Thursday, March 31, 2011

Syracuse Symphony Orchestra's board votes to suspend operations; season canceled, no refunds planned reported that the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra’s board of trustees voted Tuesday to suspend operations as of Sunday because of a shortage of funds. The decision will bring the 50th anniversary season of the orchestra to an unceremonious end.

There were more than 20 Syracuse and regional concerts remaining in the 2010-11 season. The orchestra’s 18 full- and part-time staffers and 61 core and 14 contract musicians will be laid off Monday. However, eight employees will remain to help in the transition, Interim Executive Director Paul Brooks said, although he added that the organization has very little cash to carry out an orderly transition. Brooks said no refunds would be issued to ticket holders, and he said any donations received during the SSO’s public fundraising campaign, "Keep the Music Playing" will not be returned.

Its April 27 concert by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma also is canceled. But despite suspension of operations, Brooks said, the Syracuse Opera has been assured that the orchestra will play for its two performances of "The Pearl Fishers" April 8 and 10, said Brooks.

Brooks made the announcement after a three-hour closed board meeting in the conference room of Eric Mower and Associates in downtown Syracuse. He said the SSO was without funds to continue operations because it fell short of its March fundraising goal of $445,000, failed to receive $1.3 million in concessions from the musicians for the 2011-12 season and had $5.5 million debt as the major reasons for the suspension.

The SSO has a budget of $6.9 million for 2010-11. "In order to be sustainable, we have to have in place a balanced budget for next fiscal year. We have been unable to reach an agreement with the musicians through diligence on our part and on their part," Brooks said. "In spite of our best efforts, we have to come to the point where we are faced with no other choice but to suspend operations." The board will consult with legal counsel to explore its options and will reconvene next week to consider the next steps, Brooks said.

Management and musicians also will meet Thursday to continue efforts toward a compromise. Brooks stressed this was a suspension, not a closure. But because there will be no concerts, this is effectively a closure, said Jon Garland, chair of the Musicians Committee. "It’s really unfortunate that our board wasn’t able to come forward and meet us part of the way on what we were willing to give back to make the budget work," Garland said.

About 45 SSO musicians, in their formal concert attire, quietly waited in the lobby outside of the conference room as the meeting stretched from daylight to dark. They were solemn as they learned of the news from fellow musicians Jeremy Mastrangelo and Gregory Wood who were present in the trustees’ meeting. SSO Music Director Daniel Hege, who also attended the meeting, chatted with a few musicians afterward and was somber. He declined to comment about the meeting’s outcome.

"It’s an unconscionable betrayal of the trust the community has placed in the symphony," said Garland after hearing details of the meeting. The musicians’ refusal to accept $1.3 million in concessions Monday precipitated the Tuesday board of trustees meeting. The executive committee of the board of trustees told musicians it would propose that the full board take a vote to suspend operations if an agreement wasn’t reached on the concessions.

During the past eight months, the board has struggled to put its finances in order. In July, it was on the verge of being broke and being forced to close. An "angel investor" came to the rescue with operating funds.

Read more here.

NYT editorial and call to action

**To be an effective advocate, DO NOT answer the question--"Well if you don't want us to cut X, then what should we cut?"

** Simply say: I am calling to inform you about the effectiveness of programs that I have expertise and am familiar with, and I am not comfortable making recommendations on cutting programs that I am not fully educated on.

-------------------------------- Member of Congress BUERKLE: Syracuse 423-5657 DC 202 225-3701 Hello my name is ______ and I live in Onondaga County. I am calling to urge Representative Buerkle to vote against any budget cuts to entitlement programs such as Medicaid or food stamps (SNAP) for FY 2011 or FY 2012. Significant cuts or block granting funds for these programs makes them less effective in responding to economic recessions and helping people make ends meet. We should not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of people who need help the most.

-------------------------------- Senators SCHUMER Syracuse 423-5471 DC 202 224-6542 and GILLIBRAND: Syracuse 448-0470 DC 202 224-4451 Hello my name is _____ and I live in Onondaga County. I am calling to thank the Senator for voting against drastic budget cuts proposed by the House and I encourage them to continue to stand strong! Significant cuts or block granting funds for entitlement programs and drastic cuts to discretionary programs will only slow our recovery from the economic recession. These programs are effective and have a huge impact on people in our communities so please protect them from unnecessary attacks. We should not attempt to balance the budget on the backs of people who need help the most.

