The North Carolina Symphony: a case study in fiscal sustainability strategies for a large American orchestra

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Marian Graebert (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Michael Burns

Abstract: The purpose of this document is to identify fiscal sustainability strategies that have been successfully employed by a large American symphony orchestra and to provide concrete suggestions for orchestra managers seeking to improve their orchestras’ fiscal sustainability. To accomplish this purpose, this document addresses the following questions: 1. Which large American symphony orchestras are fiscally consistent? 2. What are the factors that contribute to a large American orchestra’s fiscal consistency and fiscal sustainability? 3. How can practitioners incorporate these practices into their own orchestras? To answer the first research question, the 2005–2011 tax-form 990s of 25 large American orchestras were surveyed. Total Income/Total Expense ratios were calculated for each orchestra, and five orchestras consistently achieved an income ratio of over 100% from 2005 to 2011. The five orchestras included the Los Angeles Philharmonic, St. Louis Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, North Carolina Symphony, and Buffalo Philharmonic. To answer the second research question, one of the five orchestras was selected as the subject for a qualitative single-case study to determine what factors contributed to its fiscal consistency from 2005 to 2011. While any of the orchestras might have been chosen as the case study subject, the North Carolina Symphony was selected due to the fact that it displayed high levels of government support that were disproportional to sector norms. Analysis from the case study indicated that while government funding was a crucial income source for the North Carolina Symphony, the orchestra’s fiscal sustainability was primarily derived from community engagement, fostered by the North Carolina Symphony’s clarity of mission that translated into community-oriented program activities. Secondary fiscal sustainability strategies included transparency, leveraging human resources, and a service mindset.To answer the third research question, the last section of the document contains practical suggestions derived from the case study analysis to be employed by orchestra practitioners who seek to improve their organizations’ fiscal sustainability.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2016
Case Study, Fiscal Sustainability, Nonprofit Management, Orchestra, Strategies, Symphony
North Carolina Symphony
Symphony orchestras $z United States $x Economic aspects
Symphony orchestras $z United States $x Finance
Symphony orchestras $z United States $x Management

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