How Many Times Have You Wished This Existed For Orchestras

Just imagine how nice it would be to conduct a search for “music director” across all professional orchestra IRS Form 990s for the past decade. For now, it is still a dream but there’s an interesting article by Lucy Bernholz at PHILANTHROPY 2173 (h/t Thomas Cott) that examines a free offering from The Foundation Center that provides a searchable 990PF database, branded FDOfree. After a cursory bit of usage, it is clear to see that FDOfree is an enormously useful offering and it left me feeling wistful that nothing similar exists for the orchestra field; but as Berholz laments, there’s plenty of hurry up and wait to do before the open data movement reaches the IRS.

ADAPTISTRATION-GUY-034In the meantime, you can cut down your old school download-and-search time for orchestra 990s by using the Adaptistration Orchestra Financial Reports. Granted, it is a far (far) cry from a keyword searchable database but it is a necessary step in the right direction.

To that end, if there’s a funder out there interested in supporting the project, I have zero doubts that my development team at Venture could put an orchestra version of FDOfree together in short order. So get in touch if you’re interested in making it happen. Or perhaps a Kickstarter campaign is in order; what do you think?

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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8 thoughts on “How Many Times Have You Wished This Existed For Orchestras”

    • I’m not sure there is anything to report, Specifically, which fiscal year’s 990 are you referencing? Also, it is common practice for orchestras to file extensions with the IRS and actually file at a point in time that coincides with the end of their fiscal year (anywhere from June – August).

  1. Drew,
    We use FoundationSearch at Curtis and it’s about 2K/year for us. The cost varies depending on how many licenses an organization purchases and how many years you subscribe (i.e., they give you a discount for long-term subscriptions). I am wondering how the Foundation Center search you describe above compares and if we could eliminate the FoundationSearch expense for Curtis. I will explore them both side-by-side myself, of course, but I was curious if you had any feedback from you or your clients’ experience with either.
    Thank you,

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