Coming (really) Soon: Downloadable Orchestra 990s By Season

With the launch of the new Adaptistration Store, the ability to offer content beyond the long-standing Coffee Tip product (which are always appreciated!) is finally available. The initial offering is the first in a new series of resource based downloadable content; specifically, Orchestra IRS Forms 990 used in each year of the Orchestra Compensation Reviews.

So what makes these so special?

  1. They are grouped by season.
  2. The default random alpha-numeric filenames have been changed to the orchestra name (becasue opening a bunch of files to find the one you need is for chumps).
  3. The files have been processed through Adobe Acrobat’s optical character recognition (OCR) scan. This will make the files keyword searchable (a huge time saver!).
  4. Each season comes with a corresponding notes document pointing out any need-to-know items. For example, when an orchestra changes its fiscal year it is common to find two IRS filings, one that covers time through the end of the previous fiscal year and one to cover the extra time through the end of the new fiscal year.

Can’t I download these myself?

Yes, but…

Adaptistration People 043You can download copies of IRS 990s at In fact, the Orchestra Financial Reports page here at Adaptistration maintains a list of direct links to more 77 orchestra’s financial reports page at GuideStar. If you only need to download half a dozen or so from the three most recent years, that’s a great option.

But know that you’ll only find the three most recent season’s worth of filings unless you have a paid Guidestar account (those start at $87 per month). But three years isn’t nearly enough to conduct any meaningful comparative analysis, as such, I’m digging deep into my resource archives and will be rolling out copies that stretch all the way back to the 1999-2000 season!

On top of that three year cap, there’s the actual time spent downloading and collating.

Let’s say you’re pretty quick and it takes you 45 seconds to download all three available 990s per group. For 77 orchestras, that’s just about one hour of time. Once that’s done, you will need to rename and collate the files (which takes far more time than the downloads). Do you want to do any keyword searches? Then add on even more time for OCR processing.

By the time you get through all of that, you’re staring at more than six hours of time or longer if you don’t have a super-fast computer for the OCR process (assuming you have the necessary software to begin with).

Even using the super low $7.25 minimum wage (and your time is worth more than that, right?), you’re looking at $50 of labor.

Consequently, each season of 990s will be priced at $25. Once all the seasons have been processed, there will be an option to purchase he whole kit and caboodle for a discounted price.

In the meantime, I’m going to offer a discounted price of $10 through the end of September for the 2014-2015 Season download, which should be ready to purchase by Friday, 9/22/2017. Keep an eye on Adaptistration’s Twitter and Facebook feeds for a notice once the file is available for purchase.

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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