Kimmel telling funders: Put a name on it

Anne Ewers, President and CEO of the Kimmel Center, along with the SEI team, cuts the ribbon to the entrance of the SEI Innovation Studio. The entrance is marked by a 20 by 30 foot glass panel mural. (Colin Kerrigan / Philly.com)
Anne Ewers, President and CEO of the Kimmel Center, along with the SEI team, cuts the ribbon to the entrance of the SEI Innovation Studio. The entrance is marked by a 20 by 30 foot glass panel mural. (Colin Kerrigan / Philly.com)
Posted: August 05, 2014

Another area cultural institution is stumping for big money, though leaders of this one hope to uncover untapped sources.

In its most ambitious campaign since opening in 2001, the Kimmel Center is beginning a fund-raising drive with a goal "well north of $100 million," says Kimmel president Anne Ewers. But rather than looking to foundations and private philanthropists for most of the money, it will chiefly seek funds in the form of corporate sponsorships.

The key to the campaign will be naming opportunities, and nearly everything will be up for grabs: physical spaces at the South Broad Street facilities, the names of staff positions, and the renaming of specific concert series.

One of the arts center's biggest plums is a chance for some corporation to slide its name into the title of the Kimmel's biennial Philadelphia International Festival of the Arts, Ewers says. In fact, it was while Kimmel leaders were seeking funders for that project for 2015 that it occurred to them that determining the value of all the Kimmel's naming opportunities and sequencing pitches was critical. So the board voted last week to put PIFA on hold, delaying the festival a year. Even though arts groups already have pulled together proposals for projects and performances for next April, the festival - whatever its name ends up being - will now happen next in 2016.

Ewers said the festival was not delayed because of fund-raising difficulties. "We were having conversations with people and saying, 'You have the opportunity to name the festival,' and the people said in order to do a naming it has to go through all these channels, and it wouldn't have happened in time for PIFA [in 2015]. This is really the reason. It's all about sequencing" all the naming opportunities - she said any lead funder would want an industry exclusive.

Participating companies will be informed of the change this week, and "our intention is to do PIFA as we envisioned it, with the same artistic elements and, we are hoping, the same people."

Ewers expects that the cultural community will greet as friendly news the Kimmel's efforts to fund PIFA as well as the larger campaign, because it does not represent significant fund-raising competition; a 2013 Inquirer survey of area arts and culture groups documented 50 active campaigns with a combined goal of more than $1.4 billion.

Most of the Kimmel's new $100 million-plus campaign is expected to come from corporate marketing money. Other arts groups do utilize such funds - a bank and a local cable company, for instance, have supported the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society - but the mainstay sources of major drives are individuals, foundations, and, in a limited way, government.

"It's not like other campaigns going on. We don't want to compete with our resident companies," said Ewers, referring to the group of eight that includes the Philadelphia Orchestra and Opera Philadelphia.

Not that the Kimmel would reject gifts from individuals. But about three-quarters of the money is expected to come in the form of corporate marketing dollars, rather than corporate philanthropy or corporate foundations, with only one quarter from individuals.

The Kimmel has hired Toronto-based arts consultant Genovese Vanderhoof & Associates to help unlock the value of naming rights on its campus. The Perelman Theater and the Kimmel Center itself are named in perpetuity, but Ewers said she believed Commonwealth Plaza - named to remind visitors that the state footed much of the bill for the center's construction - could be renamed, if the state agreed. She points to a $100 million donation at Lincoln Center that granted David H. Koch the right to replace the name atop the New York State Theater with his own. The 2008 deal, which carries 50-year naming rights, was approved by the New York State legislature.

"There is a myriad of things we can name," Ewers said, though a complete list had not been assembled.

Which companies and industries would be well-served in aligning their names with the Kimmel in the consciousness of visiting patrons? In recent years, the center has diversified programming beyond orchestral, opera and chamber music, to pop acts and more commercial presentations. Kimmel board chairman David P. Holveck sees this as a funding opportunity.

"All industries today are facing the question of how you position yourself in a broad national market, and with consolidation, all the elements are changing," said Holveck, a retired corporate executive (most recently president and CEO of Endo Pharmaceuticals) and board chair since July 1. "When you look at what the Kimmel can bring in terms of visibility in a major metropolitan market like Philadelphia, I don't think any [industry] is off the table. It could be banking, entertainment, cable - there is no end to it for any industry that is trying to put itself in the national spotlight."

The "well north of $100 million" the Kimmel expects to raise will be spent or salted away in a variety of ways. Part of the money will go into endowment, and part will be used to implement the next phases of long-planned renovations to public spaces. The last portion will cushion against unexpected operating costs and fund the risk of new business and artistic endeavors.

The beauty of corporate naming opportunities as evergreen funding sources is that generally, they eventually expire. If a gift is big enough or comes along at a critical time (Sidney Kimmel's gifts were both), naming rights may be extended in perpetuity.

But the clock is ticking on another big opportunity. The naming rights for Verizon Hall, home of the Philadelphia Orchestra, were granted for a term of 25 years from the start of the 1998 agreement, which means that in less than a decade its name could yield new cash. Said Ewers: "It's like naming stadiums."


pdobrin@phillynews.com

215-854-5611

www.inquirer.com/artswatch

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