Indiana News

Big Donation For Symphony Orchestra, But With A Big String Attached

Lilly Endowment gift is good only if short-term fundraising goal is met


(photo courtesy Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra)

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra made a large portion of its short-term fundraising goal with two large gifts this week. The latest gift to the orchestra is also big, but with a sizeable string attached - reaching that original, short-term goal.


The Lilly Endowment says it will give $2 million to the ISO to help fund two major initiatives. But it will only donate the money if the orchestra raises the $5 million it must bring in by February 3, 2013 as part of the terms of its contract with the musicians union.  "We're right now at about $2.35 million towards that goal. We have every confidence that we can do it. This community has really stepped up", said ISO spokeswoman Jessica DiSanto.

Lilly already gives $1.2 million to the orchestra every year.  "When the ISO inquired whether Lilly Endowment would be willing to consider this special grant in addition to its regular operating support grant, it seemed compelling," said N. Clay Robbins, the Endowment’s president and CEO. "We were impressed with the significant contributions of time, talent and resources that so many ISO constituents had made in recent months to keep it performing. We are pleased to provide this additional support to one of the key cultural anchors in downtown Indianapolis and in our state."

If the orchestra reaches the $5 million mark by the February deadline, the new gift from Lilly will be split between two projects - half would go toward the long term goal of finding new donors, while the other half would go toward upgrading the seats at the Hillbert Circle Theater, some of which date to the 1930's.

Most of the money donated to the orchestra since the Symphony Society and the musicians approved their contract in October have come from three donors: $750,000 each from Colts owner Jim Irsay and Pacers owner Herb Simon, and $500,000 from ISO board member Yvonne Shaheen.  If the short-term goal isn't reached, the contract that's scheduled to run through September, 2017 will be voided.

The contract reduced the length of the ISO's season to 38 weeks from 42 and reduced starting pay from $78,000 to $53,000 in the first year of the deal in an effort to reduce the orchestra's budget deficit.



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