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O.C. Arts Center Aims to Set a Bottom Line for Board

Trustees: Right now members are informally expected to give or raise $50,000 each. Soon they may be told how much to bring in.


The county's most powerful arts institution is about to up the ante for the movers and shakers who serve on its board of directors by telling them exactly how much they'll be required to give or raise each year.

Currently, members of the Orange County Performing Arts Center board of directors are informally expected to bring in $50,000 each, but that has never been enforced.

The new fund-raising requirement hasn't been approved, Tom Tucker, chair of the center's board development committee said Monday. "This is a real work in process," he said. "We're very efficient, but we're looking to do a lot better job than we're doing. We need to strengthen the board."

The center's executive committee decided eight years ago that board members should give or get at least $50,000 a year, a policy outlined as part of their orientation when joining.

"We may not have clarified that properly," Tucker said, choosing his words carefully. "There has been some confusion. I'm not saying that's the amount we'll decide on now. If we said everybody on the board had to give $50,000, that wouldn't mirror the community--and we wouldn't do that. We want to reflect the community."

Tucker said the center needs to redefine "guidelines for board membership" in terms of "giving and getting" donations for the center's annual operating budget of more than $21 million.

Meanwhile, the center is moving forward on long-held plans to expand with a second facility that could cost $100 million or more.

The new guidelines "certainly [will] dovetail with the planned expansion," he added. Those guidelines would be decided by June 30, Tucker said, and presented to the 55-person board for a vote, well before an expected capital campaign gets underway--according to center officials, probably in the fall.

"Will there be people on the board who won't be thrilled?" Tucker said. "I guess there will. The choice is theirs. We're not going to say, 'If you're not doing your part, you should leave.' We're saying, 'You have to make a choice.' We want them to participate. And until we've seen differently, I assume they want to."

In January, center chairman Mark Chapin Johnson, who works closely with Tucker, sent a warning about a board shake-up.

"I've got board members right now who aren't particularly passionate about the arts," Johnson told The Times. "They don't come to meetings and don't help us raise funds; they're hangers-on. I'm trying to cull the ranks down so that won't continue."

This year the board's donations and fund-raising efforts are expected to raise about $2.5 million, which comes to roughly $50,000 per member, Tucker said. Last year the amount came to about $2.2 million. In previous years, the board raised between $1.5 million and $2 million.

Most nonprofit organizations "expect a gift of personal significance" says Ann Mitchell Sakey, executive director of the National Council of Nonprofit Assns. in Washington. "The reason some specify it that way is that it allows board members to make their own determination as to what is significant for them. But many other boards determine what is significant as a matter of board policy."

At the Irvine Barclay Theatre, each of the 19 members of the board of directors are asked for a personal commitment of $2,000 a year, plus participation in the fund-raising process that will result in another $50,000 each.

"We set the mark high," Irvine Barclay president Douglas Rankin says. "It's a target rather than an obligation. Some make it; some don't. We began revamping our board about 15 months ago. Quite frankly, it will take years for us to reach that goal.

"The center is much larger than we are," Rankin added. "Setting a $50,000 goal shouldn't upset anyone there, not for an organization the size of the center."

At other county arts organizations, donation requirements for board members range from none (the Philharmonic Society of Orange County) to those that are explicitly stated and strictly enforced ($10,000 for Pacific Symphony board members).

In between are groups such as the Laguna Playhouse in Laguna Beach, whose board of trustees has membership dues of $2,500 per year, to the Orange County Museum of Art in Newport Beach, which requires board members to give or get $6,000 per year.

South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa technically does not specify the minimum amount of its give-or-get policy for its 43 board members, SCR managing director Paula Tomei says.

"But we do have a policy that says they must participate," she noted. They must attend the annual fund-raising gala, for example, buying tickets at high prices that help underwrite an annual operating fund of $7 million.

Donations given or raised by each SCR board member range from $1,000 to $25,000, Tomei says, customarily producing 25% to 30% of all unearned donations.

Tucker said the center wants to generate 40% of charitable giving through its board, with the rest to be raised by the development staff.

"That is good industry practice," he said.

Contributing to this report was Times staff writer Zan Dubin.

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