Monthly Archives: December 2012

ISO: Some Great Steps and Opportunities to Build Momentum

Good news: the ISO website donation page now has information on the matching-grant challenge (for the current ISO contract to remain in effect, $5 million from new donors must be raised by February 3, 2003; an anonymous donor will match up to $500,000, so those of us potential small donors can have the impact of our gifts doubled).

That information went up yesterday afternoon, and it’s a great step.  The Musicians of the ISO are actively promoting the $500,000 matching opportunity via email and their Facebook page and Twitter feed, and many of us are posting the links on our own pages.

Some friendly suggestions to build momentum:

  • The ISO could publicize the campaign on its own Facebook page and its Twitter feed.  (As of this writing, there has been nothing about it either place.)
  • The ISO Musicians could publicize the campaign on their website. (As of this writing, there is nothing about it there, either.  You could start with a simple link if you are waiting for something fancier from the ISO.)
  • The ISO and/or their fundraising firm could make sure they’ve actually contacted everyone they think they already have contacted. An ISO musician forwarded me an internal ISO email, responding to my original blog post, which says that all single-ticket buyers have been mailed to and are being called.  I’ve bought tickets twice in 2012, and still haven’t been contacted by the ISO itself.  A colleague who is a pretty high-profile person in the regional arts world thanked me today for my “cranky guy” post and said, “I’ve bought tickets, and I haven’t heard anything from them, either!”

It’s December 12. It’s that time of the year to really sell new donors on charitable tax deductions for 2012.  There are lots of opportunities for us to work with the ISO and the musicians (who to so many of us are the ISO) to meet these fund-raising goals.


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Filed under Fund Raising, Indianapolis Symphony, ISO Musicians, marketing

Hey, waiter, there’s a barcode in my soup

At the lunch buffet.  Open the lid for the soup of the day and there’s a barcode sticker floating in it.  Get the attention of a server, who dips a ladle in, uses fingers to pull out the sticker, then puts the ladle and the soup that had the fingers stuck into it back in the vat. I can’t stop laughing, my partner rolls his eyes. 

That’s life in Indiana, I think.  Adjusted to it as I am, I had a cup anyway, even though another server said a new container of soup was on its way. I was hungry!

(By the way, there are four places in my town that have serve-yourself soup at lunch, and I’m not saying which one.)

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More on the Indianapolis Symphony’s Non-Fundraising

I ran into a lot of people at the really terrific Why Arts? Why Indy? event with Michael Kaiser and various local arts leaders at the University of Indianapolis this evening, and everyone seemed to have read my cranky-guy post from earlier in the day.  Or at least part of it.  (It is pretty long.)

And they had stories to share.

Jay Harvey mentioned his friend, an ISO subscriber, who received a fund-raising letter.  Except the letter in her envelope was addressed to someone else, obviously a major contributor.  Which leads us to wonder who got the letter meant for her? And whose letter did the big donor get? (Jay had already tweeted about this.)

A local freelance musician and teacher who like me has bought tickets from the ISO, and even played in the orchestra as a sub, so they definitely have her address, said she, too, is mystified–and a bit insulted–as to why she hasn’t been asked for a donation.

To top it off, an ISO player who teaches at DePauw part-time told me that he’d suggested to the someone in the development office that they send fund-raising solicitation to our music faculty.

Nope. That would be a lot of work, and probably wouldn’t yield much, was the explanation.

So it’s not that it didn’t occur to them to ask music faculty–they just didn’t bother, even when someone suggested it.  Meanwhile, the donation I’ve been waiting for someone to ask me to make would have paid for a mailing campaign several times over.

I understand there are limited resources and the ISO  staff need to focus their efforts where they anticipate there will be good results.  But as someone who retweeted the link my earlier post wrote, “#1 rule of FR: if you don’t ask, you don’t get.”





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Cranky Would-Be Donor to ISO: Just Ask for the Money!

Dear ISO management,

“WE NEED YOUR HELP,” you proclaim in a full-page ad in yesterday’s Indianapolis Star.

I think you’re right.

Your ad explains,

In order to activate the contract the musicians of the Indianapolis Symphony and symphony management agreed to this fall, we need to raise $5 million in pledges from new donors by February 3 to help stabilize our organization.  Luckily, a very generous new donor has agreed to match up to $500,000 in new gifts. . . .

That matching offer is great.

But I think you need help not just with money, but in running your fundraising campaign.  I’ll publicize it here, and on Facebook, and on Twitter, and talk it up.

But first, I’m going to blow off a little steam.

