There’s a classic New Yorker cartoon that depicts a group of explorers—backpacks and machetes in hand—coming across a small spring in the middle of nowhere. It’s flowing with money, a geyser of bills spouting up from the center. “By God, gentlemen,” says the lead explorer to his hapless followers, “I believe we’ve found it—the Fountain of Funding!”
In reality, that Fountain of Funding looks a lot more like your next-door neighbor than a cash-spewing Jacuzzi. Accord-ing to fundraising industry standards, individuals (rather than, say, businesses) give four out of every five nonprofit donations, annually. The Urban Institute estimates that in 2003 Americans gave $188 billion to charity. Not that giving is the sole provenance of the wealthy. But logic holds that the more disposable income there is floating around, the more charitable donations there are from which a community can benefit. And Charlottesville (the lucky ’burg) has plenty of rich people—which means plenty of giving, and plenty of organizations willing to take that disposable dollar.
Truism: The wealthy are attracted to this area like the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico. Back in 1996, only four homes in the area were sold for over $1 million. By 2005, that number had soared to 93. But the real estate market isn’t the only area to register such exponential growth. Since it began in 1967, the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation, an organization that helps rich people (and the more average among us, too) decide how and where to donate their money, has given away $15 million in grants. That’s nearly $200 for every mom, dad, sister, brother, cousin, second cousin, and Aunt Thelma in Charlottesville and Albemarle over the past 39 years. Remarkably, of that $200,
$40 per person was doled out in just the past year alone. In other words, the rate
of grant-giving has increased exponentially in recent years, almost doubling in
2001, and rising at least 20 percent in every year thereafter.
A decade ago the CACF had exactly three donor-advised funds (a form of high-dollar piggy bank, offering maximum tax benefits, that donors pledge to the CACF, sometimes with stipulations as to how that money should be distributed). Today it has 86.
“This is a very, very wealthy community,” says Paul Brockman, who consulted with CACF while spearheading a capital campaign for Shelter for Help in Emergency. “And the people who live here, I’ve found, are very, very generous people.”
Signs of that generosity and the people attached to it are everywhere. Take a walk through The Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall and the names of the rainmakers greet you at every turn: Purchase your tickets at the David and Janna O. Gies Ticket Window, enter the theater through the Ann and Jerry Harris Doors, and pass through the gold-leafed Mamie Atkins Jessup and Claude A. Jessup Memorial Lobby, with its imported silk-lined walls.
Compare the names on the walls of the Paramount to the names on most every other donor-sponsored wall in town: It’s the same crowd again and again. Birdsall, Weschler, Crutchfield, Worrell, Grisham, McNeely, Jessup, Kuttner, Skinner, Fife, Sieg. It’s as if someone made a template for donor walls (pro bono, of course), then passed it out for the nonprofits to build around. Chad Hershner, president and CEO of the Paramount, puts the number of big donor families in the area at about 50.
That said, Kevin O’Halloran, director of donor relations for the CACF, stresses that charity comes from all sorts of people, and that the giving itself comes in different sizes. Of the 3.5 million tax returns filed in Virginia in 2003, one third reported charitable deductions, according to the Urban Institute. Check out the thank-you page on, say, a Live Arts program or a mailer from Meals on Wheels; the number of donors shelling out a precious $100 or less far exceed the number in the topmost categories.
“You dig into your wallet, what that number is [that you pull out] doesn’t really matter,” says Thane Kerner, chair of the current capital campaign for the City Center for the Contemporary Arts (sometimes known, incorrectly, as the Live Arts building). “If it’s a number where you notice that the money has gone, you notice.”
Yet while local giving stats grow, so too does the number of local nonprofits looking for support. In the past two years, nonprofits in Char-lottesville and the surrounding five-county area have nearly doubled, up to 750 in 2005, as catalogued by the Virginia Network of Nonprofit Organizations and the CACF. The good news is that more good people are doing more good things for more needy people (or artists). The bad news is that these funds are not unlimited. The fountain of funding is only so deep and there are many cups poised to dip in.
William Johnson, a professor of economics at UVA, compares the competing campaigns to fast food.
