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NONPROFIT MANAGEMENT CASE COLLECTION INVESTING IN
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CASE COLLECTION INVESTING IN EXCELLENCE
Stephen Procter University of San Francisco
College of Professional Studies
Institute for Nonprofit Organization Management
2130 Fulton Street
San Francisco, CA 94117-1047
Copyright 1999, University of San Francisco
Permission granted to purchaser only to reproduce for classroom use.
Unauthorized duplication of copyrighted material is a violation of federal law.
CS-0035 INVESTING IN EXCELLENCE
Stephen Procter Case Abstract
The president of Promusica's board of directors has never been able to
make the artistic director understand how Promusica needed to work
in "the real world." Conversely, the artistic director feels he cannot
get the president to share his urgent sense of Promusica's artistic
mission. Over time Promusica has accumulated a large debt. With an
expensive concert and recording contract coming up on the schedule,
the standoff cannot be allowed to continue. PLEASE NOTE: The material contained in this case does not
necessarily represent actual people or conditions. INVESTING IN EXCELLENCE The Artist and the Accountant
As president of Promusica's board of directors, Jack Fleming had had more than his share
of headaches with Morrie White. Morrie was Promusica's artistic director, and in Jack's view
had an "artistic temperament." Jack was a good businessman, and just could not get Morrie to
understand how Promusica needed to work in what Jack called "the real world." Conversely,
Morrie felt he could not get Jack to share the urgent sense of artistic mission that animated
Promusica. They were at a standoff. Now that Promusica had a large debt, Jack felt that the
situation could not be allowed to continue.
Jack thought that maybe someone else could get through to Morrie, and asked Herman
Steinberg, the life-long personal friend and successful businessman with a CPA, to meet with
Morrie. The meeting was not going well.
"Where the hell do you get off," Morrie exploded. "I mean, come on! You may know
how to run your bagel factory, but you can't tell me how to run an orchestra. It's a bad joke, a
really bad joke."
Herman drew a deep breath. "Unfortunately, it's no laughing matter, Morrie. It looks to
me as if you are trying to destroy the very thing you care most about. Here you've created
something wonderful--a great orchestra. All I want to do is help you save it, yet every time I
make a point or ask a question, you blast me. Any reasonable person wouldn't put up with it.
Maybe we should just agree to disagree. Then we could stop arguing and let the board sort it
"The board! The board doesn't know shit," said Morrie, ". . . doesn't know shit about
music, doesn't know shit about what this organization is all about. Jack Fleming is a complete
jerk. The fact that he is president of the Promusica board is just another really bad joke."
"You're talking about my friend," said Herman. "Jack puts a lot of time and energy into
Promusica and all the other organizations he volunteers for. He cares a lot."
"That's it," said Morrie. "He'll put time and energy into meeting and into talking and into
saying what ought to be done. But he never does anything. When you need help Jack calls a
meeting to talk about it. Great.
"Then he comes up with brilliant ideas like, 'Let's cancel the concert with Serkin and the
Pavarotti recording. That will save us the $85,000 we need.' Absolutely brilliant! Cancel
Promusica's two most important contracts ever. If I thought that way there would be no Bury and Procter--Investing in Excellence
Promusica at all, or, at best, I'd still be driving taxi at night to get enough money to pay the
musicians for doing chamber music in some god-forsaken union hall."
Everyone acknowledged that the Promusica Ensemble was Morrie's creation. Ten years
ago the ensemble was little more than an idealistic notion shared by him and a small group of
freelance musicians. Morrie's devotion, perseverance and musical acumen in combination with
the high caliber of the musicians he brought together had somehow enabled the organization to
survive a decade; indeed, now it was on the verge of becoming recognized nationally as a
"Look, Morrie, even an accountant in the bagel business knows that artistic genius is a
rare and wonderful thing, and no one doubts that it has taken your particular genius to make
Promusica what it is. But I have to tell you that the world is filled with geniuses who have gone
"Yeah," replied Morrie, "and I have to tell you that it's also filled with shitty, third-rate
orchestras. This is a fantastic young orchestra, something that could become one of the great
orchestras of our time, hell, of all time! And what does Jack do when all that is right within our
reach? He chickens out. He turns and runs. You call that leadership?"
"But Morrie, that's just the problem: it's not in our reach. We just don't have the money.
It's not there. If you extend your reach too far beyond your means, you're courting disaster.
Total financial disaster."
