Some Recent Thoughts On Institutional Transparency

While putting together some updates for the upcoming Compensation Report in June, I ran across some orchestras which did not have their 2004-2005 IRS Form 990’s posted at GuideStar…


Nevertheless, I was able to locate some of the wayward forms directly on the respective orchestra’s website. For example, I found the 990 I needed from the Pittsburgh Symphony right on their “Public Disclosure Documents” page. No need for me to call or send an email to anyone at the PSO, it was all right there for the download and easy to find.

Even though the number of orchestras who post recent financial disclosure material (annual reports, 990’s etc.) is still a distinct minority, there are more then four times the number do now as compared to three years ago. In fact, the Pittsburgh example demonstrates that an organization can have the information posted before GuideStar obtains the documents from the IRS. Furthermore, orchestras can even send .pdf copies of their 990’s directly to GuideStar at the same time they submit it to the IRS (and you can earn major brownie points by adding my email address to the cc list on that message).

Ideally, anyone would be able to view and download every professional orchestra’s IRS Form 990 and Annual Report directly from an orchestra’s website. One distinct benefit of hosting the files on your own website is you can post copies from as many previous years as you like, unlike GuideStar who limits free registration users to only the few most recent years worth of documentation.

990.jpgIn fact, there’s nothing really stopping any organization from doing so and to that end, I’m offering my services free of charge to any orchestra who would like to make their 990’s available to the public but does not have the capability of scanning and saving files in pdf format. Furthermore, if you don’t have the ability to host the files on your website, I will host them at Adaptistration for you and provide a link you can use to post on your orchestra’s website which will allow visitors to download the document directly to their computer. For some of the smaller budget professional orchestras out there, this could be a real benefit so don’t hesitate to send me an email message or call.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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