Adrienne Arsht Center set to make broad reach for donors
By Zachary S. Fagenson
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts is taking a page out of President Obama's playbook and reaching out to every member of the community for support.
As its resident companies buckle from the effects of a recession, the center hopes a mass appeal will recruit thousands of small donors. In return, they'll get a membership that offers access to exclusive parties and the patrons lounge and a chance to buy tickets before the general public. This effort will accompany a campaign to secure donations from larger donors.
When the Performing Arts Center Trust, the policy body for the center, met Tuesday, finding those donors and a way to continue offering high-quality performances to the community at lower costs was No. 1 on the agenda.
So far, the trust looks to be holding steady in a tumultuous fundraising environment.
During the first quarter of fiscal 2009, the center took in $373,000 more than the previous year and ran an operating deficit of $44,000 compared to a $248,000 shortfall from the prior year's first quarter.
Although it's running a small deficit, trust Chairman J. Ricky Arriola predicted the center won't be ending 2009 in the red.
"We're anticipating a balanced budget by year end," he said. "Revenues should match expenses but there's timing differences" involving the incurring and payment of expenses.
While Mr. Arriola was confident that the center would cover its expenses, a tough economy has left little room for the unexpected
"We're razor-thin close to our budget goals for the season," said center Chief Financial Officer John Burnett.
The center's president, M. John Richard, made his first address to the trust Tuesday, emphasizing the need for better fundraising.
"We're forecasting stability for a young organization," he said. "But we need to be more aggressive on fundraising."
In that mindset, the trust is working on building a development committee co-chaired by Mr. Arriola and trust member Evelyn Green.
They've hired the Lukens Group "for a couple thousand dollars per month" to develop broad-based grassroots support.
"We want to have lots and lots of small donors all the way up through more significant donations and major gifts from individuals and corporations," said Mr. Arriola.
While the Lukens Group will focus on street-level fundraising, the trust's development committee will chase down large donors.
Meanwhile, the Adrienne Arsht Center Performing Arts Foundation, formerly the center's sole fundraising arm, will maintain such responsibilities as the annual gala and special money-raising events and turn the proceeds over to the trust.
"What we're trying to do is have a very full development program," said Mr. Arriola.
Although unexpected challenges could throw off the center's carefully balanced budget, no one is willing to sacrifice quality.
"For the price of a movie you can come see a live performance," said Mr. Arriola. "As long as we provide quality and value, the community will continue to support us."