Sarasota Orchestra among arts groups adapting to shifting donor base

Posted on: September 29, 2011

In Monday’s (9/26) Herald-Tribune (Sarasota, Florida), Carrie Seidman writes how local arts organizations are shifting their focus to cultivate new generations of donors. “Older philanthropists often want traditional performances, time-intensive personal relationships and their communications in writing. Their younger counterparts want cutting-edge concerts tied to social issues, more episodic contact and electronic notifications. … The question of how to cultivate a changing donor base confronts even the most venerable arts organizations. They are scrambling to adapt as audiences and donors shift toward younger, tech-savvy generations with different tastes and priorities, less disposable income and greater demands on their dollars. … In today’s competitive entertainment market, any organization that does not stay on top of the changes is likely to disappear, says Joe McKenna, CEO of the Sarasota Orchestra. The orchestra, rebranded in 2008, instituted multimedia programs to appeal to younger audiences, more informal and affordable fundraising events and greater use of social and electronic media. ‘But we’re not changing enough and we’re not changing fast enough—even though we’ve changed a lot,’ says McKenna, whose 63-year-old organization has benefitted from the multimillion-dollar gifts of World War II generation donors like Beatrice Friedman and the late Virginia Toulmin. ‘The question now is, what will happen as those high-end donors recede? How will they be replaced? That’s going to be the redefining element, and whoever guesses right will own the future.’ ”

Posted September 29, 2011