Insightful Nuggets From The 2015 Chorus Ops Survey

Jacob Levine Nov 29, 2015

Learn more: choral marketing, fundraising and development, choir management, member management

Alright, I’ll admit it, I’m more than a little excited. A couple weeks ago, Chorus America released its annual chorus operations report, and I’m in little piggy heaven.

Chorus Operations Survey

For those of you not familiar with the report, each year, Chorus America asks its members to fill out a survey answering a large number of questions about how their organizations are run – everything from budgets to fundraising metrics to staffing. If you’re a Chorus America member, you can read the full report here.

As a data nerd, I love poring over reports like this looking for golden nuggets. Here are some of the ones I found most interesting.

Note: The survey includes four types of choirs: professional, symphonic, volunteer, and children’s choirs. All values listed are averages for their respective categories.


  • Large choruses (>$1M budgets) spend disproportionally on development and marketing (22% of their budgets, compared with 11-16% for smaller ones).

Thoughts: Growth doesn’t happen magically. You have to invest in it.

Income sources

  • Compared with other choirs, symphonic choirs rely more heavily on support from foundations (35% of their income, compared to 13-21%) and businesses (12% of income, compared to 4-5%).
  • By contrast, volunteer choirs depend most heavily on individual donors (55% of income, compared to 24-44%). Smaller choirs (budgets under $150K) are particularly dependent on individual donors.

Thoughts: I’m super curious why symphonic choirs are so successful with foundations and businesses. I’ve come up with a few ideas, but nothing in the data provides a clear answer. Maybe they have more employees dedicated to development and grant-writing? Maybe they have better models for business sponsorship packages? If you have any idea why this might be, please leave a comment below!


  • Compared to other choruses, the average price of tickets for professional and symphonic choirs is much higher ($29-38 vs $15-21). They also spend nearly twice as much to sell each ticket ($11-14 vs $5-6).
  • On average, larger choruses charge more and spend more to sell each ticket.


  • Professional and symphonic choirs have 30% better ROI on money invested in fundraising.
  • There is no strong tie between chorus size and fundraising ROI.

Thoughts: I'm at a loss for why professional and symphonic choirs are so much more efficient when it comes to fundraising. Do you have any ideas?

Chorus members

  • The number of singers is closely correlated to budget size.

Thoughts: This doesn’t surprise me at all. More singers means more membership dues (or tuition), more friends and family to sell tickets to, and a wider pool of potential donors. Growing the number of singers in your choir could be a key to growing your budget!


  • Large choruses (>$1M) have much larger boards (25 vs 9-15), those boards meet fewer times (6 vs 8-9), have far fewer singers on the board (21% vs 30-83%), and raise substantially more money from the board (>$300K vs $3-23K).

Thoughts: These are all signs that the boards of larger choruses are more focused on fundraising/governance, while boards of smaller choruses are more involved in day-to-day operations. Cultivating a fundraising board may be another key to growth for smaller organizations.


That’s it from me. What about you? Any fun nuggets you discovered in the report?

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Jacob Levine

Jacob is the founder of Chorus Connection and a proud member of the NYC Gay Men’s Chorus. A lifelong choir geek and tech geek, he loves marrying his passions to help community choruses run more efficiently. Drop him a line at!

Jacob Levine