores before joining the Society as development director in 2009.

To help more students visit the aquariums, or to bring aquarium programs to schools or offer them through distance-learning technology, the Aquarium Society this year launched an “Aquarium Scholars” program to raise $800,000. The campaign so far has raised over $400,000 that will be used, starting by next spring, mainly for mini-grants to teachers in the poorest schools for field trips to an aquarium, or for am aquarium to bring its programs to schools.

“Many of these programs we offer are STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programs,” Barnes says. “We’ve got live animals and technology, and our facilities are located on a beach or sound or marsh or coastal habitat, making the aquariums wonderful destinations.”

Formed in 1986, the Aquarium Society in 2016 generated $7.4 million for its facilities, which are located at Fort Fisher, Pine Knoll Shores, Roanoke Island, and Jennette’s Pier at Nags Head.

The Society generates revenue from sales at gift shops it operates at the facilities; from about 21,000 household memberships; from concessions such as food and photography vendors; from in-kind support and private support; in lease revenue through an arrangement with the state that helped finance expansion and renovation of the aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores; and in investment income.

From 2000 to 2011, the Society raised a total of $15 million in campaigns that were part of a $100 million effort to renovate all three aquariums, nearly tripling their size, and to reconstruct Jennette’s Pier at Nags Head.

Now, for a new round of renovations, the Society raised $5.6 million for the Roanoke Island aquarium, and is planning to raise at least that much for the Fort Fisher aquarium.

In 2013, working with consulting firm Capital Development Services, the Society also launched its “Living Treasures” campaign, an ongoing fundraising effort that includes an annual fund, planned giving, memberships for small businesses, a donor-prospecting program, and a range of sponsorship opportunities.

The Society over the past three years more than doubled the number of total individual, corporate and foundation donors, Barnes says, and last year received a total of about 1,000 donations.

It has received five commitments for planned gifts, and enlisted about 45 small business members.

It also hosts three “Under the Sea” events a year for prospective donors, typically held in private homes in locations from Raleigh and Greensboro to Figure Eight Island and Duck, with another scheduled for October 19 in New Bern.

“These Under the Sea events are helping us to grow a broader base of support for the aquariums for the future,” Barnes says. “The aquariums’ value to the state is beyond just the educational impact and the environmental stewardship they promote. They also serve as an important part of the state’s tourism economy, with more than 1.3 million annual visitors.”

Kay Yow Cancer Fund plays for life

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — Since 2012, over 22,000 women in 17 North Carolina counties who otherwise would not have the opportunity have been screened for breast cancer, thanks to two mobile mammography units from UNC Rex Healthcare in Raleigh.

Financing the digital-imaging equipment for the units — at a cost of $115,000 each — has been the Kay Yow Cancer Fund.

The Raleigh charity was founded in December 2007 by the late Kay Yow, who was head women’s basketball coach at North Carolina State University and died in 2009 after a 22-year intermittent battle with cancer.

Inspiring her to start the charity was a game, initially known as “Hoops 4 Hope,” that her team at N.C. State played on Feb. 19, 2006, with the University of Maryland.

Since then, mainly through games throughout the U.S. that later were known as “Think Pink,” then “Pink Zone,” and now “Play4Kay,” the Kay Yow Cancer Fund has raised $5.38 million and awarded grants of $1 million each to support research into cancers affecting women at four cancer centers, including UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center in Chapel Hill.

It also has made grants of $100,000 each to cancer centers in nine cities that have hosted the Women’s Final Four basketball tournament. And it works to serve underserved women by funding programs such as the UNC Rex mammography units.

The charity “was born through the sport of basketball,” says Stephanie Glance, the Fund’s executive director and former associate head coach at N.C. State under Yow. “She saw this as a way to unite coaches, players and communities of women’s basketball.”

Operating with an annual budget of about $600,000 and a staff of five full-time employees, the Fund raises $1 million to $1.5 million a year.

That includes $350,000 to $400,000 generated through 200 to 250 basketball games hosted by teams at colleges and schools throughout the U.S.

