The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (SPCO) ended its 2017-18 year in the black, building audiences and getting donations with inexpensive — and for students, free — tickets.
About 10 percent more young people caught an SPCO concert than the year before, according to a new annual report. Those young concertgoers are a big focus for the nonprofit: Since 2016, the chamber orchestra has lured school and college students with free tickets. The number of unique households attending, too, hit a record high in the fiscal year ending in 2018.
But total attendance plateaued: About 115,000 people attended the SPCO’s 148 concerts in two dozen venues, compared with 116,000 the year before.
The report, presented Wednesday at the organization’s annual meeting, shows that the SPCO balanced its $10.2 million budget in fiscal year 2018, with a surplus of about $153,000. It celebrated artistic achievements, as well, including a Grammy win for its recording of Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” with violinist and SPCO artistic partner Patricia Kopatchinskaja.
Since fiscal year 2013, when the organization wrestled with a labor/management dispute, the SPCO has stabilized its finances. Last year, the nonprofit used its surplus to eliminate an accumulated deficit and create a rainy-day fund. In 2018, the SPCO added to that fund, bringing its total to more than $450,000 and nearly halfway to its goal of $1 million.
Like other orchestras, the SPCO budget relies more on donations than ticket sales, but the pie chart shifted slightly in 2018. About 22.4 percent of the SPCO’s income was “earned,” a category that includes ticket sales, compared with 20.5 percent last year. About 61.4 percent of the SPCO’s income came from contributions from foundations, corporations and people, with individual contributions reaching an all-time high. The organization’s endowment made up the rest.