“If there’s a McDonald’s and a Burger King down the street from each other, and a third fast food restaurant moves onto the block,” he says, “it might be the case that the total amount [spent on fast food] goes up…but at the same time [the third restaurant] takes some business away from the other two.”
Fundraisers, however, have a strategy. Phase One? Be friends with everyone. While some fundraisers admit there is competition for the gold, and that the competition has stiffened lately, this is a polite crowd. Meaning, none would go so far as to complain. Instead, the spin on that subject (recited with a glass of locally made Meritage in hand at a meet-and-greet reception, perhaps) runs along the lines of, “The more the merrier. Although, yes, of course it’s important to distinguish yourself from the competition.”
C3A’s Kerner likens the local fundraising climate to the classic theory of shopping centers: More people will spend more if there’s more to spend it on. Instead of dividing donors, the mushrooming number of nonprofits is building them. (Incidentally, fundraising has its own lexicon: It’s not “donate,” it’s “invest.” And “big donor” is a misnomer, because “every donor is a big donor.”)
Whether funding competition is on the rise, identifying donors and nurturing donor relationships is priority number one. People give to people. Hershner says he approaches fundraising with the mantra: “You should never ask somebody for a gift unless you know the color of their eyes.” Making that connection takes time and patience, but one-on-one donor meetings are the fundraiser’s method of choice. It’s not just talk: According to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, for every dollar spent on a private donor interview, the return is $24 dollars. For every dollar spent on a special event, the return is only $3.
Finding and snagging those donors is about nurturing social connections (hence the importance of nonprofit boards) and appealing to individual interests.
“[Giving] depends on who the donor is and what the donor’s interest is…People don’t give [big money] other than to areas of particular interest,” says Gordon Rainey Jr., the Richmond lawyer and UVA alumnus who’s in charge of UVA’s $3 billion capital campaign. In other words, UVA pitches its campaign based on different building projects or disciplines within
For example, it’s unlikely the University would ask its famously perky alumna (and incoming CBS nightly news anchor) Katie Couric for a donation to the engineering school. UVA would be smarter to hit her up for a gift to a media studies library, or—because Couric became active in cancer research after losing both her husband and sister to the disease—a gift to the hospital.
What’s the grand total sum of money currently being chased by the 750 local nonprofits? It’s nearly impossible to say. However, to get a general idea of local need, C-VILLE consulted the CACF. Based on their numbers, it seems safe to say that, at the very least, nonprofits in the area are chasing a treasure trove nearing $3.1 billion. From the giant UVA campaign to “the greenest school in America” to funds for a new YMCA facility, we’ve identified 10 of the top capital campaigns currently angling for a hefty slice of Charlottesville’s ever-expanding donor pie.
Do you have your checkbook open?
University of Virginia
Feeling the pinch of statewide budget cuts, the No. 2 public university in the nation has seen its funding slashed in recent years. In order to com-pensate for belt-tightening, Mr. Jefferson’s Uni-versity, with enrollment of 19,000 and staff num-bering 11,200, is looking increasingly to private funding to keep it atop the higher education game.
Goal: $3 billion (According to the chief fundraiser, this number could grow after the University finishes a financial plan due by year’s end.)
Currently raised: $900 million since the campaign began in January 2004.
For: Endowment, scholarships, fellowships, endowed faculty positions, new buildings (the South Lawn project, John Paul Jones Arena, etc.)
Campaign Coordinator/Chairman: Gordon Rainey, Jr.
Timeline: Quiet phase ongoing since January 2004; the public phase will kick off in September; total to be raised by 2012.
Approach: Development officers meet with alumni associations, alumni events are held around the country, potential donors are personally phoned.
Big donors: Ivy Foundation of Charlottesville ($45 million), Claude Moore Charitable Foundation ($5 million to Nursing School), Paul Tudor Jones ($20 million to the John Paul Jones Arena project, for which he got naming rights. The building is named for his father, not the Led Zeppelin bassist).
“Big donor” means: “You’re not going to pin me down on that,” says Rainey. “If I name some figure it’s going to make the people who gave a smaller gift feel unappreciated.”
