PSO outlines goals at start of $80 million fund drive

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The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is launching an $80 million capital fund-raising drive to boost its endowment, pay for Heinz Hall improvements and strengthen its ties to the Pittsburgh community.

The drive is spearheaded by a previously announced $29.5 million gift from board chairman and former Allegheny Technologies chairman Richard P. Simmons, who will also chair the capital campaign.

Over the next three years, orchestra officials plan to focus their fund-raising efforts on other board members, major individual donors, subscribers, musicians and staff, before also targeting Pittsburgh-based corporations and foundations for money.

The public at large may not see the fruits of the fund raising until it pays for the improvements to Heinz Hall. There is a long wish-list for the PSO's Downtown home, including upgraded backstage rigging, sound systems and wiring, and fixing the roof, sidewalks and outdoor plaza.

Also, speakers may be placed outside the concert hall as part of a strategic effort to cultivate new supporters.

The orchestra plans to use $60 million of the goal to bolster its endowment, $10 million for the Heinz Hall improvements and $10 million to implement long-term musical and marketing plans.

Its endowment is currently about $120 million. The PSO wants to decrease its annual draw on those funds from its current 6.5 percent to 5.25 percent, so an increased endowment would help reach that goal.

The $29.5 million lead gift from the R.P. Simmons family is also structured to ensure financial controls at the institution -- the orchestra gets $7.5 million up front to help with operating expenses, another $5 million in increments (as the orchestra raises another $25 million) and a final $17 million legacy gift, if the PSO has had three years of balanced budgets.

The orchestra presented Mr. Simmons and the board with a four-point business plan before launching the drive. Broadly, it consists of cash infusions to the endowment, growth in annual giving and ticket sales, and maintaining government support of the orchestra.

The hope is to get the bulk of the fund raising done by the 2008-09 season, when the orchestra's chief financial officer, Bill Hart, projects the orchestra should safely have balanced budgets again.

It had a $1 million deficit last year, and a $30 million overall budget.

Tim McNulty can be reached at or 412-263-1581.


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