DSO Poised to Achieve First Balanced Budget Since 2007


The Detroit Symphony Orchestra hit a high note with its 2013 Annual Fund campaign, raising $18.9 million, or 43 percent more than the prior year, allowing the nonprofit organization to likely achieve a balanced budget for the first time since 2007.

 “Two years ago, the thought of having a balanced budget seemed to be a dream far off in the future,” says Paul W. Hogle, executive vice president of the DSO. “But after all of the sacrifice, from donors giving extra generously to orchestra and staff members’ sacrificial salary changes, we made it. This is an accomplishment that everyone participated in.”

Although the annual audit will not be finalized until December, the successful fundraiser and ticket sales of $6.3 million will likely allow the DSO to reach its revenue targets to balance the budget. 

The increase in donations has much to do with the DSO’s donor base, which has grown from 4,500 in 2011 to 10,250 in 2013. This is the first time the organization’s donors has exceeded 10,000 in the past 10 years, which puts the orchestra on a comparable level with its peers, most of whom are in the 10,000 to 15,000 member range.

“This is a good and healthy place for us to be,” Hogle says. “I expect that we’ll continue to go between 10,000 and 12,000 and sustain that pretty well.”

Hogle says that the increase in donors can be attributed to returning to some very basic fundamentals, including inviting the orchestra’s audiences to participate as donors. “There’s an old saying in the fundraising business that says the most basic thing you can do is actually ask someone for their contribution. We’ve worked very hard in this organization to think of everyone being fundraisers, from board members to the staff,” he says.

Since last year, the organization has also seen about a 50 percent increase in viewers watching live and encore webcasts, something the DSO has offered since 2011. Roughly, the same number of people watching live — about 300,000 per year — are watching worldwide online.

There has also been a consistent increase in the number of people opting to purchase subscriptions. In 2010, the DSO claimed just 3,000 subscribers. Today, it has 6,200 and Hogle expects to reach 7,000 within the next two years.