Minnesota Orchestra Balances its Budget!

Hooray! A very nice bit news has started making the rounds—the Minnesota Orchestra has posted a balanced budget for the just-ended fiscal year. The Orchestra’s press release is here; additional coverage can be found at the Star Tribune, Minnesota Public Radio, and Pioneer Press.

Without further ado, congratulations to all involved! This is a tremendous accomplishment.

Of course there are a few obvious caveats, including the fact that these are the preliminary, unaudited results.

But still. This is a phenomenal achievement. The numbers tell the tale:

  • $30.6 million budget… which again, was balanced. Last year, there was a $650,000 deficit.
  • $14.8 million in donations.
  • 7,105 unique donors contributed to the orchestra, an increase of nearly 30% from last year.
  • 250,000 people bought tickets to see the Orchestra at Orchestra Hall or other venues around town… and places such as Havana, Cuba.
  • $7.7 million in draws for operations from its endowment—roughly a draw of 5%.  This is a number closer to industry standards, and not the double-digit draws routinely taken around the time of the lockout.
  • $9.5 million in debt was paid off.

All in all, these numbers show strong financial health, and set the stage for greater successes in the future. And I couldn’t be happier.

But I feel I should make a couple of additional comments, too.

First, while the numbers are impressive, they are a reflection of and natural response to a deeper truth—the Orchestra is artistically healthy again. That is the really critical point here, one that makes the financial success possible.

As I’ve argued here on my blog, the true measure of an organization’s overall sustainability is how healthy its mission is. In this case, the Orchestra’s mission is to present world-class orchestral music.  If the Orchestra doesn’t present great music, it won’t attract ticket buyers, donors, community supporters, or media attention. The music has to take precedence for anything else to happen.

Well, the Orchestra is performing at the top of its game. It’s not just that the artistic excellence is there—but there’s more going on, too.  I think there’s a greater emotional connection happening at concerts, too… a greater connection with the music, a greater connection between the artists on the stage, and a greater connection between the musicians and the audience out in the Hall. Again and again we’ve been treated to performances with a purpose.

The excitement is carrying over behind the scenes, too. The staff, from President and CEO Kevin Smith on down, is playing at the top of its game, and the Board of Directors is hugely engaged and making things happen.  The organization is healthy again, and pulling together to make the music possible.

In short, there is a new crackle of excitement and engagement happening at Orchestra Hall, and that’s what’s driving the increase in fundraising, ticket sales, and attention. The Orchestra’s success in tending to its core mission has made the finances thrive—people are supporting the Orchestra because they believe in it and are inspired by it.

I’ve been arguing that this would happen in the abstract, but now the Orchestra is proving this in reality.

I hope the results posted here will put to rest some of the petty sniping we’ve seen of late about the Orchestra’s future… such as the recent article in Twin Cities Business filled with dire warnings that the musicians’ labor contracts were “unsustainable,” and that the Orchestra as a whole was headed toward financial ruin.

No more nay-saying. As the Minnesota Orchestra prepares to launch its new season, let’s just celebrate… and listen to some life-changing music.

See you at Orchestra Hall!



2 thoughts on “Minnesota Orchestra Balances its Budget!

  1. Pingback: Unexpected, Wonderful News from the Minnesota Orchestra | Mask of the Flower Prince

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