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Advocacy Action Alert: Support Federal Funding for the Arts

Help Save the NEA from Elimination!

Federal cultural agencies, including the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) are in danger of being eliminated by the new Administration. The NEA funds nearly $10 million dollars in federal grants to California’s nonprofit arts community and serves every congressional district in our state. These funds support arts education and every artistic discipline, including classical music.

ACSO is a member of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund and we sending our members an action alert to help rally national support to save the NEA.

Click here to send an instant message to your US Representative and Senators urging them to support the NEA. 

Click here to join as a free citizen member of the Action Fund to help advocate to the President to keep funding for the federal cultural agencies. 

Click here to download an advocacy sheet to share with your board and staff with key facts and how to make your voice heard.

On the eve of Donald Trump’s inauguration, The Hill newspaper reported that the Trump Transition Team staff intend to recommend that the (then) President-elect to eliminate the NEA and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) as well as privatize the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

This proposal comes from the politically conservative Heritage Foundation and House Republican Study Committee and is expected to be included in this year’s Congressional House Budget Resolution, as it has in previous years. However, it would be much more serious if it were also proposed by the new Administration.

Legislative and executive branch action will start moving very quickly now.

Remember, advocacy is different than lobbying and your organization has the right to advocate on behalf of its constituents. Citizen participation and citizen action is essential to democracy. To learn more about differences between advocacy and lobbying, please visit the ACSO website.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact ACSO staff at or 916-484-6744.

Accepting Applications for the ACSO Consulting Services Grant Program

ACSO's Consulting Services Program provides affordable and accessible consultations to member organizations to strengthen their organizational capacities.

Through generous support from the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, ACSO supports requests for professional consultants by member organizations in the areas of board development, organizational structure, fundraising, artistic planning, program development, marketing and audience development, financial management, and strategic/long range planning.

Click here for more information and to learn how to apply.

In Memoriam: Sue Dewar

The ACSO community mourns the loss of one its founders, Sue Dewar of Pebble Beach who died Janaury 7, 2017.

Sue, with the active participation of luminaries such as Carmen Dragon and Ernest Fleischmann, met in 1968 at Asilomar – five miles from her home – to found an organization that would be a helping hand for California’s symphony orchestras, festivals and music businesses.

Sue Dewar was a fan of the people involved in classical music and especially loved volunteers and staff members. She was eager to learn new ways to share ideas to raise money and grab the public’s attention. She had an extraordinary ability to open doors whether through an after-concert drink, a cozy luncheon at her beloved Beach Club, or a major fundraising gala. She particularly liked putting professionals together with patrons – many of whom were “tighter than an acrobat’s pants” – and see what happened. 

“One of my favorite Sue stories had to do with a tea,” said Joe Truskot, long-time executive director of the Monterey Symphony and a former ACSO president. “Sue, who was trained as a graphic designer, created a whimsical, Disney-like cartoon of a silver tea service – the invitation’s cover art. When the registration for the event turned out to be ho-hum, Sue went into action. She created a coloring contest. She enlarged her black and white drawing and took copies to Clint Eastwood, her cartoonist friends Hank Ketcham, Gus Arriola, Bill Bates; artist Will Bullas; as many politicians as she could find and asked them to get out their crayons. Wisely, she included several community benefactors (read: deep pockets). She knew these folks all had admirers in town who in order to gain favor would buy their work. The tea broke even, but the coloring contest brought in several thousand dollars.” 

Having touched many people during her life in Monterey County, Sue Dewar – an independent and free spirit – will be fondly remembered. Our condolences go to Rod, her husband of many years, and to the folks in our business whom she adopted as her children.  

(Photo of Sue with her husband Rod)

ACSO is a 2017 Arts Advocacy Day Partner

ACSO is proud to be a Grassroots/Statewide Partner for the 2017 Arts Advocacy Day!

Arts Advocacy Day, hosted by Americans for the Arts, brings together a broad cross section of America's cultural and civic organizations, along with more than 500 grassroots advocates from across the country, to underscore the importance of developing strong public policies and appropriating increased public funding for the arts.

The 30th annual Arts Advocacy Day will take place on March 20-21, 2017 in Washington, DC.

ACSO executive director Mitch Menchaca will be in attendance to be one of the many delegates representing California to talk to federal lawmakers and share the stories about the impact and transformative power that the arts and classical music have in their communities and districts. If you will be attending Arts Advocacy Day of have a story you would like us to share in DC, please let us know!

For more information on Arts Advocacy Day, please visit the event’s website.

Ask an Expert Webinar: Social Media to Reach and Engage Your Audience

Thursday January 19, 2017 2:00 pm to 3:15 pm

Does your orchestra have Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc., and feel you're not using it effectively to reach targeted populations? Join Anne Longmore, director of marketing at the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and a public relations professor at Humber College in this 75-minute online learning program to discuss social media strategies and goals to help you reach engage those audiences.

Register at: 

2017 Youth Orchestra Confab

Friday March 3, 2017 9:00 am to 3:00 pm

Union Bank - Community Room

995 Higuera Street San Luis Obispo, CA 93401

Hosted by San Luis Obispo Symphony.