"We're talking leadership, not money," said Morrie. "Six months ago when Jack and the
board approved this year's budget, they knew they needed to make the series at Carnegie Hall
work. They knew we had to subsidize the recording project. They knew that we needed to
invest in this year to get the big payoff. They knew all that, and they knew they needed to raise
half a million dollars to make it happen.
"So now we're $85,000 short, and what are they doing? Turning and running. Following
Jack like a bunch of brainless lemmings. That's not even the worst of it. If you really look at it,
they haven't done a damn thing all year. It's Margaret who has raised all the money. Without
her we'd be $185,000 in the hole."
Herman adjusted his necktie and cleared his throat. "It would be one thing, Morrie, if we
were dealing with $85,000 or even $185,000, but that's not really the situation. The fact is,
you've been deficit spending--what you call 'investing'--for the last five years. Just look at the
books. You 'invested' $43,000 in '90. Your 'investment' grew to $156,000 at the end of '91, and
by the end of last year you were at $278,000. Morrie, an organization with an annual budget of
$800,000 just can't carry a $350,000 debt. Then add the whole IRS problem on top of that. It
will be the end of Promusica. I guarantee it." Bury and Procter--Investing in Excellence
Morrie was pacing the width of the small room. His voice hardened. "I've heard enough
of this. Anyway, I've got to go meet that jerk from Sony. I'll tell you this, though: Your
guarantee may be good in the bagel business, but from where I sit it's full of holes. It's my
guarantee that has taken Promusica to the top of the music business, and I guarantee that if I call
Serkin's agent to cancel, we're through. Goodbye, Carnegie Hall. Goodbye, Lincoln Center.
Goodbye, Promusica. Our credibility is gone. We might as well close up shop, because no one
will touch us."
Morrie opened the door to leave. "You're the money wizard. Make it work. It's got to."
The door slammed behind him. Herman put his head in his hands and wondered what in the
world he could possibly tell the board next Tuesday.
The Board Meeting
Jack spoke loudly and with authority: "Let's turn to the first item on the agenda, the
executive director's report. Margaret, would you please report on your meeting with the IRS."
Margaret Etherington, Promusica's executive director, sat at the far end of the table. "Of
course. I'd be pleased to. I am very happy to tell you that my meeting yesterday with Mr.
DeAngelis, the IRS agent in charge of our case, went very well, indeed. He is an extremely
pleasant, courteous man who seemed sincerely concerned about our predicament. When I
explained how we started Promusica, how everyone associated with it, especially the musicians,
had worked so hard in the first few years to make it work, and how in recent years it has gained
such renown, he seemed to take a personal interest in our situation.
"I suppose the most important point is that he agreed not to take any legal action against
us." The board members broke into spontaneous applause. "You are supposed to save that for
the musicians," said Margaret.
"Any great performance deserves applause," said Jack.
Margaret, directing a smile toward Jack, responded, "Well, let me suggest that you hold
your applause, because that was only the first movement. The second movement is all about
conditions, conditions that the IRS insists upon, and I'm afraid they are quite rigorous. First, we
must remain current with our withholding payments. That, of course, is to be expected.
"The second condition is somewhat more onerous. We must pay all back taxes, interest
and penalties over the course of the next two years in accordance with a schedule that Mr.
DeAngelis and I worked out together. The interest and penalties alone amount to more than
$35,000. When one adds the back taxes the total two-year payment exceeds $109,000. I am
afraid that that figure seriously strains our finances." Bury and Procter--Investing in Excellence
"Yes, there's no doubt about that," said Jack, "but let's keep this thing in perspective. The
fact that you were able to avoid legal proceedings is a substantial accomplishment. And then on
top of that to arrange a two-year payment plan--it's better than we had any reason to expect. I
really don't know how you keep pulling off these little miracles."
The smile returned to Margaret's face. "Surviving thirteen years of convent school
makes one believe in miracles."
"Well," said Jack, "keep the faith, because miracles are about the only asset this
organization has right now. Perhaps we should turn our attention to the other side of the balance
sheet, and look at Herman's report. This should be done in executive session, so I have to ask
Morrie and Margaret to leave the room."
After they had left Jack continued. "You have all received Herman's report. I hope you
have had a chance to study it and consider its implications. Before we begin our discussion of it
I would personally like to thank Herman for all the work he has put into this. It turned out to be
a much bigger project and under more trying circumstances than either of us could have
imagined when I first asked him to give us some help. So please know how much we appreciate
"Now, could you lead us through this by summarizing our financial position, and, based
on what you have learned, give us your recommendations as to how we should proceed?"
