Dear <<First Name>>:
We hope that this most unusual of Holiday seasons is off to a safe and healthy start for you! Today is Giving Tuesday, a day meant to celebrate support of nonprofits, and I write to you with a message that is both heartfelt and saddening. It is not intended to alarm, but rather is sent in the spirit of being fully transparent, something crucial in the management of an organization that operates using public and donated funding.
ABO finds itself at something of a crossroads. Though we’ve experienced some amazing musical highs the past three seasons, we’ve also increasingly been unable to duplicate that success in areas of fundraising and board membership, and this has become a threat to our existence.
We have a small yet incredibly loyal, generous, and appreciated cadre of donors. The bulk of our funding in our first five years came from a single, very generous donor. Operating through the largesse of a single donor is not sustainable, and we worked steadily toward diversifying our donation sources, and were largely successful in achieving a healthier balance. However, once the effects of the pandemic kicked in earlier this year, our largest other source of funding, City of Austin Cultural Arts Funding, was reduced by 58% due to the decline in Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue. Contributions from new and existing supporters also have shown a decrease during this time.
We were able to resume operations in August to produce video concerts in large part from having permanently canceled our two spring productions, and by having mostly mitigated losses relating to those cancelations through successful application for COVID-19 relief grant funds. Throughout the past three years, we have engaged in ongoing cost-cutting efforts that allowed us to offer our musicians a 10% raise each year without increasing the overall budget, bringing us closer to pay scales of our peer organizations in Austin. These savings, combined with the use of smaller-than-budgeted-for performing forces, have allowed us to move toward a more solid financial position, but when we factor in the effects of the pandemic-related lockdown on our broader finances, the future seems less clear.
One aspect of being a good steward of nonprofit funds is preparing for all possible situations, even when some may not be the ones we hope for. In the spirit of this, we have calculated that we have adequate funding to cover two more concert programs. We will continue to evaluate things as they come, but barring a major change in our position, our March program, Schütz & Giggles, will be our final one. We are working through our bylaws and drawing up plans such that we will be able to close up shop in an organized manner, if necessary. This wasn’t where we hoped to be in 2021, but these are indeed unprecedented times for us all, and it is our preference to go out on a high note if that is our fate, rather than to limp along until we’re forced to stop.
While we are preparing for the direst of outcomes, this is not our only possible one, and a best-case scenario allows us to continue our work beyond March. This scenario could be achieved through receiving enough pledges of support to allow survival beyond March, hearing from Austin- and San Antonio-based supporters wishing to volunteer to join our board (another area of great need for us right now), and higher ticket sales for our online concert events. Our plan is to evaluate circumstances as they arise and produce concerts as long as that is feasible. Right now that is through March, but that could easily change, and it is our sincere hope that it will.
Thank you so very much for your support this past decade. It has meant a great deal to not only all of us as an organization, but also to me personally. Regardless of whether we make it beyond March or not, we promise that as long as we are able we will continue to present high-quality music and creative programming as we always have, and will continue to be good stewards of your contributions, love, and moral support.
Most sincerely yours,
Founder & Artistic Director