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United Arts raises $6.75 million for Central Florida culture

United Arts of Central Florida announced Thursday that its annual Collaborative Campaign for the Arts has raised more than $6.75 million, its largest campaign to date and the 15th consecutive year it has exceeded its fundraising goal.

The Collaborative Campaign for the Arts, held annually from February 1 to April 30, is the largest fundraising event for cultural organizations in Orange, Lake, Osceola and Seminole counties. According to United Arts, 3,654 contributors took part in the campaign this year, which also includes an “early bird” period from November to January.

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“We asked our community to help us close a huge funding gap created by the Florida State Legislature when it reduced funding for local nonprofit arts organizations,” said Jennifer Evins, President and CEO of United Arts the announcement of the results of the campaign. “Donors to the Collaborative Campaign answered the call and raised a record amount of donations this year.”

According to United Arts, the 2024 campaign saw more than 580 new donors, while more than 680 returning donors increased their contributions. In total, this meant that $1.27 million in new funding was raised.

That's welcome news for cultural nonprofits disheartened by this year's state budget. Lawmakers left some arts funding categories completely unpaid, while other cultural categories approved payouts of less than half of what organizations earned under state funding criteria.

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While the Collaborative Campaign for the Arts raised $6.75 million, matching funds from United Arts and Orange County mean arts organizations will actually receive more than $8.1 million in payouts.

During the campaign, donors can earmark their donations to one of United Arts' 37 partners, such as Orlando Family Stage or Enzian Theater, and United Arts will then match that donation by 15%. Orange County donated an additional $500,000 to encourage new donors.

Initial partner organizations for this year's campaign included Howey Music Series in Lake County, Winter Park Playhouse, Albin Polasek Museum and Sculpture Gardens in Winter Park, and Emotions Dance.

Emily Heumann, executive director of the Howey Music Series, said participating in the campaign gave her organization a needed boost.

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“The generous 15% grant serves as an important catalyst for our fundraising efforts,” she said. “Thanks to the support of our community, we exceeded our campaign goal. We were thrilled that more than half of our campaign donations were first-time donors to our organization.”

The Howey Music Series, a concert and educational organization in the rural Lake County town of Howey-in-the-Hills, was one of the Central Florida organizations that lawmakers left empty-handed this spring. It recommended receiving $20,500 before lawmakers denied cultural funding.

Evins said after the disappointing state budget news that the election results represented a much-needed victory for the cultural sector.

“United Arts is committed to being a champion for and exceeding the arts community,” she said
The fundraising goal feels like a collective victory.”

Follow me at facebook.com/matthew.j.palm or email me at [email protected]. Want more theater and arts news and reviews? Go to orlandosentinel.com/entertainment.

Anna Harden

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