New York Times editorial
March 24, 2011
Let Them Eat Cutbacks

Food stamps are part of the social safety net, but they work more as the ultimate ground-level crutch for Americans staggering against poverty. During the recession, food stamps were an important factor in helping an estimated 4.5 million Americans stave off the official poverty (no more than $21,756 annually for a family of four) that engulfed nearly 16 percent of the nation. The stamps are win-win: $9 in fast economic stimulus for every $5 spent on food for a hungry family. Sad wonder, then, that cuts in food stamps are the latest proposal heading for the House Republicans' budgetary chopping block. An attempt to set them back at the levels of 2007 - and cost a family of four $59 out of their $294 monthly allotment - is part of welfare "reform" legislation being proposed by leaders of the powerful Republican Study Committee. This group, embraced by two-thirds of the House majority, is the conservative engine driving much of the deficit-slashing mania to extremes. Even last year, when the Democrats controlled the House, the political vulnerability of food stamps was clear as sleazy budget deals were attempted to tap the program to protect farm subsidies and other power blocks. Now the threat is worse as Republicans wildly estimate that they could save $1.4 trillion across a decade in cutting the full array of welfare programs - yet still help down-and-out families. Vicious politics is already in the mix, including a surly provision to deny food stamps to any family that includes a worker on strike. Surely hard times should find public servants protecting the neediest first, not targeting them for crumbs from a program more vital to society than another tired round of antiwelfare politicking. Robert Nickerson NYC Washington DC Office of Mayor Bloomberg 1301 Pennsylvania Avenue,NW, Suite 350 Washington, DC 20004 tel: 202-624-5912

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

New Community Grant Application

With ease of use in mind, the Community Foundation is introducing a new Community Grant Application for 2011. It collects much of the same information as our previous application, but features a fillable electronic format that should make the application process less complicated. The new application can be used for proposals going forward, beginning with the April 1, 2011 deadline. Please note that the new application contains an updated Evaluation Grid, which is explained in more detail in the Guidelines. Feel free to contact the grants staff with any questions.

Download the Forms Now
Community Grant Guidelines
Community Grant Application

2011 Community Grant Deadlines
April 1, 2011
July 15, 2011
September 30, 2011

Strategic Partnerships - Training & Local Case Studies

Join us on March 29 at 5:30 pm for the Strategic Partnerships session of our Nonprofit Essentials Workshop Series. (N.E.W.S.)

Strategic partnerships can be an effective method to build and sustain nonprofit capacity. If you are considering a future partnership or are just interested in learning more, this workshop is for you! With a well matched partnership your organization can enhance its mission, build credibility, strengthen its brand, engage more individuals, create efficiencies and, most importantly, make a bigger difference in the community. Through the Strategic Partnership Fund, the Community Foundation provides funding for organizations to engage in innovative partnerships. See below for more details on this fund.

Please join us for a one-time, evening workshop and panel at the CNY Philanthropy Center. Due to the size of the workshop, please limit yourself to one attendee per organization.

Doug Sauer
New York Council of Nonprofits, Inc. (NYCON)

With Panelists:
Tom Dennison, PhD
Professor of Practice, Public Administration, Maxwell School
John Eberle
Vice President, Grants & Initiatives, CNYCF
Pam Hyland
CEO, Girl Scouts of NYPENN Pathways, Inc.
Rob Simpson
President, CenterState CEO

March 29, 2010
5:30 pm to 8:00 pm
Central New York Philanthropy Center
431 East Fayette Street
Syracuse, NY 13202

5:30 to 6:00 pm: Light dinner buffet
6:00 to 7:00 pm: Presentation by Doug Sauer
7:00 to 8:00 pm: Panel: Local Case Studies
Moderated by John Eberle

Cost: $25 per person

You will learn about:
• Strategic Partnerships: Collaborations, Affiliations and Mergers
• Strategic Restructuring & Business Planning
• Opportunities & Benefits
• Pitfalls & Lessons Learned
• Dynamic Synergies & Mission Expansion
• Local Case Studies


About the Strategic Partnerships Fund
The Community Foundation provides grants of up to $25,000 to nonprofit organizations to implement innovative partnership solutions that maximize the delivery of critical community services while making efficient use of limited staff time and financial resources. Specifically, grants support collaborative ventures among nonprofits seeking to enhance or expand goods and services within a new, cost-effective operational model. The Community Foundation anticipates that successful activities will foster wider community dialogue about strategic partnership and restructuring efforts, and that those case studies can serve as models for strengthening the nonprofit sector.

