Music Center Fund Raising a Victory


The news that the Music Center Unified Fund exceeded its $10-million fund-raising goal, reported in Morning Report of the Calendar section on Aug. 12, is certainly worthy of applause. Given that the editors chose to report my comment that the success was “realistic” and were quick to point out that the final tally was lower than the amount of money actually raised in the previous two years, I feel it is important that readers understand the circumstances that led to a reduction in the goal. By offering this insight, it is my sincere hope that the editors and, more importantly, the general public might be more inclined to view the Music Center’s success as a victory, rather than simply a reality.

The Music Center Board of Governors, made up of more than 70 business and community leaders, is the policy-making body of the Unified Fund and is responsible for setting the fund-raising goal each year and determining how the funds raised will be distributed among its constituencies: the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Music Center Opera, the Center Theatre Group, the Los Angeles Master Chorale and the Music Center Education Division. As Unified Fund ’95 campaign chair and through my longtime involvement with the Music Center Operating Company and the Music Center’s Fraternity of Friends, I have seen the Music Center go through a difficult period, during which the Board of Governors strengthened management, streamlined the fund-raising staff and worked closely with the resident companies to make significant changes in our fund-raising policies. All of this was accomplished during one of the worst periods of recession and economic restructuring in California’s history.


The downturn in the economy, the loss of major corporate headquarters, a reluctance of donors to trust the future with pledges and pressing social need all played a significant role in the decision to lower the Unified Fund goal. As with so many businesses in Southern California, the Music Center Unified Fund felt the impact of the recession and was forced to downsize as a result. The team of professional fund-raisers and support staff that totaled 55 in 1991 was reduced to 31 by 1995 in order to lower operating costs.


Still, based on results of the 1993 and 1994 fund raising efforts, it was clear that contributions to the Unified Fund could not match the levels of the late 1980s and early 1990s, when our fund-raising reached as high as $17.6 million. Primarily, the Unified Fund goal was reduced to reflect the change in donor confidence in the immediate and future health of Southern California.

The second critical factor in lowering the Music Center Unified Fund goal was the 1991 decision to allow resident companies to strengthen their fund-raising capacity. Though the Music Center Unified Fund was originally established to centralize fund raising and to distribute funds among the resident companies, some individuals and foundations had a particular interest in a single art form and preferred to make a direct donation.

Therefore, beginning in 1992, some contributions that would have ordinarily been given through the Unified Fund went directly to the resident companies. Though the Unified Fund remains the central fund-raising body, with more than 5,000 donors contributing annually to support Music Center campus-wide performances and education programs, our resident companies have established individual development departments in an effort to better serve donors who display a deep passion for a particular art discipline. The new policy vastly increased the resident companies’ capacity for independently raising funds, resulting in additional gifts totaling more than $13.5 million.

Given these circumstances and the fact that the Unified Fund was able to exceed its goal of $10 million in an economy that remains sluggish at best, we have most certainly reached a turning point. We have established strong ties within all industries--more than 90 executives serve on our Campaign Cabinet--and among the residents of Los Angeles, more than 1,000 men and women help to raise funds through membership organizations such as the Blue Ribbon, Fraternity of Friends and Club 100.

And, with this strong foundation, the Music Center Unified Fund is poised to build on this year’s success and to increase its fund-raising goal in the coming years.

It’s important for readers to understand that the Unified Fund’s potential is directly linked to the economic strength of Los Angeles and to the artistic strength of its resident companies, which are ranked among the world’s finest performing arts companies. I take great pride in our accomplishment this year, as should each individual, corporation and foundation that helped us to reach this point by making a donation or volunteering their time and services.