Kansas City Symphony Reaches $55 Million Endowment Fundraising Goal

Oct 11, 2017

After a five-year fundraising campaign, the Kansas City Symphony announced Wednesday that it had accomplished its goal of raising $55 million for its endowment fund, which will now total more than $100 million.

In a news release, the Symphony reported that 1,000 donors had pledged gifts ranging from $10 to $10 million over the five-year period.

"The beauty of an endowment is that it gives a base of funding that enables the organization to grow incrementally, and have known sources of funding as we go forward," Symphony Executive Director Frank Byrne told KCUR.

Byrne said the campaign grew out of long-term financial planning the Symphony began a decade ago.

"We realized that our endowment was well below the amount of endowments at orchestras in cities with comparable populations," he said. "When we looked at everything else we’re doing, we’re doing really well. We have high sold capacities, we’re diversified in our programming, everything else we’re doing is setting a standard around the industry. But we detected that our endowment was lower than it needed to be, and that was one glaring area that needed attention."

To meet its annual operating budget of nearly $17 million, the Symphony said it would draw about 4 percent of the endowment (about $4 million) each year. And it will continue to raise additional funds annually, Byrne said.

“Ticket sales and all other sources of earned revenue covers about 40 percent of our budget, which is the gold standard for an American symphony orchestra — that's really good," Byrne told KCUR. "That means 60 percent of our annual operating expenses have to come from other sources. That’s annual fundraising and endowment."

"If you think about it in layman’s terms," he added, "the endowment is like having a retirement account and the annual funding is the expenses that occur on an annual basis and monthly basis."

And with the endowment goal met, Byrne said the Symphony can now begin to pursue its longer-term objectives.

"One of those is to make increased investment in musician salaries, enabling us to attract and keep the great people who produce the music that is the core of our organization," he said. "We needed to become more competitive in that area."

C.J. Janovy is an arts reporter for KCUR 89.3. You can find her on Twitter, @cjjanovy.