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Grand Rapids Symphony reaches $40M fundraising goal

April 15, 2016
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Grand Rapids Bach Festival joins Grand Rapids Symphony
The Grand Rapids Symphony, founded in 1930, delivers more than 400 performances across the community each year. Photo via

A fundraising campaign to raise $40 million for the Grand Rapids Symphony has reached its goal.

The Grand Rapids Symphony, or GRS, announced this morning that its Legacy of Excellence Campaign — which launched in 2012 with a $20-million commitment designated to the endowment from philanthropists Richard and Helen DeVos — has garnered an additional $20 million in “pledges and future promises.”

Cash in hand plus ongoing pledges and anticipated gifts through estate plans from more than 150 individuals, couples, corporations and foundations all combined to reach the campaign’s $40-million milestone.

The endowment will be used to sustain the orchestra’s programs and educational offerings for the next generation.

“Symphony friends have responded enthusiastically to the campaign, which is a major milestone in our ongoing work to attract and retain exceptional musicians, while keeping our orchestra's concerts and educational programs affordable,” said Dottie Johnson, campaign cabinet co-chair and a member of the executive committee of the GRS board.

When fully funded, revenue from investments from the Legacy of Excellence Campaign is expected to contribute about $2 million a year to the orchestra.

“Although some of the total raised will be received in the future, the campaign helps give all of us the confidence that our community will continue to be home to a wonderful orchestra,” said Larry Robson, campaign cabinet co-chair and vice chairperson of the GRS board.

A key goal of the GRS, which today has an annual operating budget of more than $9 million, is to grow the endowment to provide more than 25 percent of the annual expenses of the orchestra.

Similar to many orchestras, ticket sales account for one-third of the cost to operate GRS.

GRS said annual giving must supply most of the rest.

“This campaign is an important part of the organization's long-term financial roadmap to help sustain and advance the orchestra's programming and extensive collaborations in the years ahead,” said Peter Perez, campaign cabinet co-chair and immediate past chairperson of the GRS board.

The Legacy of Excellence Campaign’s lead donors, Richard and Helen DeVos, have been long-time supporters and benefactors of the orchestra, which is in its 86th season.

In 1971, Helen DeVos joined the GRS board. Today, she remains an honorary member of the board.

In 1974, the couple provided the support to hire five full-time, paid musicians, beginning the symphony’s transition to a nationally recognized, professional orchestra.

The couple was influential in building DeVos Performance Hall, which opened in 1980 and has remained the orchestra’s primary performance venue.

Helen DeVos said she and her husband believe in the Grand Rapids Symphony and are “excited” to help the orchestra continue to serve thousands of people and their families each year.

“We appreciate the generous participation of the many people who have joined together to support the symphony and the artistic excellence and educational programs our region appreciates,” she said.

Peter Kjome, GRS president and CEO, said the symphony’s “extraordinary partnership” with Rich and Helen DeVos has been “vital in developing our extraordinary orchestra.”

“Their leadership has provided inspiration and encouragement to ensure the success of the campaign, which is a crucial part of our strategic plan and ongoing efforts to support the work of our superb musicians and the symphony’s broad range of programs,” Kjome said.

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