Symphony reaches emergency $5 million goal

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:39 am

After months of uncertainty about how to fund future operations, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has completed its $5 million fundraising campaign toward its long-term sustainability.

 

The emergency campaign was announced in December as the MSO pleaded for community support to avoid shutting down. Facing significant budget struggles from past seasons, the orchestra had to contend with the prospect of folding.

The organization first restructured internally in December, cutting staff and musicians, trimming its operating budget, and altering employees’ benefits packages, among implementing other adjustments.

Mark Niehaus, MSO president and executive director, then turned to the public for support with the launch of the $5 million campaign.

“By basically being honest with everyone and letting them know what the situation is, we hope to expand the base of support,” Niehaus told BizTimes in December.

The $5 million needed stemmed from a $2 million deficit in fiscal year 2013 and an additional $3 million required to balance the budget this year.

In February, following an outpouring of support from community foundations, corporations and individual donors, the MSO had raised about $4.8 million toward its goal. A $200,000 “Finale” challenge grant announced in February set the MSO on its final fundraising stretch, thanks to a grant from an anonymous donor who agreed to match new and increased gifts to the orchestra.

According to the MSO, more than $156,000 was collected as part of the Finale Challenge grant.

Throughout the entire duration of the campaign, individual donations tallied more than $2.8 million. Corporate support totaled $651,500, with the most significant gifts from Northwestern Mutual, Rockwell Automation, We Energies, and Johnson Controls. And support from area foundations equaled about $999,000, largely thanks to The Bradley Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Helen Bader Foundation, Edward U Demmer Trust, Herb Kohl Charities, The Krause Family Foundation, and the Daniel M Soref Charitable Trust.

Additionally, a $250,000 challenge grant the MSO received from the United Performing Arts Fund in December boosted the fundraising effort by attracting close to 900 new individual donors, according to the MSO.

“The community’s outpouring of support shows us Milwaukee recognizes the quality and value of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra,” Niehaus said. “We are honored and privileged to serve our community and make great music for years to come.”

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