NPQ: Wisconsin Conservatory Business Model Thrives with Public School Partnerships

A recent article in Nonprofit Quarterly (NPQ) details how the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music (Milwaukee, WI), once on the verge of closure due to financial difficulty, moved “beyond crisis-fueled fundraising to develop a much more sustainable business model.”

In 2015, the Conservatory has considerable structural debt and it was forced to furlough staff. By 2017, a focused board campaign had allowed them to wipe out debt, but they were still faced with a highly uncertain financial future.

According to NPQ, Eric Tillich, CEO Of the Conservatory, “made finding new revenue streams a top priority. A partnership with the public schools provided a good part of the answer.”

The Conservatory Connections program now works with 11,000 students in 52 schools in six Wisconsin counties, according to Conservancy figures, including over 5,000 Milwaukee public school students. In two years, program income has climbed from $275,000 to $1.1 million, with Milwaukee public schools contributing about $400,000 of that total.

“We had a lot of amazing faculty that are trained and qualified that contribute to the creative economy here in Milwaukee and were ready to work, so it was a great match for us to have these faculty in schools,” notes Shalisa Kline Ugaz, executive vice president of advancement and education for the conservatory.

Read more about the Conservatory’s approach here.

Published: January 21, 2018