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IN a time when many nonprofit organizations are struggling to just stay in existence, the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic has emerged as a model of fiscal prudence, creative fundraising and efficient management.
All three elements were put into play in bringing the orchestra to a $62,000 net profit from the most recent season and allowed it to provide the first pay increase to its musicians in the past three years. It also enabled the organization to partially restore cuts that had been made in the salaries of the executive director and the music director.
The turnaround was particularly impressive in light of the fact that many metro orchestras around the country have fallen on economic bad times and some have been disbanded.
The philharmonic itself has obviously had to do some serious belt-tightening in recent years — witness the three-year hold on raises for the musicians and the salary cut for the executive director and music director.
However, the sacrifices made by all these individuals and the organization’s fiscal discipline in making and holding to tough decisions like these are demonstrative of the kind of steps organizations have to make in order to survive.
Fiscal toughness does have its limits, however, and it alone did not power the comeback.
Although budget cuts did have to be made, the orchestra was still able to realize a $20,000 boost in ticket sales in the past season. That was due in great part to some creative scheduling. There were two exceptional shows staged this past season that had a special appeal to the local audience — one an appearance by the highly popular Canadian Brass and the second a sort of homecoming for former Columbus residents and Broadway singers Marja and Chasten Harmon, who performed with another Columbus product, nationally known saxophonist Cam Collins.
The orchestra was also able to obtain a number of financial grants, including one for $30,000 from the Haddad Foundation.
All of these elements were integral to the success of the past season, but there is no guarantee that they can be sustained in future years. Some events, such as the sold-out performance involving the three Columbus products, have to be considered as magical but unique projects.
The continued success also involves support from sponsors who provide the financial framework for individual concerts. There will be times in the future when some or all of those sponsors might face fiscal struggles of their own and be forced to consider cutting back on their support for nonprofit groups.
Given the track record of the philharmonic, especially in light of this latest rebound, the future does, indeed, look more promising than it has in recent years.
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