Orchestra vows to work harder on marketing, fundraising

    As the Philadelphia Orchestra begins what is expected to be a long bankruptcy proceeding, Mayor Michael Nutter Tuesday offered his support to the orchestra’s future fundraising–even though the city cannot offer the orchestra money.

    A lack of fundraising is one area that has contributed to the financial difficulties of the organization which has filed for Chapter 11 protection.

    Orchestra president Allison Vulgamore said it has been lackluster in its fundraising outreach.

    “Fundraising–that’s about relationship building. We have not had enough people outside the institution listening and learning what donors are interested in,” she said. “The plan is about making fundraising more secure.”

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    The orchestra can’t cover a third of its costs. Vulgamore said it has an operating budget of $46 million and revenues of only $31 million.

    “Our new plans call for more media at concerts, to experiment with marketing. We actually have not marketed our concerts very well, and not spent sufficient funds on marketing,” she said.

    Insufficient marketing is one of many elements causing the orchestra to come up short. Others include changes in regional philanthropy, changes in consumer habits, and the biggest factor of all–a lousy economy.

    Tom Kaiden of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance said people lately have been buying individual tickets instead of seasonal subscriptions.

    “As the economy gets tight, people get more conservative and they withhold their purchase decision until the last minute,” said Kaiden. “That’s a trend that’s been unfolding generally, but it impacts cultural organizations who have benefited from things like subscriptions and memberships.”

    Kaiden said organizations such as the orchestra tend to focus their marketing dollars on subscription sales because it’s more efficient, but they will have to change with consumer patterns.

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