Hilton Head Symphony asks donors to help lift it out of $50K hole

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Hilton Head Symphony asks donors to help lift it out of $50K hole

Published Wednesday, March 23, 2011   |  472 Words  |  

The Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra is asking donors to step up their support to stem a financial loss for the fifth year in a row.

Edward Parrish, chairman of the orchestra's board of directors, sent a letter to supporters earlier this month stating help was needed to avoid an estimated $50,000 shortfall in its $1.35 million budget.

"The orchestra is an important asset to our quality of life on Hilton Head. Insuring that the orchestra has a sound financial base is critical," Parrish wrote.

Performance income, including ticket sales, dropped 10 percent -- about $30,000 to $40,000 -- from last season. Business contributions also fell because of the economy and because of a greater charitable focus by the community on the Heritage golf tournament, which lacks a title sponsor, Parrish wrote.

Individual contributions have held steady, said Mary Briggs, orchestra executive director.

"No one has pulled their contribution. Those remain tight and on budget, but we have seen a decline in ticket sales," Briggs said. "We are not in jeopardy of going out of business. We are trying to ward off the shortfall so that we don't carry a deficit forward, and enter next year in a better financial position."

Subscription and ticket sales account for about one-third of the orchestra's income. The remainder comes from individuals, companies and federal, state, local and foundation grants, according to tax filings.

The orchestra lost $240,000 in the 2006-07 season, forcing the board to tap reserves. It has lost money each year since and had about $150,000 in reserves at the end of June. That figure used to be about $400,000, Briggs said.

The orchestra trimmed its losses to $94,028 in 2010, down from $422,104 in 2009 and $158,486 in 2008, according to the latest tax filing.

Between 2008 and 2009, revenues were down about $331,000 -- $187,000 from investment losses and $117,000 in reduced contributions and grants -- but revived between 2009 to 2010. The orchestra collected $1.4 million in revenue last year compared to $1.15 million in 2009.

Expenses were down about $63,000 from 2009, but still exceeded revenue. The orchestra dipped into its reserves again to make up the loss.

"We are constantly looking at our pricing structure," Briggs said. "We want to stop the bleeding this year so we don't have to tap into reserves and can start building that back up."

Some have criticized the orchestra board, saying it needs to get its financial house in order, and they continue to decry the dismissal of music director Mary Woodmansee Green.

Briggs says the criticism is unfounded.

"We believe we have been very forthcoming with our donors and have cut expenses consistently the past three years," she wrote in an email. "We continue to do that as well as look for additional ways to increase our income."