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Wanted: $12.3 Million


There are about 6,000 volunteers and 35 organizations collecting funds to supplement Music Center box-office receipts. One example is the 650 women who make up the Blue Ribbon support group. Each makes an annual contribution of at least $1,500 and "most give far more than that," said Nancy Livingston, the group's chairman, adding that the group has already surpassed its $1.5-million goal for this fiscal year.

Things are changing on the fund-raising front. The Music Center's resident companies, such as the Philharmonic and the Joffrey Ballet, are now able to do more of their own individual fund-raising activities, where before most solicitations were made by the Music Center Unified Fund.

(This year's Music Center Unified Fund goal is $12.3 million, up 29% from last year's $9.5 million; $10.4 million was already in hand at press time. The $12.3 million represents about 25% of the Music Center's $48.8 million annual budget for all artistic programs and community services.)

When attorney F. Daniel Frost became the Music Center's acting chairman, he said he realized that, "Some of the resident groups felt the Unified Fund was thwarting their individual efforts at fund raising." He asked William Kieschnick, former chief executive officer at Arco, to lead a task force that studied fund-raising by universities and other organizations using federated fund drives.

The task force's recommendation, said Kieschnick, was that the Music Center give more responsibility to the resident companies to raise funds, "because there are certain audiences, fans and supporters they can reach especially effectively."

All the Unified Fund efforts are headed up by Esther Wachtell, who has long been involved with the Music Center. She began carrying a "buck bag" in the early '60s for Music Center donations and went from a volunteer job as vice chairman of the Music Center, responsible for the Unified Fund, to a paid position a year ago as executive vice president of the Music Center which involves both running the Fund campaign and coordinating Music Center staff activity. (She is married to Thomas Wachtell, president and a prime mover in the Los Angeles Music Center Opera.)

Asked about the resident companies collecting funds individually, Wachtell said: "We're going to manage those prospects so that they don't get hit 10 times. It isn't fair to go to First Interstate Bank one right after the other until they feel as if they've been bombarded."

Nothing's set in concrete either, Wachtell added. "We're going to see whether it works. If the corporate community comes back to us and says, 'quit it,' we'll stop. But if this effort is able to bring additional support into the Music Center, then we'll even expand upon it."

Asked if the ambitious fund-raising drive at the Orange County Performing Arts Center has drawn away potential funds, Wachtell's answer was a short one: "Only $10,000 over a three-year period from one corporation."

The new rules also allow the companies to tap their own boards for money, and Philharmonic development director Laura Dickranian reported "substantial" Philharmonic board donations already pledged toward a $1-million National Endowment for the Arts matching grant. And at the Center Theatre Group, executive managing director William Wingate reported that one CTG board member made a $25,000 gift and agreed to provide a second $25,000 gift if it was matched by eight other board members. They already have five out of the eight gifts, he added.

The Unified Fund has also been hustling corporate sponsors for particular projects, but Wachtell indicated nobody wants to minimize the importance of traditional giving. Annual gifts, she said, "mean that year after year after year we know we can pay the artists and produce something on these stages and continue our outreach programs, as opposed to a one-time gift which is very nice but doesn't sustain the institution."

Coming soon could also be both retail and mail order Music Center merchandising. Wachtell said discussions are under way with an architect to determine the feasibility of expanding the small plaza kiosk into a permanent on-site shop. Mail-order offers are also being planned first for Music Center programs and other publications, and later for mail-order catalogues. Music Center Unified Fund Sources Corporations--45%--$5.53 million Individual Donors--40%--$4.92 million Private Foundations--12%--$1.46 million Special Projects--3%--$369,000 Music Center Unified Fund Allocations to the Resident Companies and the Music Center Los Angeles Philharmonic--28%--$3.5 million Center Theater Group--24%--$3.0 million The Music Center (fund raising)--15%--$1.8 million Music Center Opera Assn.--12%--$1.425 million Los Angeles Master Chorale--3%--$365,000 The Joffrey Ballet--13%--$1.55 million Music Center Education Division--3%--$400,000 Reserve--2%--$260,000 Total--100%--$12.3 million Projections for current year: 1986-'87

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