Banding together to make a difference

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — When five Raleigh friends got together on Sept. 11, 2001, to watch the news about the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., they decided to try to do something to support survivors’ families.

Their solution was Band Together for Our Heroes, a live concert in downtown Raleigh two months later that featured four bands, included two firefighters from New York City, attracted 1,300 guests and raised $56,000 for the Survivors Fund.

A year later, the friends formed Band Together, a nonprofit that would use live music to raise money, particularly from the business community, to support disaster relief and local nonprofits.

Typically partnering with a single nonprofit each year, Band Together has donated nearly $5.5 million to local nonprofits and become the largest charitable music event in the Southeast.

In 2005, it raised $175,000 for Raleigh-based Stop Hunger Now to provide relief for victims of the tsunami in South Asia, and $47,000 for the Raleigh-based Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina to provide relief in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

In recent years, it has developed a strategy it calls “partnership philanthropy,” working closely with an annual partner to raise money together and strengthen their respective organizations.

“We invest ourselves into that organization, and they invest themselves into ours, working for a year in a major campaign that ends in a massive concert,” says Danny Rosin, a co-founder of Band Together and owner of Brand Fuel, a promotional advertising firm in Research Triangle Park.

The goals each year for both partners are “not only to raise funds and awareness, but also to learn better nonprofit skills,” says Rosin, a self-described “uber fan of live music,” who served until four years ago as Band Together’s volunteer director and until a year ago as its board president. He now heads its advisory board, which raises over 60 percent of its funds.

This past year, Band Together’s partnership with StepUp Ministry in Raleigh — the two groups also partnered in 2010 — raised $2 million.

Band Together raised $500,000 of the total through a series of fundraising activities, including a live concert on June 27 at the Red Hat Amphitheater in downtown Raleigh, and StepUp raised $1.5 million. Each had challenged the other to raise those totals.

StepUp, an interfaith nonprofit founded in 1988 that works to equip low-income and homeless people with skills to live independently, plans to use the funds to open a Durham operation in August, to create StepUp North Carolina to oversee the startup of new StepUps throughout the state, and to support the original StepUp in Raleigh.

The partnership with Band Together helped boost awareness of StepUp throughout the Triangle and helped it raise money by treating the partnership like a capital campaign with a specific focus, in this case expanding to Durham and eventually other communities, says Linda Nunnallee, executive director of StepUp Raleigh.

Band Together, which counts on volunteers to handle most of its fundraising and concert planning and logistics, is an “open-source” nonprofit, Rosin says, sharing donor information with its annual partner, visiting prospective donors together, and co-branding marketing materials.

Rosin, for example, brought Nunnallee on a fundraising visit to Cargill, a Band Together funder, which agreed to give $10,000. Band Together gets 15 percent of the net proceeds of funds the partnership raises to support its operations, and StepUp receives the remainder.

“Together we’re better,” Rosin says.

Band Together picks its annual partner based on an intensive vetting process, operates rent-free in its partner’s offices, and works with its partner to strengthen the leadership of their respective organizations.

“We want to leave our partners better than we found them,” says Matt Strickland, who became Band Together’s first executive director and paid employee in 2011.

Now, Band Together aims to increase the value of its annual concert for donors and sponsors, such as improving VIP networking opportunities for their clients, employees and vendors.

And it is looking for ways to provide smaller nonprofits with some of the funds its annual partnerships raises, and possibly help build those smaller groups’ organizational “capacity,” Rosin says.

“There are smaller agencies doing great work that we want to support,” he says.

StepUp Ministry expanding

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. — StepUp Ministry, which was launched and is housed at White Memorial Presbyterian Church in Raleigh, is teaming up with downtown churches led by Christ Church to offer its life skills program starting this fall for graduates of its job training program.

StepUp also has named a new development director and hired a new manager for its life skills program as part of a reorganization that includes an expansion to Greensboro last year and possibly other cities in the next few years.

Over 600 people, typically ex-offenders, recovering addicts or those with out-of-date job skills, complete the five-day job training program StepUp offers 22 times a year, and the agency’s jobs counselors continue to work with graduates until they find a job.

StepUp helped 358 participants find jobs last year, for example, and since 2005 has placed over 1,500 people in jobs, with 81 percent remaining at their jobs for over a year.

And StepUp selects one in four job participants for the life skills program it offers on Tuesday evenings at White Memorial, where it has room for only 100 participants, says Linda Nunnallee, who is associate executive director of StepUp and on July 1 will become executive director of StepUp Raleigh under the reorganization.

For years, she says, that program has operate at maximum capacity of roughly 80 adults with 120 of their children.

A key to the program, she says, is matching each participant with a volunteer co-partner who works with the participant one-on-one during the entire course.

Adults and children follow similar curricula, spread in four phases over 48 weeks and designed to teach them to overcome obstacles to stability.

Starting in September, StepUp will offer its life skills program at Christ Church on Wednesday.

That new program will begin with 15 people per class, and in each quarter StepUp will add a new class, bringing the total number of participants at any given time to 60 adults and up to 80 children.

Among eight downtown churches involved in the coalition, six initially will provide financial support, volunteer mentors and connections to employers.

StepUp offers its job training program at a different location each day of the week, including First Baptist Church on Salisbury Street on Mondays; its own offices on Tuesdays; First Baptist Church on Wilmington Street on Wednesdays; White Memorial on Thursdays; and Edenton Street Methodist Church on Fridays.

StepUp also partnered with a coalition of Greensboro churches led by First Presbyterian Church to launch StepUp Greensboro last September, offering both the jobs and life skills programs.

StepUp now is assessing the results of that expansion as it considers expanding to other North Carolina cities over the next few years.

Steve Swayne, executive director of StepUp, will become CEO of the overall organization on July 1 and oversee its plans for growth, programming and curriculum to provide training designed to move participants to a “livable” wage of $15 an hour.

StepUp also has named Dileep Dadlani as its new development director.

Dadlani has served as development director for the North Carolina Community Health Center Association, raising money for nonprofit medical facilities in rural areas throughout the state.

Sarah Tencer, who recently received a master of social work degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, has been named program manager for StepUp’s life skills program.