I first heard about this matching program in an email on Saturday from a musician in the symphony, and wrote him back that it’s fantastic that some of the ISO musicians are partnering with the management in this fund-raising effort.  Given the challenges facing full-time, benefits-paying symphony orchestras, the “we play, you raise the money” division of labor isn’t the best path forward. Working together is.

But, hey, ISO management: why haven’t I heard from you?

There are so many demographic, economic, cultural, and sociological factors at play when it comes to symphony orchestras that when players say many or most of an institution’s financial challenges are the result of poor work on the part of management, I often think they are just not looking at the wider picture. When it comes to the ISO, however, I’ve beginning to think that my very frustrated musician friends have a point.

Decades ago, I heard the head of a not-for-profit organization say that the first rule of fundraising is, “ASK FOR THE MONEY!”

Ever since the deal contingent on raising $5 million was made in October, I’ve been planning on making a donation to the ISO.  And I decided I’d make one that would be a stretch for me.

I’ve just been waiting for you,  ISO management, to ask me for the money. And I’ve been more than a little surprised (and dismayed and bewildered) that I haven’t heard from you.

You must know who I am.

I’ve bought tickets at least twice in the past year, including for a small Winter Term class.  When I bought a pair for the October “Happy Hour” concert over the phone, my name and address was in the database, and I confirmed the information and gave a credit card number.  As a music professor in Indiana, I get occasional emails at my work address from the Education Department, and have served as a judge at ISO-sponsored competitions.  The DePauw School of Music, where I teach, has engaged the ISO for two performances this year. I’m sure our Dean would have forwarded a fundraising email had he been he asked, and that our office staff would put flyers in faculty mailboxes if they received a set of them.


Don’t you want my money? Aren’t you going to ask for it?

Luckily for the campaign, I’ve heard from the musicians.  S0 now I’ll make a donation.

I am deeply concerned that my donation will genuinely help this $5 million goal get met, because if you haven’t asked people like me in your ticket-buyer database, or music faculty in nearby programs, who else haven’t you asked?

How much money are you leaving on the table?

I’ve heard more than one ISO supporter say they are concerned about donating directly to the ISO, because of perceived issued with management competence, and would be more comfortable donating directly to the musicians.  Except that to make this new contract happen, we need to donate to the official campaign.

So, ISO fundraisers, we are behind you on this.  Here are a few suggestions, from your cranky donor-to-be:

  • Contact everyone in your existing database. Like me.
  • Get lists from other arts organizations and use them.  The Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra sends mailings to my parents, who donated to public radio, and I assume that’s how the ICO got their information. My parents don’t hear from you.  (OK, one of my parents is dead, but the ICO doesn’t know that. But better to mail one dead person too many than thousands of live potential donors too few.)
  • Put a full explanation of the matching program on the website, and explain its importance.
    • The home page at present has a small little item that says, “A generous donor has offered to match individual gifts dollar-for-dollar, up to $500,000. So every dollar you give today will turn into two, just like that!” Great, but there’s nothing about the February deadline for the $5 million goal, which if not reached means there’s no contract with the players.  How does that create urgency or inspire people to donate?
    • And when I follow the “donate today” link, there’s no information on the matching program at all, how to make sure my gift will count towards it, or whether or not there’s an option to make a pledge (I could pledge a much larger amount towards this campaign than I can just give today).  Yes, there’s a phone number to call, but I don’t want to talk to someone, I just want to handle this easily online.
  • Send out a press release!
    • You’ve taken out at least one full-page newspaper ad for this matching campaign, but there’s nothing (!) about it on the News Releases page of “Press” section of the website.

Maybe I’m too cranky, but I have to say that if the Symphony Society wanted to not-so-subtly sabotage it’s new-donor campaign, it couldn’t do a better job of it. If there were a plan to say, “Look, we did a new-donor campaign but the community didn’t support it, so we have to pay you even less,” I think it would look something like what I’m seeing. Surely this cannot be the case. I assume you’ve been focused on landing big donors.  A groundswell of smaller donations could really help (which is what I’m sure your $500,000 matching donor wants to encourage), and inspire big donors,

but if you don’t even ask the ticket buyers in your database for donations, what are you doing?

And to my ISO musician friends:

You need this $5 million goal to be met.  Obviously the ISO development office doesn’t have the resources to pull this off on their own.

You’re going to have to do even more to help.  A lot more.  You can start by putting the information about this campaign on your own website.

To everybody concerned:

There are a lot of us who will give if we’re invited to, and invited often enough.

Just ask for the money.


Your cranky friend,



Filed under Fund Raising, Indianapolis Symphony, marketing, orchestra websites