Make it happen: www.virginia.edu
The Paramount Theater
The renovation process of this 1930s-era 1,040-seat theater on the Downtown Mall took more than a decade after it sat unused for 30 years. The revamped doors finally reopened in December 2004 and since then the stage has welcomed the likes of Tony Bennett, Yo-Yo Ma and the Miami City Ballet.
Goal: $16.7 million
Currently raised: $13.9 million since the campaign began in 2000.
For: Restoration of The Paramount Theater on the Downtown Mall to its original look from the 1930s, as well as to create a fund for long-term building maintenance and educational funding.
Campaign Coordinator/Chairman: Chad Hershner
Timeline: Began fundraising in 2000; broke ground in 2002; hope to have funds entirely raised by April 2007.
Approach: One-on-one interviews, special events and parties, hard hat tours of site (when renovation was still underway).
Big donors: J. Aron Charitable Foundation, Bama Works, City of Charlottesville, Ted Weschler, Scott Thorp
“Big donor” means: $5,000 and up
Make it happen: www.theparamount.netMonticello/Thomas Jefferson
Monticello is the hallowed home of Thomas Jefferson and the Foundation serves as the purveyor of his legacy. When news hit that Montalto, the mountain property directly in Monticello’s viewshed, was coming up for sale and vulnerable to developers, Monticello’s top dogs acted quickly, negotiating a contract on Montalto first, fundraising for that money second.
Goal: $15 million
Currently raised: $11.1 million since the campaign began January 2004.
For: Purchasing 330-acre Montalto, the mountain opposite from Monticello, formerly known as Brown’s Mountain.
Campaign Coordinator/Chairman: Melissa Young (since April 2006)
Timeline: Started fundraising in January 2004; hope to finish by this December.
Approach: Networking and one-on-one contact where possible.
Big donors: Kemper Foundations and R. Crosby Kemper ($1.2 million)
“Big donor” means: $5,000 and up
Make it happen: www.monticello.orgCharlottesville Waldorf School
One of 1,000 private schools worldwide based on the teaching of German education philosopher Ru-dolf Steiner, who believed children should be able to learn at their own pace. Offering early childhood education and grades one through eight, the school has changed locations five times in its 25-year history, but hopes to put down permanent roots when it builds “the greenest school in Amer-ica” on a 13-acre property it owns on Rio Road.
Goal: $6.1 million
Currently raised: $2 million since the campaign began in November 2004.
For: The Greenest School in America, meaning an environmentally sustainable building that meets “green” architectural and construction standards.
Campaign Coordinator/Chairman: Marianne Lund
Timeline: Started fundraising in November 2004; hope to have building completed by 2008 and fundraising completed by 2009.
Approach: Nurturing social connections, art shows and concert benefits, community symposiums and events related to environmentally conscious design.
Big donors: Two anonymous donors, one who gave $850,000 and another who gave $400,000.
“Big donor” means: $10,000 and up
Make it happen: http://greenestschool.orgAsh Lawn Summer
Currently in its 27th season, each summer the Music Festival brings opera, musical theater, lectures and musical performances to a temporary open air stage on the property of President James Monroe’s home at Ash Lawn-Highland.
Goal: $6 million
Currently raised: $0
For: Permanent theater to seat 500 indoors, with an additional 250 lawn seats. They are currently working with Bushman-Dreyfus Architects on a preliminary design.
Campaign Coordinator/Chairman: Judy Walker
Timeline: Have not yet started raising money because they are still finalizing the agreement with the College of William and Mary, which owns Ash Lawn-Highland. As a result no timeline has been set.
Big donors: N/A
“Big donor” means: N/A
Make it happen: www.ashlawnopera.orgCity Center for
When it opened in 2003, the City Center for Contemporary Arts, or C3A, consolidated the Live Arts theater company, Second Street Gallery and Light House Studio (a youth media nonprofit) under one stylish roof on Water Street.
Goal: $4.15 million
Currently raised: $3.3 million since the campaign began in 1998.
For: Water Street facility that houses Live Arts, Second Street Gallery and Light House Studio.
Campaign Coordinator/Chairman: Thane Kerner
Timeline: Began fundraising in 1998; hope to be finished by April 2007.
Approach: Small donations from a large number of people, encouraging donors with personal connections to the organizations, networking, direct mail, special events, interviews and one-on-one presentations to donors.