It also receives royalties from Nike’s retail sale of apparel and shoes branded with the the Kay Yow Fund’s “Y” logo, and generates revenue from a golf tournament, which will be held in September for the third straight year in Pinehurst, that last year netted $200,000.

And it gets revenue from events that third-parties organize, and in February hosted an inaugural run and walk on the N.C. State campus that netted $20,000.

Through a partnership, the scientific advisory committee at the V Foundation — which also raises money for cancer research and is named for Jim Valvano, the late coach of the N.C. State men’s basketball team — reviews and evaluates grant requests to the Kay Yow Cancer Fund, then monitors grants the Fund approves.

And through another partnership, the Fund is the “charity of choice” of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association, which encourages its members to support the Fund through an annual game on the schedule of each of their teams.

Now, as it prepares to celebrate its 10th anniversary this December with a dinner, the Fund is planning to launch a 10 for 10″ campaign to raise $10,000 each from at least 50 donors. It also plans to create a local golf tournament in Raleigh.

And it aims to generate more revenue from its Play4Kay games, either by increasing the number of games each year to 350 or more, or by increasing the share of revenue it receives from each game.

To help do all that, Glance this spring is visiting nearly 20 Division I conference meetings.

The goal, she says, is to fund more research and provide more underserved women with access to cancer services.

“Every person has  been touched by cancer in some way,” she says. “The Kay Yow Cancer Fund is making a significant impact in the fight against all women’s cancers.”

Conn Elementary partners with volunteers

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — At 3:45 p.m. every weekday during the school year, nearly 100 students gather in the gym at Conn Elementary School in Raleigh, remaining there until 6 p.m. to do their homework, with breaks for recreational activities and recess outside.

Operating the after-school program is YMCA of the Triangle, which also provides free child care for monthly meetings of the school’s Parent Teacher Association.

The partnership with the YMCA is part of a larger effort by Conn to generate voluntary and philanthropic support to supplement the public dollars it receives.

“As a school, we’re always looking for ways to expand what we do to support our teachers and students, and the community support we get helps us,” says Gary Duvall, Conn’s principal.

About 580 students are enrolled at Conn, and about half of them qualify for lunch that is free or provided at a reduced price. With such a high percentage of students on free or reduced lunch, the school receives federal dollars through the Title I program for schools serving low-income families.

To supplement the public dollars the school receives, Conn’s PTA last year increased to $35,000 from about $15,000 the funds it raised during its annual fall fundraising campaign.

Those dollars were used to pay for playground renovations, and to help fund 30 programs at the school, including mini-grants of up to $500 to teachers for special projects, such as buying books and materials for the school library to supplement what students learn in the classroom.

Conn also is developing partnerships with a growing number of organizations that provide volunteers for the school.

Starting this fall, three members of Lawyers 4 Literacy, a program of the North Carolina Bar Association, are visiting Conn once a week at lunchtime, each working with one or two students in second or third grade on their reading.

And once a week after school, about 10 volunteers visit Conn through a partnership with Cary nonprofit Read and Feed, which provides a meal for about 18 students in first through fifth grade. Each volunteer then works on reading with one or two students, who also receive two books each week to take home and keep.

And thanks to Amy Dameron, a literacy teacher at Conn and a member of Edenton Street United Methodist Church, volunteers from the congregation are scheduled to visit the school on October 15 for campus beautification and painting.

Another seven volunteers from the church also have applied to work on reading once a week with two students each.

And before the school year began, more than a dozen managers from Whole Foods on Wade Avenue visited the school for day of painting and beautification.

This fall, through two separate partnerships, 12 students in the College of Education at North Carolina State University will be visiting Conn once a week to mentor individual students in fourth and fifth grade on topics ranging from goal-setting and self-awareness to character development, while another 10 to 12 students from the College of Engineering at N.C. State will be visiting once a week to work one-on-one with students on science and math.

“We want to make sure all our students are succeeding,” Duvall says. “By having these small reading groups and small programs, we able to serve a broad range of student needs.”