"I'd be glad to," said Herman. "Well, to begin with, cash flow is terrible. But there are
two problems which, in the big picture, are even more disturbing. As you can see in the
summary on page seven, it's not a pretty picture. We begin with the accumulated deficit, and
then add what I call the hidden liabilities--subscription money from next year's series that has
been spent in this fiscal year and the back payments owed to the Union Pension Fund.
"Then, if you look at the figures at the bottom of the page you can see that in addition to
the accumulated deficit, we have an estimated deficit for this year. I've added to that the figures
owed to the IRS that Margaret just told us about, and we're looking at a total debt of more than
$512,000 (Illustration I).
"The bottom line is that an organization of this size can't function with that magnitude of
debt unless it's being funded by someone. Unfortunately, that's not the case here. We have
already borrowed to the limit of our ability. The hard truth is that Promusica is simply not
"Now, I'm not sure how much detail you want me to go into, so why don't I stop here,
and if you want to ask questions or discuss any specific aspects of the report I'd be glad to try Bury and Procter--Investing in Excellence
"Herman," said Jack, "does your comment about our financial viability mean you think
we should shut Promusica down? How do you feel we should deal with this situation?"
"You know, Jack, if you had asked me that question two weeks ago, I would have given
you a straight-forward answer. Basically, I would have said you have two options: drastically
cut your programs until you can put the organization on firmer financial footing or close up
shop. I would have recommended the latter.
"But you asked me how I feel you should deal with the situation, and to be frank, my
feelings are saying something else. They're saying that you've got something really special here,
maybe even more than special--extraordinary, maybe great. So many people have put so much
into this thing--Morrie, Margaret, the musicians, all of you--and it has so much potential. Even
though the numbers are bad, it's hard for me to imagine telling you to turn your backs on the
whole thing. There is even some degree of truth in Morrie's position about the importance of the
Serkin concert and the recording project. So, if you want to know how I feel, well, I hope you
can find some middle ground where, through a combination of cutting and fundraising,
Promusica can be put back on its feet."
Jack seemed shocked. "Herman, I asked you to take on this project because you are the
most hard-headed businessman I know. Now is no time to go soft. There are just too many
risks. As board members we're lucky we aren't being sued by the IRS, and we still may be liable
for some of the debts."
"What you say is true," said Herman. "But on the other hand, you don't eliminate all
those risks by shutting down. You'll still be liable for the IRS payments. If you could cut some
of the losses, like the Serkin concert--there's $60,000 right there--and if you could get a better
financial grip on the organization, perhaps you could pull it back from the brink over the next
For the next hour the board debated various options, and eventually settled on a plan to
cancel the Serkin concert, fund the recording with their own contributions, and substantially
scale back plans for the coming season.
Margaret and Morrie were called back into the room. Through the explanation of the
board's decision Morrie sat stone-faced. When Jack finished he turned to Morrie and asked,
Morrie looked up and spoke softly: "I won't accept it."
"What?" exclaimed Jack. "I don't think I heard you." Bury and Procter--Investing in Excellence
"I said I won't accept it. It would be the end of Promusica. Cancelling the Serkin
concert will be the end of Promusica."
Jack was furious. "What the hell do you expect us to do, Morrie? We've taken this thing
as far as it can go."
Morrie looked directly at Jack and said, "Well, I think you have three options. You can
decide to go ahead with the Serkin concert. You can fire me. Or you can all resign."
After the commotion subsided Jack asked if anyone had a suggestion how to proceed.
Someone recommended they go into executive session. Morrie and Margaret left the room. She
was sullen. Morrie turned to her and said, "I'm sorry. I just couldn't help myself." They sat and
waited in silence.
Twenty minutes later Jack opened the door, walked over to Morrie and told him what the
board had decided. Bury and Procter--Investing in Excellence
ILLUSTRATION I Organization Financial Analysis
prepared by Herman Steinberg
PROMUSICA BOARD OF TRUSTEES Beginning Year Balance
Note #1: 90 91 ($7,500)
($156,000) 92 Current
($278,000) ($363,000) Hidden Liabilities, Not Showing on Balance Sheet 1. IRS Obligations
Interest & Penalties------Back Taxes Due------------Total Due IRS-------------- $35,000
$109,500 2. Back Payments Due
to Union Pension Fund------ $12,374 3. 1990 Subscription
Sales Income--------------- $27,500 Total $149,374 Projected Year End---------- $363,000 Additional Liabilities
from Note #1.------------- $149,374 Actual Accumulated
Deficit------------------- $512,374 Summary
This question was answered on: Feb 21, 2020
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