Some years ago, a major figure in the orchestra world told me a story. Foundations, he said, were losing interest in funding orchestras. So he and a colleague went to an annual foundation gathering, to try to stir up some interest.At this gathering, he said, anyone could invite foundations to a meeting, to discuss funding projects. Normally, he said, 20 to 30 foundations would show up whenever one of those meetings was called.
So he and his colleagues invited foundations to talk about funding orchestras. Only five or so came — a demonstration, this man told me, of how uninterested they were.
And, before that, the arts funder at a major foundation had told me about losing interest in orchestras. They weren’t solving their problems, this person said, and weren’t doing anything interesting. So this foundation wouldn’t be funding them.
But there’s been a loss of interest, overall. Some of it is due to economic conditions, and a feeling that social causes may be more important than arts funding. But some of it, where orchestras are concerned, is due to what Tony Woodcock (president of New England Conservatory and former CEO of the Minnesota Orchestra) called “donor fatigue,” in a blog post I linked to earlier:
Donors are feeling fatigued by orchestras – the constant demands, the needs, the on-going and unresolved problems. They are questioning the role of “orchestra monoliths” whose consumption of a community’s philanthropic wealth is disproportionate to the value they produce.
Previous posts in this series:
The cost squeeze (an introduction to the concept, with some devastating quotes from institutions being squeezed)The cost squeeze — ticket sales
Someone on Facebook — an arts professional — complimented me on the ticket sales post, and added something I didn’t know about. Performing arts organizations increasingly sell tickets through online discounters, like Groupon. Which gets their attendance up, but (just like lowering ticket prices to attract a younger audience) brings ticket income down, compared to what it would have been if these tickets have sold at full price.
And since the organizations’ customary financial planning calls for the tickets to be sold at full price…