Harmony in Giving: A Conversation with Jennifer Barbee of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra

Perhaps you have received an appeal for donations this Holiday season. Maybe one came to you on “Giving Tuesday,” (which followed “Cyber Monday” in November).  Perhaps you have received a letter in the mail asking for an end of year donation for a cause or organization that is important to you. 

In any case, the time between Thanksgiving and the New Year is an important time for nonprofit organizations and their annual appeals.  The person who manages these appeals is the director of development.  On the latest episode of WNY Soundstage, we were lucky enough to talk to Jennifer Barbee of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra about the holiday season, and the importance of that position at a nonprofit organization.  

“I don’t even think of myself as a fundraiser,” shared Barbee. “I mean it’s a practical part [of the job]. You know, organizations like the BPO are nonprofit, and survive on the generosity and kindness of the community and the members of the community and around the world. I see my job as someone who can help be a connector…What is someone’s interest in? How does that tie to the mission? How can I help them have an even deeper relationship, whether it’s with our musicians or our music director, Joann, or the different conductors? …And so that’s how I view my job, to really be able to be the conduit to help make it meaningful for everybody and support ultimately, in the end, this very vital organization.”

Listen to the Full Interview:

WNY Soundstage
Conversation with Jennifer Barbee, Associate Director and Director of Development at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra



Download file | Play in new window | Duration: 00:27:00 | Recorded on December 28, 2023

At most nonprofit performing arts companies, only about 30% of the organization’s operating costs come from ticket sales. That means that 70% must be made up from fundraising and grant opportunities. A director of development, therefore, is vital to the success of an organization.   “My position is important, but I have 7 extraordinary people who help…we have a volunteer base, our board of trustees, our different volunteer groups, our friends group. I mean, it takes a team or a village to make all of this happen, and so I’m just thrilled to be able to help [to] keep the strategic vision going and kind of keep everyone organized and looking forward, but it really takes a lot of people to make it happen.” 

That vision includes keeping the BPO going strong into the future.  “You can listen to the radio, but when you’re in a room with 2000 other people experiencing something live that’s happening with such an extraordinary audible sound and the emotions that come through. And you do it together. You can’t replicate that in any way and I love it, because it means so much to me. That’s been one of the greatest joys for me. As in, meeting someone who’s never heard of the BPO before or meeting someone who has been coming to the BPO for 60 years of their life and has heard that piece of repertoire played by all these illustrious different composers, musicians, and the different feelings they get every time they hear it. I mean, it’s just so much fun, and sharing that with someone and to see who’s gonna come in the future. And to teach the youth that classical music, and music in general, is something that helps you be a more well-rounded person.”  

If you are interested in supporting the BPO, please visit their website for more information.

The BPO is going to be 90 years old next year. So, we’re just a small part of a very big picture and it’s really sort of our duty to make sure that the orchestra is here fifty, one hundred years from now. And so that’s how my position is growing a little bit. To make sure that we’re just moving the BPO forward for generations.” 

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