Five Questions the Chorus Operations Survey Answers for Your Chorus

The Chorus Operations Survey (COS) is the most comprehensive source of data on the administrative and programmatic practices of nonprofit choruses in the United States. It builds upon SMU DataArts’ Cultural Data Profile, which collects financial and programmatic data from nonprofit arts, culture, and humanities organizations to paint a picture of the sector’s impact in the US. The Chorus Operation Survey goes a step beyond to focus specifically on choruses in the United States. You can read the most recent COS Report here.

Filling out the survey does take some time (preview questions on the CDP here), but the data answers big questions about the choral field today. This year’s survey, open now through February 18, is also collecting data on how it’s changed since COVID-19. These are just five questions that the survey answers:

Is my chorus paying our Conductor/Administrative Leader/Accompanist competitively?

Chorus America gets this question many times each year. We generate General Compensation Reports based on the information collected in the Chorus Operations Survey for our members to peruse at will and offer the option to request more customized reports for a small fee. These reports include not only salary information, but the breakdown of volunteer, full-time and part-time staff and information about what additional benefits employees may receive (scroll down to the bottom of our COS Report page to see compensation information). Because our most recent reports draw on pre-pandemic data, completing the current survey with your chorus’s data will help us get a better understanding of how compensation in the choral field has changed during the pandemic, and will give you the most up-to-date data to work from in case you find yourself in need of a new Conductor/Administrative Leader/Accompanist, or just for curiosity’s sake.

How much money do choruses like mine bring in, and how are they spending it?

The COS gives you information about how choruses bring in revenue – largely through programs, individual and corporate donations, grants, and endowments – which is compared across the choral field, within different types of choruses, and within different budget categories. It also tells you how choruses spend their money – and how those expenses are distributed across programming, administration, marketing, and fundraising. In trying to better understand the pandemic’s impact on choruses, it will also give you a benchmark on how many choruses received COVID relief support and what types of support they received.

How are choruses balancing virtual and in-person performances?

The rise of the pandemic saw the rise of virtual programming. New this year, the survey captures information about the number of live and virtual performances choruses put on in their most recently completed fiscal year, how large their audience was, and how much money they made through ticket sales for live and virtual respectively. This will be new information to keep track of as the pandemic continues, and as the role of virtual programming continues to evolve for a myriad of reasons beyond necessity (e.g. virtual programs can be more accessible for audiences, increase audience base, and offer more flexibility compared to in-person concerts that may unfortunately be impacted by a new variant or other occurrence). Whether virtual programming will be a continued trend for all choruses, or only certain types or budget sizes, will be something we’ll all find out together with the new survey results.

How do my board policies compare to other choruses?

Ever wondered how your chorus’s board structure compares to others, and if you’re doing it “right?” While the second part question is much more nuanced, the COS provides an important baseline of information like how many board members most choruses have, and of those members, how many sing in the chorus and how many are from the general community. You can even learn whether other choruses have a give-or-get policy, and how long terms last for board members in choruses like yours.

How do my singer policies compare to other choruses?

You may charge a membership fee, but how many other choruses do so, and how much? The Chorus Operations Survey Report answers questions like this, as well as whether most choruses supply music or ask singers to purchase their own, whether a singer must audition for a chorus, and whether concert attire is provided by the singer. This year’s survey will also track whether any of these policies were affected by the pandemic.

You don’t have to be a member of Chorus America to participate in the survey, and the more information we have the better we can support the field. Visit our Chorus Operation Survey information page to find learn how to be part of the survey, what questions are included, and view other great resources to help you prepare to take it.

Complete the COS by Friday, February 18 to have your voice heard.

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