Big donors: Bama Works, Batten-Rolph Foundation, Perry Foundation
“Big donor” means: $100,000
Make it happen: www.c3arts.orgBoys and Girls Club
A national program designed to provide educational and emotional support for youth—particularly disadvantaged kids. Locally, 1,000 kids ages 6 to 18 take advantage of the BGC’s programs at either the 10th Street and Cherry Avenue location or at the Southwood Mobile Home Park.
Goal: $10 million
Currently raised: $100,000 since the campaign began in October 2005.
For: New 25,000- to 30,000-square-foot facility near Buford Middle School. The complex will include a gym, computer room, library, fine arts room, a couple of multipurpose rooms, large games room, administrative offices, canteen and kitchen. They are currently looking for architects to put in proposals for the exterior of the project.
Campaign Coordinator/Chairman: TBD/Currently hiring
Timeline: Started fundraising in October 2005; hope to have enough money to break ground in two to two-and-a-half years; According to Executive Director Timothy Sinatra, a date for completing the fundraising is difficult to pin down because donors often pledge money over a period of time.
Approach: One-on-one interviews.
Big donors: Sinatra would not disclose potential big donors at this point, but did say that “our board is 100 percent behind [this project], and certainly will be some of our largest contributors.”
“Big donor” means: $500,000-$1,000,000
Make it happen: http://avenue.org/bgcvillePiedmont Family YMCA
In 2004, the YMCA provided more than 7,000 kids in Charlottesville and Albemarle County with everything from sports to summer camps to child care to leadership training in its facility off Route 29N.
Goal: $7.5 million, or, with a different building design, $12 million to $15 million.
Currently raised: $4 million since the campaign began in December 2005.
For: 42,000 square foot core facility with pool, locker rooms, wellness center with track, full gym, multipurpose rooms ($7.5 million); 63,000 square-foot facility with core-facility features plus competition pool, additional gym, additional multipurpose rooms, full daycare facility ($12 to $15 million). They are currently working with architects VMDO on a design for the exterior of the building.
Campaign Coordinator/Chairman: Kurt Krueger
Timeline: Began fundraising in December 2005; hope to break ground when they reach $7.5 million in early 2007; haven’t yet set time frame for raising total amount of money.
Approach: Individual meetings with donors,
utilizing personal connections through board members.
Big donors: Albemarle County ($2 million)
“Big donor” means: “Six digits,” says Kreuger.
Make it happen: www.piedmontymca.orgFanfare for the Future/ Charlottesville Symphony Society
Every fall and spring the symphony, with musicians from both the community and UVA, presents a concert series featuring composers from Handel to Bernstein in the Cabell Hall Auditorium.
Goal: $3 million
Currently raised: $1.5 million since the campaign began in January 2005.
For: Endowed chairs, scholarships, educational concerts, guest artists.
Campaign Coordinator/Chairman: Anitra Archer
Timeline: Began fundraising in January 2005; hopes to be finished by April 2007.
Approach: Announcements during concerts, brochures, pre- and post-intermission concert parties and one-on-one meetings with donors.
Big donors: Not disclosed.
“Big donor” means: $10,000 and up.
FYI: While technically this $3 million is part of UVA’s $3 billion dollar capital campaign, it’s counted separately because the Symphony is its own nonprofit (501c3), and thus is responsible for raising the $3 million on its own.
Make it happen: www.virginia.edu/music/ensembles/cusoShelter for Help in Emergency
Each year since it opened in 1979, the shelter has provided a safe haven for more than 250 victims of domestic violence and abuse—many of them children. The location is secret in order to protect the people that the shelter assists.
Goal: $3 million
Currently raised: $1 million since the campaign began in January 2005.
For: New shelter and new community outreach center. (Would not disclose any further information. The location’s address is kept private due to the nature of the work.)
Campaign Coordinator/Chairman: Paul Brockman
Timeline: Started fundraising in January 2005; hope to break ground sometime this year; hope to complete fundraising in 2007.
Approach: One-on-one contact.
Big donors: Perry Foundation ($250,000), several anonymous donors who have given $50,000 or more.
“Big donor” means: $10,000 and up.
Make it happen: