Instead of choosing from among the ballet, opera or symphony when making a donation to the arts, patrons of any one of those Phoenix organizations now can write a single check and support all three.
Ballet Arizona, the Phoenix Symphony and the Arizona Opera are for the first time in their collective 132 years hosting a joint annual fundraiser in February. The mega-gala, called Trio, allows the three cultural groups to share hosting expenses and revenue while tapping a larger group of arts patrons who may see fit to support more than one group.
It’s a way to survive in a time as corporate and individual giving has nosedived and tried-and-true annual grants have become less dependable.
This month, the Scottsdale League for the Arts announced that, for the second year in a row, it will not disperse its approximate $300,000 in annual grants.
And the Arizona Commission on the Arts has seen its funding decrease from $4.09million in 2007-08 to $1.61million for the 2011-12 fiscal year.
Other organizations are starting to rebound. The Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture reinstated $150,000 in lost grants and grew its grant budget by an additional $250,000 for the new fiscal year.
The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust and the Scottsdale Cultural Council have seen the grants they award remain steady.
Still, the uneven landscape of funding has caused arts organizations to retool their business models. The non-profits are joining forces to share resources, space and talent or dreaming up money-making ventures to shore up funding.
Helping to steady an arts organization amid a shifting financial climate is a key factor when considering a grant award, said Judy Jolley Mohraz, president of the Piper Trust.
The trust is among the largest Valley grant providers, bestowing $2.4million so far this year.
Mohraz said that, when perusing grant applications, reviewers want to see organizations that are innovating or collaborating.
“We understand the financial stresses that arts organizations are under,” she said. “And that they are looking to stabilize their fiscal status, cut costs or increase revenue. We want to assist them in bringing creative thinking.”
Jim Ward, Phoenix Symphony president, said hosting a joint gala, which brings in a huge share of the organizations’ annual funding, makes economic sense.
The symphony’s annual budget shrank from $12million five years ago to $8.5million today. When Ward was hired last year to stem the symphony’s downward financial trend, he noticed the three Phoenix-based arts organizations had duplicate activities.
“Particularly in the back office,” Ward said. “The goal was to reduce cost and increase impact.”
The groups put in place a new plan to increase efficiencies and maximize fundraising under one umbrella called the Arizona Consortium for the Arts.
The consortium also is working toward sharing one software program by November to eliminate multiple programs among the organizations and put them on the same ticketing system.
Ballet Arizona and the Phoenix Opera currently use third-party ticketing systems, which take a share of the ticket revenue that is passed onto patrons.
The new system will allow the organizations to share patron and donor data and to offer discount pricing deals when buyers purchase tickets to multiple organizations’ performances at the same time.
“We have really taken ego out of the equation,” said Scott Altman, Arizona Opera general director. “We have a group of executives and a group of community leaders who are very interested in seeing how the three can work together and garner great support for what we do.”
The hope is that the joint Feb. 8 gala at Symphony Hall will earn each organization as much or more as previous gala fundraisers.
The gala will feature dinner, separate performances from each institution and a shared-stage performance of all three.
The hope is that fans of one organization might also become fans of another.
The word “competition” for fans or donors is becoming outdated, said Megan Jefferies, manager of institutional giving for Ballet Arizona.
“It’s unhealthy for us to look at each other as competition,” Jefferies said. “We all have similar goals. And you can’t tell donors what to like. You can’t make someone go to a Chinese restaurant if they don’t like Chinese. They will never eat it. But maybe you’ll get them to believe in the value of art.”
Ballet Arizona learned the importance of exposure to different audiences from its “Topia” performances in May.
It staged a 45-minute outdoor ballet performance at the Desert Botanical Garden. The ballet exceeded its goal of covering costs for the performance, and the ballet is in discussions for another Desert Botanical Garden performance.
Other organizations, dependent on grants, corporate sponsorship and individual donations, are seeking ways to replace their lagging revenue streams.
Free Arts of Arizona, a non-profit that provides free art therapy to homeless or disadvantaged children, is considering growing its earned revenue ledger by contracting with other groups or corporations that could benefit from artistic expression.
“You have to be so careful, though, that you’re not taking anything away from fulfilling your certain mission as a non-profit,” said Barbara Fenster, Free Arts director.
Jazz in AZ opened the Nash, a non-profit education and performance center in Phoenix.
The venue opened in April to present educational clinics for youths and to offer both free and ticketed jazz performances.
Whether the venue will increase earned revenue or not remains to be seen, but Jazz in AZ Executive Director Joel Goldenthal believes it can raise the organization’s profile. That could make it more attractive when attempting to fundraise, he said.
“You can’t ever rest on your laurels when you’re a non-profit,” Goldenthal said. “You’re in a constant state of raising money. And grant funders want to see you’re involved in the community and you’re galvanizing resources to have a broader impact.”