Grand Rapids Symphony charts sustainability


Last month the Grand Rapids Symphony announced its Legacy of Excellence Campaign, an endowment campaign that, at the time of the announcement, had already received support from community leaders and longtime symphony supporters to the tune of $32 million of the $40 million goal.

Amway co-founder and honorary chairs of the campaign, Richard and Helen DeVos, provided an initial pledged of $20 million.

“Helen’s love of music drew us into the organization, and we have experienced the symphony’s growth into an orchestra recognized nationally for the quality of its concerts and educational programs,” said Richard DeVos. “We have made this decision to help preserve and sustain our orchestra, which helps create a positive atmosphere for growth in our community. While our gift provides important support, we know that this alone is not enough.”

The symphony said the income from the endowment pledge would preserve a portion of the annual funding currently provided to the Grand Rapids Symphony by the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation.

Additional commitments have been provided by honorary vice chairs Daniel and Pamella DeVos; campaign chairs Jack H. Miller, Peter Wege, The Wege Foundation and Kate Pew Wolters; and from two symphony supporters providing leadership gifts who choose to remain anonymous. Each of the endowment campaign cabinet chairs, Dorothy Johnson, Peter Perez and Dr. Larry Robson, also made commitments to the campaign.

CEO Peter Kjome said that the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra Endowment Fund supports the symphony’s current operations and is a separate entity from the Grand Rapids Symphony with the purpose of supporting the organization.

In its announcement, the symphony noted only 7 percent of its income comes from endowments, which, as a percentage of revenues, is below that of the strongest, most stable orchestras in the country.

“It is the organization’s goal to increase this to 20 percent of total revenues,” Kjome said. “The orchestras that are benchmarked as examples average between 13 and 14 percent of total revenues provided by endowment income, and the top orchestras among those benchmarked are at or above the symphony’s strategic objective of 20 percent of total revenues.

“The Legacy of Excellence Campaign will help the orchestra make significant and necessary progress toward long-term financial sustainability. The campaign complements the need for increased annual giving, concert income growth and cost reduction efforts.”

Following the announcement of the endowment campaign, a Legacy of Excellence Cabinet has been convened. It will play a crucial role in reaching the campaign goal of $40 million, according to Kjome.

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