A charity campaign that’s not just about the money?
Rarely do charities say that and actually mean it. But Communities In Schools can make that claim, having just launched a fund drive that targets first-time donors by offering to match their money, dollar for dollar. It will also match dollars given by current donors – if they agree to increase their gift.
CIS works with Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools students who are at risk of dropping out. Of the 5,735 students enrolled in the program during the 2010-11 school year, 99 percent stayed in school, 93 percent were promoted to the next grade and 624 CIS seniors graduated with a high school diploma.
Organizers say the point of the fund drive is to show previously uninvolved people that they can have an impact on the lives of the county’s thousands of struggling students.
In this case, double the impact.
The Leon Levine Foundation has pledged up to $100,000 in grant dollars to match new donor pledges through the remainder of the year. Foundation officials said the money is meant as a show of support for the charity’s willingness to take chances.
Even the most popular of Charlotte’s charities have struggled with fundraising since the start of the economic downturn. Nearly a half dozen have closed in the past two years, while several others have merged to save money.
Narrowing the field of prospective campaign donors to first-time givers just makes things that much tougher, experts say.
“It’s unusual for us to have this kind of request and that’s part of what impressed us,” said Tom Lawrence, executive director of the Levine Foundation.
“We like that they are willing to take on that challenge, because they know the importance of having a larger donor base. We’ve seen these types of grants have a lot of success.”
The annual budget for CIS is about $6 million, which means a successful campaign would amount to just over 3 percent of what’s needed in the coming year.
But CIS Executive Director Molly Shaw believes the Levine grant could create a ripple effect that will be felt for years.
“It’s important to know that this is really not just about the money,” said Shaw, who took over CIS just over a year ago.
“It’s about widening our net and increasing community awareness of the needs of kids,” Shaw said. “It also means anybody who participates can have double the impact, whether it’s a $10 donor or a $10,000 donor.”
HOW TO HELP
To help match the Levine Foundation grant, visit www.cischarlotte.org and click on “donate now.” Donations can be mailed to Communities In Schools: Development Office, 601 E. Fifth Street, Suite 300, Charlotte, NC 28202.
The Charlotte Observer