The Youth Orchestra Confab is an event specifically for Youth Orchestra Managers and/or Music Education Directors - a time to gather together and discuss a wide range of concerns and ideas such as programming, rehearsal spaces, fundraising, challenges to enrollment, etc.  It's a wonderful way to glean from others and to brainstorm solutions to common challenges. 

If you have questions, please contact Brett Malta, YS Manager of the San Luis Obispo Symphony at

Click here to Register!
($75.00 - fee covers the confab, lunch and hospitality)

2017 Festivals Confab

Friday January 20, 2017 6:00 pm through Saturday January 21, 2017 3:00 am

Redlands Bowl

25 Grant Street Redlands, CA 92373

Hosted by the Redlands Bowl

The Festivals Confab is an event specifically for executive/managing directors of California's classical music festivals - a time to gather together for professional development, peer learning, and an opportunity to discuss a wide range of concerns and ideas affecting the field.

Hotel Information:
Ayers Hotel - Redlands | Room Rate $99 single/double
1015 West Colton Avenue, Redlands, CA 92374
To make a reservation, please call 909.335.9024 x403, and mention ACSO Festivals Confab, or make your reservation on line by clicking HERE.
Reservations must be made by January 13.

If you have questions, please contact Bettina Swigger, executive director of Festival Mosaic at

Please complete this form to register for the confab:

Powerful Boards, Purposeful Fundraising

Professional Development Seminar in San Francisco, CA on February 16, 2017

Want to give your organization an opportunity to significantly increase the potential of the board’s development efforts? Attend Powerful Boards, Purposeful Fundraising, a professional development seminar presented by the League of American Orchestras' Noteboom Governance Center. Register Here.

This seminar is presented by the League of American Orchestras in collaboration with the Association of California Symphony Orchestras (ACSO).

Improve the Odds of Successfully Accomplishing Your Fundraising Mission

It's never been more important for the board and staff to work together effectively to solicit financial support for your organization. Perfect for board-staff-volunteer teams, this practical session addresses the complementary roles board members play in their organization's governance and resource development.

The session begins with a close look at board recruitment, structure, operations, and culture, knowing that weak boards don't raise funds effectively. The second part of the session focuses on how to involve board members in effective fundraising and their role in supporting your bequest and planned giving program.

Topics Covered in This Day-Long Session Will Include:

  • Trends impacting governance and fundraising in the nonprofit sector
  • Why some nonprofits confuse volunteering with governance
  • Legal obligations of nonprofit boards
  • How great boards profile before recruiting
  • Why term limits are essential for a fundraising board
  • How successful fundraising is not about asking for money

Who Should Attend?
Board members, executive directors/CEOs, senior development staff, and volunteers who have fundraising or governance responsibilities. To derive the maximum benefit and truly multiply the force of your development efforts, teams of board and staff members are encouraged to attend.

Your Seminar Leader
Chuck Loring, a senior partner of Loring, Sternberg & Associates, has consulted on governance matters with, among other orchestras, the Buffalo Symphony Orchestra, the Sarasota Symphony Orchestra, and the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.

Thursday, February 16, 2017, 8:30am- 4:00pm
Registration opens at 8:00am
Lunch is included

Davies Symphony Hall (home of the San Francisco Symphony)
201 Van Ness Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102

$245 per person for League and/or ACSO members ($295 for non-members)

Click here for online registration.

Please plan to join us at a reception after the seminar from 4:00 - 5:00 pm.

And while they last, get specially priced tickets to that evening's performance by the San Francisco Symphony (purchase by January 31, 2017 required).

John Adams' The Gospel According to the Other Mary

Social justice, political unrest, miracles, and resurrection. Join the San Francisco Symphony in celebrating John Adams’ 70th birthday with “the most sophisticated, majestic, and moving [music] of his career.” (Los Angeles Times) With a libretto by Peter Sellars built on texts and poems from feminist writers and social activists.

Concert 8:00 pm.

This seminar, offered through the League’s Noteboom Governance Center, is made possible, in part, by generous grants from the Clarence E. Heller Charitable Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.

The League’s Noteboom Governance Center is supported by leadership gifts from Richard and Kay Fredericks Cisek, The Clinton Family Fund, Marcia and John Goldman, and the Sargent Family Foundation.


Ask an Expert Webinar: Fundraising Planning

Wednesday November 30, 2016 2:00 pm to 3:10 pm

Join us as we examine the foundation of building a comprehensive fundraising program, including setting annual fundraising goals and creating an effective written fundraising plan. Click here to register.

Annual Conference Call for Session Ideas Open

ACSO invites you to submit breakout session ideas for the 2017 annual conference in Los Angeles, July 20-22. This three-day convening is planned around your needs and in response to industry challenges and trends. It is designed to focus on skill-building and to facilitate collaboration, exploration, and connections on multiple levels.

Visit our Call for Session Ideas Webform to submit your ideas. Submissions are due Friday, December 2.