The Community Foundation recognizes that strategic partnerships are by nature challenging. Organizations must be willing to be very transparent; honestly assessing their assets and liabilities, strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats across a vast spectrum of strategic and operational concern. The key to success is strong collegial relationships with high levels of trust among leaders entering into discussions and potential agreements. Prior to submission, senior staff and boards are expected to have evaluated their organization’s mission and vision, managerial leadership, board governance, resources, programming, fiscal management and other operational systems. The Community Foundation requires that applicants have undergone an internal evaluation and assessment of their organization, targeting proposed activities toward addressing their most critical challenges. Please visit our website to learn more.

Limited parking will be available in the lot directly in front of the CNY Philanthropy Center. Please do not park in the adjacent lot in front of Joseph’s at the Carriage House. Additionally…There is street parking on East Fayette, East Washington and Genesee Streets. A Murbo surface lot is located within a block of the building; you may enter on East Washington Street, next to Jazz Central. A covered parking garage is located at 300 East Fayette Street.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

HSLC meeting March 11th: Comments Requested

HSLC Members,

Dan Young, Central Region representative of the Governor's Office, has asked to join us at our March 11 meeting (8:00 - 9:30 AM at the United Way Building). The HSLC Steering Committee has agreed to invite Dan, as well as members of our NYS Delegation ,to engage in a conversation re the impact of the proposed Governor's budget on the people that we serve.

* If you wish to share a brief comment at the meeting , please send it in advance to

* We hope to collate comments into 5-7 priority areas that we would suggest frame our Legislators ' decisions and actions over the coming weeks.

* At the meeting, we will start with the comments that were pre-submitted and will open the floor only after those issues have been addressed.

* We are asking you to comment on the budget's impact on your constituency, not on your agency. We look forward to hearing from you and expect the conversation on the 11th to be lively and productive.

Thank you. Liz

Elizabeth Nolan, LMSW
Central Region Services Leader
Hillside Children's Center
215 Wyoming Street
Syracuse, NY, 13204
(315) 703-8739

Excellus made $44 million profit in 2010, ending two years of losses reported that Excellus BlueCross BlueShield made a $44.5 million profit in 2010, when it ended two straight years of operating losses, the health insurer reported Tuesday.

Excellus had a profit of nearly 1 percent on its revenues of $5.2 billion in 2010, the company reported to the state. After two years of operating at a loss on the revenue it generated from premiums, the company last year made a $33 million profit on premiums. That's 0.6 percent of its premium income.

Most of the company's profit came from $69 million in investment income, Excellus officials said.

The insurer reported its finances Tuesday in its annual filing with the state Insurance Department. The report showed Excellus paid 53 employees more than $200,000 last year.

Its top three executives took pay cuts of 3 percent to 5 percent -- the second year in a row of salary decreases for top officers. The cuts were because of the company's financial performance in recent years, Excellus said in a news release. The company lost $54 million in 2008.

The company's highest-paid executives last year were David H. Klein, president and CEO, $1.9 million; Zeke Duda, chief financial officer, $1.35 million; and Christopher Booth, executive vice president, $1.05 million.

After a decrease in members in 2009, Excellus reported an increase of 100,000 members last year for a total of 1.8 million. As a result, the company's medical and hospital expenses increased from $4.3 billion in 2009 to $4.6 billion last year. The company's administrative costs totaled $578.5 million last year -- a 1.8 percent increase.

Excellus must put its net income, or profit, into reserves because the company is a nonprofit. That gives the company a safeguard against spikes in expenses or declines in revenue. The company's health plan reserves totaled $1.09 billion at the end of 2010, its filings said. That works out to $709 in reserves per member, the company said.

The average for nonprofit health plans in Upstate New York is $1,058 per member in reserves, the company said. Although it's below the Upstate average, Excellus' reserves level is at a "safe and adequate level," Duda said in a news release. "Our members can feel confident that we are financially strong enough to cover them, even in the event of a catastrophe," Duda said.

In October, the state Insurance Department approved Excellus' request to increase its health insurance policy rates between 5.4 and 12.5 percent.

Excellus, based in Rochester, employs 6,000 workers in 30 offices across Upstate New York, including about 950 in Central New York. The company processed more than 49 million claims last year, paying $4.6 billion to 18,000 Upstate physicians, 130 hospitals and 61,000 pharmacies.

Visit here for the Excellus report.