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Orchestra far short of goal as donation deadline nears

The Florida Orchestra likely will fall short of its goal for the second phase of an emergency fund-raising campaign, an official said Monday.

"I'm not overwhelmingly optimistic," executive director Kathryn Holm said.

In August, the board of trustees went public with a recovery plan that called for $3-million to be raised by the end of the year to pay debt, saying the orchestra otherwise would probably shut down.

On Sept. 1, trustees surpassed their initial goal of raising $500,000 to open the season. They raised $600,000, with much of it committed in the week before the deadline.

The coming deadline is Monday, when an additional $1-million is needed to keep the campaign on track. Holm said there was $850,000 to go, with scant prospects on the immediate horizon.

The board's executive committee is scheduled to meet Nov. 1.

"What we need to look at now is a revision of the plan," board chair Jane Peppard said last Friday. "I believe what we will be voting on Nov. 1 is the nature of the plan to move forward."

Holm said the orchestra has some flexibility in meeting its goal.

"We have renewed one loan, and we can probably do the same with another," she said. "Paying those loans is part of the $3-million, so renewing them buys us a little time."

To some extent, the orchestra is shifting strategy in midstream, based on advice from development consultant Morgen Rasmussen of Minneapolis. Rasmussen last week went with Holm to make presentations to foundations in Jacksonville and Orlando. State law requires Florida foundations to pay out 3 percent of their assets annually.

"Cash gifts from the community may not be there fast enough," Holm said. "I think they're there ultimately, but Morgen (Rasmussen) was not convinced we could gain all that cash quickly."

Rasmussen also may propose new financing ideas.

The fund-raising effort is not the orchestra's only concern. So far this season, the payroll has been met every week, but cash flow is getting tight. "Last week was incredibly close," Holm said.

Uncertainty about the orchestra's future may be taking a toll in the market. Single ticket sales for the three season-opening concerts Sept. 16-18 were stronger than expected, even setting a record in Tampa, but sales were below projections over the month that followed.

On the upside, the orchestra has sold sponsorships for free outdoor concerts Saturday evening at St. Petersburg's Vinoy Park and Sunday afternoon at the Temple Terrace Golf and Country Club. In November, Raymond James & Associates is hiring the orchestra for an outdoor concert for employees.

"That's one of the keys to our success," Holm said. "Using non-subscription services of the musicians to make money."