As individuals and businesses throughout the country stare in disbelief at their checkbook balances in the wake of mounting fuel and transportation expenses and an uncertain economic outlook, Drum Corps International is taking steps to ensure sustainability for itself and its member corps throughout the approaching summer season and beyond. We didn't just want to be standing on the sidelines hoping that things are going to go well this summer. We want to be proactive in our forecasting and as conservative as possible in our spending. The organization is addressing a number of financial challenges, brought about primarily by the current state of the United States economy, coupled with expenses related to the relocation of its headquarters from suburban Chicago to Indianapolis, as well as the unexpected move of its 2008 World Championship event from Indianapolis to Bloomington, Ind. Additionally, increases in airfare are forcing the event production arm of the organization to retool travel plans and staffing configurations for managed Premier Events as part of the DCI Summer Tour. "We didn't just want to be standing on the sidelines hoping that things are going to go well this summer," said Dan Acheson, executive director and chief executive officer of Drum Corps International. "We want to be proactive in our forecasting and as conservative as possible in our spending. In the past several weeks, we've worked to cut more than $250,000 in expenses in order to be better able to weather the storm of potential shortfalls over the next three months." Maintaining stability of performance revenue More than 30 percent of the gross revenue generated by Drum Corps International events and merchandise sales is directly returned to the corps. With increasing financial burdens facing these units in key operational areas including food services and fuel, DCI has taken several positive steps to insulate the corps from a reduction in their performance fees. Planning continues to improve operational efficiencies and to create incremental revenue opportunities for the corps. "Last fall, we made the difficult decision to place our annual television broadcast on hiatus," Acheson said. "We've continued to cut back, reducing our office staff in light of our relocation to Indianapolis. Our fiscal oversight and review is an ongoing process, and we will continue to seek out new initiatives which will help support the individual missions of our member organizations, and the collective as a whole." Wayne Leide, DCI chief financial officer, said that while sometimes painful, the process of tightening fiscal controls is necessary. "Whenever we look at the finances of Drum Corps International, we try to look at things in a holistic way. There are many programs which take place behind the scenes in support of the corps which go largely unseen by the public. In our current situation, everything is under review." Adjudication changes will save more than $50,000 After directing a thorough review of operating budgets and enacting spending cuts in many areas, the DCI Board of Directors voted earlier this week to adjust the organization's competitive adjudication system during the first part of the 2008 DCI Summer Tour, reducing the number of adjudicators to five for all World Class events prior to July 4. This decision is expected to save the organization some 20 percent of a projected budget shortfall. Open Class directors made a similar move at their annual meeting in January, also reconfiguring their judging assignments at several early-season competitive events. The use of a five judge panel will happen at some 30 events being staged prior to July 4. The usual adjudication slate for a regular-season contest consists of eight judges, with major regional events utilizing an additional percussion judge, for a total of nine. New rules in force this season call for as many as 11 adjudicators participating in World Championship events. "With an average savings of more than $500 per person for travel and expenses, we expect to realize a significant savings from this initiative over the first two weeks of the season," Leide said. "Now we're dealing with things like fuel, which affects not only the corps and their ability to get down the road, but our travel expenses for event staff, and for the expense to our fans as well. All of these variables impact our operation and are on the table for discussion at any time. We've done everything possible to ensure that we're not going to affect the quality of service and support to the corps and the amount of money we generate on their behalf." Fans can help the corps According to Acheson, "the best way for us to support the corps is by buying a ticket to an event. Drum Corps International is a non-profit organization, just like the individual corps. Ticket purchases will help support the corps, the drum corps activity, and will help us to be able to provide this type of stage to showcase their performances. Ticket sales will help us to take care of a lot of the business that spending cuts don't cover." Despite the uncertainty of the country's current economic environment, Acheson is upbeat about the actions being taken. "What we're doing is a good thing and a positive thing. We're trying to 'take care of business' by being on the front edge of what could be a much greater challenge if we bury our heads in the sand. The sky is not falling! As everyone realizes in their lives at one point or another, there are some changes that need to be made in order to continue to be able support the things you want to do."
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