The group has achieved a name change, headquarters relocation, and acceptance of a modern repertoire to attract younger members, despite grumbling from the old guard. And the organization offers a wealth of accessible, online help for local groups that want to organize—better than what many nonprofit advisors have to offer.
The Wall Street Journal (Neal E. Boudette) reports (free) on the surprising transformation of an aging society that stood for quaint Americana. The Barbershop Harmony Society (EIN 39-0926339 Form 990) used to be called the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, and signs with the S.P.E.B.Q.S.A. logo appeared along with the Rotary, Lions, and Moose welcoming visitors to small towns across the US.
But in the face of a declining membership, the group retooled in the 1990s by changing its focus to male acapella singing (not limited to barbershop style) working with high school music teachers and expanding a contest program in colleges.
Some of the old-timers have not been happy with the reduced emphasis on its heritage style, but an attempt to revive the style with a competition limited to traditional groups only attracted fourteen groups last year. But the holdout quoted in the article are 93 and 73 years old. The CEO/Executive director Ed Watson is a 56-year-old retired Navy captain that started with the organization last year. Competitors in their twenties quoted in the article want to sing songs that they heard when they were growing up. The strains in the society are not surprising considering the wide range of ages it tries to serve and its focus on popular culture, which tends to be very age-specific.
In another upgrading move, the organization is moving its headquarters from Kenosha, Wisconsin to Nashville, Tennessee, for better marketing opportunities and access to recording studios.
Worth pursuing on the organization's web site is a collection of resources for management of local chapters, including a treasurer's manual that includes a month-to-month checklist on what to do and detailed instructions on setting up accounts. The materials are more comprehensive and better organized than anything I've seen from a nonprofit consultant or the many web resources that attempt to assist nonprofit organizations.
Because it qualifies as an arts organization, Barbershop Harmony Society is organized as a 501(c)(3) charity rather than a fraternal organization. Its main revenue sources are dues ($2.3 million in 2005) and program service revenue from conventions ($1.3 million), something labeled Musical Experience that brings in $725,000, chapter program that have revenues of $228,000, and $110,000 in royalties.
For some reason the organization also has a separate foundation (Harmony Foundation EIN 39-6073041 Form 990) that handles contributions (about $846,000 in 2005) and an maintains an endowment of about $6 million.
The new executive director was not on staff a full year in 2005, so it's not possible to determine his salary. His predecessor Darryl Flinn has a compensation package just under $150,000 in 2003, and retired after serving just eight years as director, although he started barbershopping in 1949 and was president of the organization in 1987. Director of finance & administration Frank Santarelli, who remained through the transition in directors, is right behind with compensation of about $125,000.
In 2005 staff was at 29, but in 2003 it was 48, which suggests that there has been some downsizing in the organization.
The IRS Master File reports that there are 630 chapters registered as independent 501(c)(3) organizations. Of these, a search of the Foundation Center database of Form 990s shows 48 that filed returns in 2005 (required for any organization with over $25,000 in gross receipts).
Scanning the chapters, one that stands out is the Ambassadors of Harmony (EIN 23-7004257 Form 990), a barbershop chorus with over 100 men based in St. Charles, Missouri that reports investments of over $400,000, which is a lot of haircuts. None of the other chapters have even half that level of investments. The AOH group just lost out to the Westminster Chorus (claims to be a 501c3 organization, but no EIN or Form 990 located), a group of young barbershoppers from Orange County, California who took over an inactive chapter. But the missing Form 990 may indicate that the new generation may need to pay closer attention to their treasurer's manual.