Boston Symphony Launches $400 Million Fundraising Campaign

Classic Arts News   Boston Symphony Launches $400 Million Fundraising Campaign
The Boston Symphony Orchestra will embark on its largest fundraising campaign ever beginning this fall, with a goal of up to $400 million. The new funds would be used for capital projects and to increase the BSO's endowment, which, at about $400 million, is already the largest of any orchestra in the world.

The main purpose of the money raised, according to BSO officials, is to upgrade the orchestra's existing properties. In Symphony Hall, plans include redesigning the lobbies to relieve crowding, renovate concession areas, improve locker spaces for performers, and uncover and restore second-balcony windows that have been untouched since World War II. Upgrades at the Tanglewood Music Center, the orchestra's summer home, include renovation and expansion of the main gate's bookstore and administrative buildings that are over 100 years old.

"In the modern market place, to remain competitive, you have to have amenities for audience members," BSO managing director Mike Volpe told The Boston Globe.

Volpe plans on allocating endowment funds to building upkeep. Though Symphony Hall's bathrooms were renovated a decade ago and the hall floor replaced for the first time last summer, he said the structure still requires a more comprehensive maintenance program.

A fortified endowment will also help the BSO offset its operating deficit, which stood at $1.4 million in 2006, the third consecutive year the orchestra finished in the red.

"Though of course we are taking this three year period of deficits very seriously, we remain optimistic about the long-term health of the organization, as it has consistently met challenging times in effective ways throughout its history," a BSO spokesperson told PlaybillArts in April.

"The absolute size of the endowment is not in itself an indication of the institution's financial strength," the statement said. "Not-for-profit organizations, from Harvard on down to the smallest social-service agency, know that it is the relative size of their endowments, their endowment spending policy, and their ability to operate in balance, that determines the institution's present and future financial stability."

Still, Henry Fogel, president of the American Symphony Orchestra League, feels the BSO's endowment is worth expanding.

"Endowment protects you, it allows you to raise ticket prices less frequently and it's there permanently," he told the Globe. "It doesn't eliminate annual fundraising but it can take the pressure off of it."

The campaign, which will include $40 million already secured for the BSO's artistic excellence fund, is slated for board approval by this fall or early 2008.

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