Lilly Endowment Inc. grants $2 million to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra

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Lilly Endowment’s substantial gift supports a major upgrade to the historic Hilbert Circle Theatre and new donor development initiatives

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra announced today that Lilly Endowment Inc. has awarded the organization $2 million to fund two major initiatives to attract and cultivate new patrons, supporters and donors to the organization.

Half of the Endowment’s $2 million grant will be used toward continued, aggressive communications and development activities during the next 18-36 months to secure new donor commitments to the ISO, and the other half will fund a long overdue upgrade in seating to provide improved comfort and accessibility in the Hilbert Circle Theatre. The $2 million grant will only be made if the ISO achieves the required $5 million in new pledges by Feb. 3, 2013, as part of its new contract with the musicians.

“When the ISO inquired whether Lilly Endowment would be willing to consider this special grant in addition to its regular operating support grant, it seemed compelling,” said N. Clay Robbins, the Endowment’s president and CEO.  “We were impressed with the significant contributions of time, talent and resources that so many ISO constituents had made in recent months to keep it performing.  We are pleased to provide this additional support to one of the key cultural anchors in downtown Indianapolis and in our state.”

$1 Million for Donor Cultivation Initiative

The ISO unveiled its new “Life. It’s Better with Music” awareness and support campaign after the Orchestra returned to the stage under its “bridge” agreement with the Indiana Symphony Society, Inc. on Oct. 16, 2012. As part of that short-term agreement, the Society is calling on all of its donors, supporters, patrons and the community at-large to raise $5 million in new gifts and pledges before Feb. 3, 2013, in order for a new five-year contract with its musicians to take effect.

With the Endowment’s support, the ISO can continue the aggressive campaign to raise $5 million by the deadline, help fund the effort to raise approximately $10 million each year in contributed revenue for the Orchestra’s operations and become less dependent on funds from the ISO’s endowment. In addition, the grant will partially underwrite upgrades needed to the ISO’s website infrastructure to improve the transaction path of ticket purchases and donations.

$1 Million for Seat Upgrade in the Hilbert Circle Theatre

Although the Hilbert Circle Theatre has been renovated quite extensively since its early days as a movie palace to a concert hall in 1984, patrons might be surprised to learn that they are still sitting in a seat that dates back to the 1930s. With the Endowment’s substantial funding, the ISO can replace the 80-year-old seats and update the seat configuration, which allows for more comfort and accessibility. The new seats will retain the historic integrity of the theater, and the installation will be completed during the summer of 2013.

“On behalf of the musicians, staff and board of the ISO, we would like to thank Lilly Endowment for ongoing, substantial support of our great orchestra,” said Martha Lamkin, board chair. “We are so pleased to receive this very generous grant to support our fundraising initiatives and improve our infrastructure, both of which are vital to making symphonic music as engaging as possible to everyone in our community.”


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