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One Year, One Block: $45.5 Million?

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This is in addition to the $43.5 million the group has already raised and includes public and private money. Failing to meet the July 2005 deadline would seriously undercut the group’s chances of getting the arts center built by the 2007 goal.

State lawmakers didn’t give the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation a penny this year — it had hoped for $25 to $30 million. So what happens now?

Leadership at the arts foundation says raising $45.5 million in a year will be challenging, but not unreasonable.

L. Bradford Armstrong, president and chief executive of the foundation, says the group has only just started its fund-raising efforts. And without an aggressive pursuit, they’ve raised $12.4 million in private donations, mostly from contributors on the group’s board. (Of the $104 million needed for the arts center, $89 million will pay for construction. The rest will go toward endowments and other programs.)

Beverley W. “Booty” Armstrong, treasurer of the foundation’s board, says raising close to $50 million is not that big a deal for a major nonprofit campaign. For example, the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts has raised $86 million for its $108 million expansion, some of it during a significant economic downturn.

But some in the nonprofit community say it’s highly unlikely the group can meet this goal unless there’s a major contribution from a single donor, in the range of $20 million or more.

“It would take a pace-setting gift of a significant magnitude to really jump-start it,” says a senior fund-raising manager who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “And they would certainly need it sooner than later.”

Otherwise, says the manager, who has considerable experience with large capital campaigns, “It’s going to take a lot longer than a year.”

The foundation has some heavy hitters on its side. There are three key potential donors, says the fund-raising manager, who have deep-enough pockets to make a pace-setting contribution: J. Stewart Bryan III, chairman, president and CEO of Media General; James S. Ukrop, chairman of Ukrop’s Super Markets; and William H. Goodwin, chairman of CCA Industries. Ukrop is chairman of the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation, and Bryan heads the foundation’s gift committee.

Robin Starr, chief executive of the Richmond SPCA, says that considering the people the arts foundation has hired, $45.5 million is within reach. In addition to Brad Armstrong, a former partner at The Martin Agency, the group hired Judy Ford, former director of development at the Maymont Foundation. Ford is a well-respected fund-raiser who spearheaded Maymont’s $18 million capital campaign for a new nature center.

“The essence of running a successful capital campaign is explaining your case to the community in a way that motivates them,” Starr says. “If anyone can pull it off, Judy can.” — Scott Bass

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