Ballet on rebound

By Todd Cohen

Aiming to recover from a $400,000 deficit a year ago and a $200,000 loss in Nutcracker ticket sales because of last December’s ice storm, the Carolina Ballet in Raleigh raised more than $1 million in gifts and pledges in the first three months of 2003.

As a result, the ballet expects to end the fiscal year that ends June 30 with $200,000 in net income, wiping out half of last year’s deficit, and will try to erase the remainder in the next fiscal year, says Lisa Jones, executive director.

“The journey on the road to sustainability has just begin,” she says.

With an annual budget of $4.95 million, the ballet expects in the current fiscal to generate $2.4 million through ticket sales and other revenue, and another $2.7 million through grants and private support.

The ballet also is working to cut costs, increase income and address long-term funding needs.

The nonprofit troupe, for example, will pare its season to 36 weeks from 39 weeks in the fiscal year that begins July 1, and is talking with other cities about staging the Nutcracker there this December.

And Tom McGuire, executive director of the A.J. Fletcher Foundation, has begun working two days a week as a loaned executive to help the ballet assess its financial development, budgeting, marketing, organizational structure and management information systems.

Jones attributes last year’s deficit to the slumping economy.

The average gift to the ballet from individual donors, for example, has fallen to $563 this fiscal year from $761 a year ago, although the number of donors has grown to 1,419 from 791 a year ago.

“We dramatically increased our base at the smaller gifts level,” she says.

Recent gifts and pledges include $500,000 over three years from the North Carolina GlaxoSmithKline Foundation to support sending dancers to North Carolina public schools; $150,000 from Progress Energy; $125,000 in free advertising from The News & Observer; $100,000 from an anonymous North Carolina family that has contributed more than $2.4 million since 1998; $50,000 pledged by Jim Goodmon, CEO of Capitol Broadcasting Co.; $50,000 from the city of Raleigh; $30,000 from board members; and $25,000 from a New York family to create a local chapter of the new Carolina Ballet National Society.

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