The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday February 9th

Chapel Hill arts organizations kept afloat with donor help

In the about 20 square miles that make up Chapel Hill sit three nationally acclaimed organizations dedicated to the arts, which act as three windows to the world of performance and art.

The Ackland Art Museum, Carolina Performing Arts and PlayMakers Repertory Company have each received millions less in funding from the University as the system has cut its budget.

In lieu of those state-funded dollars, donor giving has become that much more valuable.

Amanda Hughes, director of external affairs for the Ackland, said the three organizations share a main core of donors in the Triangle.

“There are a handful of donors who support the arts,” she said.

“When you’ve got this group of people committed to arts that broadly, that strengthens the community at large.”

The Ackland brings in $1.3 million — or 58 percent of their yearly budget — from endowments, membership and annual fund dollars and sponsorships.

The museum receives 36 percent of its $2.3 million budget from the University.

“(Donors) are essential — for all non-profit organizations, but especially for the arts right now,” Hughes said.

“Every non-profit I know of is working to raise the funds that they lost through other sources.”

Hughes said that, though a majority of Ackland’s donors have a connection to the University, the museum has received gifts to specific collections.

“People see that what they’re doing is important and they want to make that commitment,” she said.

Emil Kang, executive director for the arts, said Carolina Performing Arts’ primary ticket buyers are also their main donors.

He said that donors know their gifts help bring the caliber of performance they expect.

“They give because they believe in the artistic excellence of our program,” he said.

Ticket revenue alone covers only 40 percent of the cost of a performance, Kang said.

“You wouldn’t want 40 percent of a piano on stage or 40 percent of a dance company,” he said.

Carolina Performing Arts organized its Student Ticket Angel Fund in 2005 to allow donors help cover the nearly $200,000 debt that $10 student tickets create.

“A lot of donors who live outside of the Triangle love Carolina,” Kang said. “They’re spreading the wealth.”

Carolina Performing Arts receives about $1.1 million in private gifts per year. It was awarded a $250,000 grant to produce “The Rite of Spring” next school year.

The University — which funded 75 percent of Carolina Performing Arts’ budget in 2005 — now gives $1.3 million, or 29 percent.

“Fundraising has never been more difficult,” Kang said.

He said if the donors can find ways to actually participate, their desire to give will strengthen.

“The most effective campaigns happen when you listen to what donors want and tailor to the specific donors,” Kang said.

Stacy Payne, director of development for PlayMakers, said she wants all donors to experience what the company does.

“Acquiring a donor is an organic process,” she wrote in an email.

“A patron finds they like and value the wide range of work that we create and is inspired to further that work with a donation.”

Payne said the company is supported by graduates of the dramatic arts program as well as permanent community members.

PlayMakers — which runs on a $2.5 million budget — receives about $800,000 in charitable gifts and $700,000 from UNC.

“Our supporters … know that organizations such as PlayMakers, the Ackland Art Museum and Carolina Performing Arts create a more vibrant and interesting landscape that benefits campus life and the community,” Payne said in an email.

Donations range from an extra dollar to thousands, but every penny counts.

“Whether it’s two dollars or half a million, it’s all important to us,” Kang said.

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