Orchestra announces a $45 million start on solvency plan

Posted: June 23, 2011

The Philadelphia Orchestra Association announced an aid package Wednesday worth a potential $45 million - a substantial start to its $160 million drive to help the orchestra emerge from bankruptcy and become stable.

The funding includes only $11.2 million in outright gifts and pledges. The rest is being dangled: If the orchestra meets certain conditions set by donors, and can raise $17.5 million in new money, it will trigger matching grants from various sources worth an additional $16.3 million.

Orchestra president Allison B. Vulgamore declined to say what those conditions were. "They vary from donor to donor," she said.

Some have matching requirements by the end of 2011, others do not, said board chairman Richard B. Worley. But the entire challenge is being treated as if the deadline is the end of the year, he said.

If the effort succeeds, the $45 million will help underwrite the orchestra's operations for the next three years, Worley said.

Substantial hurdles stand between the current total and the $160 million goal. This is the orchestra's first major fund-raising effort in decades without the presence of Leonore Annenberg, who, with her husband Walter, donated about $100 million to the orchestra and Academy of Music. Their vote of confidence was often a catalyst for others to give. Both are deceased, and their foundation is focused on California projects.

The drive is also unusual, if not unique, among cultural organizations in that it is seeking an unprecedented sum in the midst of a controversial bankruptcy and nettlesome negotiations with musicians. Moreover, stumping for the orchestra's annual fund will continue.

This initial round of philanthropy represents the largest and closest of the orchestra's traditional donor family, so the campaign's next stretch will largely rely on those whose connections to the orchestra are less emotional and whose largesse thus may be more difficult to inspire.

"Yes, we have heard from, let's say, those donors who are closest to the interests of the Philadelphia Orchestra," said Vulgamore, "but I think it's important to understand they had the confidence to come first, and that was necessary, and it was a grounding way of inspiring the next set of donors to the orchestra." She declined to break out how much money came from each donor, stating only that pledges had come from the William Penn and Wyncote Foundations, both controlled by David Haas; philanthropist H.F. "Gerry" Lenfest; the Neubauer Family Foundation, funded by Aramark chief Joseph Neubauer; and an unspecified number of orchestra board members. Each donor had been cultivated for months or years.

A spokesman for the William Penn Foundation said that, of the $27.5 million promised or conditionally pledged to the campaign, $7 million came from the foundation. Another $7 million was pledged through the Wyncote Foundation "in honor of Chara Haas and the late John C. Haas," a spokeswoman for David Haas wrote in an e-mail.

Worley and his wife, Leslie Anne Miller, also are donors, but Worley declined to quantify the amount of the gift.

Neubauer, a former orchestra board chairman, declined to comment, according to an orchestra official. Lenfest was in Italy, an assistant said.

To the extent that funders were spurred by the orchestra's new strategic plan, dated May 19, these first donations represent an important nod. The orchestra's leadership initially proposed a more ambitious campaign, in excess of $200 million, to core supporters. They balked, saying such an effort would be too large. The $160 million plan comprises:

$6 million in working capital to restore liquidity to the orchestra's balance sheet.

$40.2 million in transition funding for the strategic plan, including artistic and media programs, and funding expected deficits.

About $8 million to underwrite costs associated with bankruptcy, including professional fees, settlement with creditors, and possible reductions in ticket sales and donations during bankruptcy.

$5.4 million in contingency funds.

$100 million in new endowment to augment the nest egg currently valued at about $120 million.

The orchestra Wednesday immediately began sending out pleas.

"While we recognize that securing $17.5 million in contributions in such a short time is ambitious - we believe it is achievable. We humbly invite you to embrace this opportunity to help us meet these challenge grants with your own gift," wrote Vulgamore in an e-mail to subscribers and others.

Embellishing her usual "Yours in music" sign-off, Vulgamore signed the note: "In deepest gratitude for your belief in our music." She said it probably would be late 2016 before the orchestra could raise the full $160 million.

"We'll need every inch of the way. We're going to be in a constant pattern of fund-raising through the plan."


Contact music critic Peter Dobrin

at 215-854-5611 or pdobrin@phillynews.com. Read his blog at www.philly.com/artswatch

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