Children’s Theatre of Charlotte Honored for Nonprofit Stewardship 

Raleigh   Children’s Theatre of Charlotte received statewide honors today when the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits selected it for one of three 2008 Nonprofit Sector Stewardship Awards. The groups were recognized for their exemplary stewardship of the resources entrusted to them. The Center announced the awards at the 2008 Statewide Conference for the Nonprofit Sector in Raleigh. 

The N.C. Center for Nonprofits helps nonprofit board and staff members to lead and manage their organizations effectively, make the best possible use of their resources, and collaborate with other groups to improve the quality of life in North Carolina’s communities. Founded in 1990, the Center is a coalition of 1,600 nonprofit organizations of all types and sizes in all 100 counties across the state.  

The Center created the Nonprofit Sector Stewardship Awards in 1995 to recognize nonprofits that demonstrate the high standards of accountability, ethics, and stewardship that the public expects of them as tax-exempt organizations. The Center’s statewide Board of Directors serves as the selection committee. The 2008 Awards are sponsored by Prudential Financial, Inc.                            

Founded in 1948, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte (CTC) is a professional theatre company that serves more than 321,000 young people and families each year. Its artistic team selects scripts, hires directors and actors, creates its own sets and costumes, and designs sound and lights for each performance. It works closely with Charlotte-Mecklenburg’s Schools to bring professional theatre and arts education to students at every grade level. 

Bruce LaRowe, executive director; Stephen Sorenson, chair-elect of the board; and Linda Reynolds, director of development, accepted the award for CTC. Presenting the awards for the N.C. Center for Nonprofits were Jane Kendall, president; Doris Stith, vice chair of the Board of Directors; and Trisha Lester, vice president. 

"We are honoring Children’s Theatre of Charlotte for careful stewardship of all its financial, human, and natural resources in retooling its 60-year-old nonprofit to reach out to new audiences. It ensures that board members are active and accountable and that employees are supported,” Kendall said. “A commitment to being nimble and accountable in changing times is a hallmark of North Carolina’s nonprofit sector.”  

CTC formed a government-nonprofit partnership with the Public Library of Charlotte & Mecklenburg County to build a new facility called ImaginOn in downtown Charlotte. Opened in 2005, ImaginOn houses a new youth library, Children’s Theatre, and an educational center all in one place. This joint venture won one of five national awards from Partners for Livable Communities as a stellar example of community collaboration. CTC made sure that the cooperative agreement maintained CTC’s autonomy as a private, nonprofit organization because it is this independence that allows nonprofits to be agile and respond to changing community needs. 

To prepare for this major expansion, CTC undertook a rigorous internal transformation that reflected responsible stewardship of both human and environmental resources, as well as dollars. “CTC’s Board of Directors and staff used principles of good practice for the governance and management of nonprofits as they reinvented their organization,” said Kendall.  

CTC overhauled its board selection process to ensure that board members are so passionate about the Theatre’s mission that they agree to make their service to CTC their highest volunteer priority. Board members also must have relationships in the community that they are willing to tap on CTC’s behalf. The Development Committee of the board was eliminated, recognizing that all board members are accountable for helping to build relationships, engage new audiences, and bring new funding opportunities to the Theatre. 

Each new and returning board member now has an annual contract that allows them to determine within specific priority areas how they can best serve, engage, and be held responsible. Stephen Sorenson, chair-elect of the board, said, “I’ve never worked with a nonprofit that has made such good use of my time as a board member.”  

During the transition to ImaginOn, CTC kept its loyal volunteer corps called ENCORE! involved by holding regular tours and information sessions. Quarterly gatherings gave all staff a chance to share their ideas, as well as their fears and questions about the pending move.  

Tammy Stringer, chair of the board, said, “Our staff are a huge asset. We want them to keep learning through conferences and workshops. Our long-range plan focuses on retaining and supporting our staff.” The board gave Bruce LaRowe, CTC’s long-time executive director, a sabbatical to renew his energy for continuing his work there. He used it to ride a bicycle from Seattle to Maine. 

CTC and the Public Library also made a commitment to careful stewardship of natural resources. ImaginOn is the first public building in Charlotte to “go green.” It features environmentally-conscious design and uses recycled materials throughout the building, such as floors made from recycled tires. 

Finally, CTC demonstrates good financial management with 27 years of operating “in the black.” It examined how likely it is that various short- and long-term risks would actually occur and how severely each one would hurt the organization’s operations. Now it is crafting plans to avoid or mitigate these risks. The N.C. Center for Nonprofits provides extensive resources to help nonprofits assess and control risks. 

The other organizations selected for the 2008 awards are Action for Children North Carolina based in Raleigh and Helping Hands Clinic, Inc. of Lenoir. Winners receive recognition among nonprofit leaders across the state and among their own elected officials, $500 to invest in professional development for their board and staff, and a work of art by Durham artist Galia Goodman to commemorate this statewide honor. 

The N.C. Center for Nonprofits serves as a statewide network for nonprofit board and staff members, an information center on effective nonprofit organizational practices, and an advocate for the nonprofit sector as a whole. The Center can be reached at 919-790-1555 or  



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