In a nutshell, heres the days budget news for the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra: big silver lining, small dark cloud.
The CSO announced on Thursday a collective gift of $2 million from four anonymous donors. If the board and staff can raise an additional $800,000 by June 30, the orchestra will make its budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year.
That would be a breakthrough as it hasnt happened since fiscal year 2002.
We dont want people to read about this and think our financial problems are all solved, says interim executive director Robert Stickler. But with a lot of work and community support, it should be reachable.
The orchestra has always been dependent on the kindness of neighbors. One-third of its $9.2 million budget comes from ticket sales; its Arts & Science Council money has decreased over time; it gets no money directly from city or county government.
So many people dont understand that two-thirds of our income must come from contributions, says Stickler. Weve had good success when weve presented that message to people. If were going to thrive and (music director) Christopher Warren-Green has a great vision for the symphony itll happen because of community support.
The maestro recently re-enlisted through 2016. His orchestra has gotten more good news in the current fiscal year: The number of donors has gone up by 10 percent, and the number of Symphony League members (contributions of $2,000 or more) has risen by 12 percent. Multiyear givers have already pledged $1 million toward the 2013-14 budget.
Success would be a happy reversal of a 10-year trend. The orchestra ended its 2003 season with its first deficit in seven years, then unveiled a turnaround plan in 2007 that included a pay cut for players and larger donations by the board.
In May 2009, the ASC cut the orchestras support by $1 million. The CSO launched an emergency fund drive, but the bad economy has continued to hurt fundraising.
Season-subscription renewals have just been mailed, but those dont count toward the $800,000. So a follow-up letter will request a donation, and the board and employees are working on likely givers.
The board is having receptions in peoples homes almost every other weekend now, says Stickler. We get musicians or the music director there; we tell our story and ask if theyll invest in the symphony. Those are going very well.
Board members are doing the same things in their own channels. We have a Symphony Guild fundraiser coming up (the Classical Idol concert on April 12). But the primary way you do these things is with bigger donors, one on one.
The symphony got another boost this week, when the people who gave $2 million agreed to provide additional money in future years depending on improvement in the financial performance of the symphony.
Does this mean the CSO has to end up in the black, or else?
I think, if we fall a little short but they see significant progress, theyd likely renew next year, says Stickler. But were determined to make it.