Last year at the September Annual Meeting, we had all just been through the first six months of the pandemic. We were looking forward to reopening later that month after the mandated closure, but were uncertain as to how we would perform in virtually all of our operating metrics. We implemented a Voluntary Early Retirement Program in July and, unfortunately, a Reduction in Force in August to manage our cost structure due to the material loss of virtually all audience-driven revenues. I noted that Museum management, in conjunction with Boston Consulting Group (BCG), had worked to review all aspects of the Museum operations. The goal of all these efforts was to work toward a financially sustainable business model based on our assumptions about when the pandemic’s impacts might abate and operations returned to a more normal environment. After the Annual Meeting, we met to approve an annual budget based on conservative assumptions that had a $21 million deficit. We discussed with management the levers to offset and limit this deficit as practicable in the uncertain environment that we were in—and, I will note, still are in today. Only later in the year did we face another forced closure, in December, and we did not reopen until February 2021. In addition to the closure, the inability to congregate and to offer a full program had its impact on our audience-driven revenues. With that said, I am pleased to report that management worked to contain the deficit, in some cases by better than budgeted revenues, but more materially in terms of cost containment. Attendance over the last bit of FY21, and in early in FY22, has met or exceeded budget, but new pandemic variants continue to challenge performance going forward.

Our FY21 attendance, while falling short of the budget of 230,000 due to closure, was 201,000. Membership beat its budgeted goal, as did operating philanthropy—all key performance indicators now and going forward. Our overall deficit was $13 million at year end, lower by $8 million from our budget goal. This better than expected deficit was brought to breakeven by the Bridge, Landing, and Road (BLR) funds raised to mitigate the last two years of deficits and those currently planned in our modeling for the next two years. In addition to the BLR funds raised, I am pleased to report that Mark Kerwin and his able team identified and received a Shuttered Venue grant from the US Small Business Administration (SBA) of $10 million, which will also be used to mitigate deficits incurred and those going forward.

I am very pleased to report preliminary endowment figures of $746 million, an increase in pooled assets of $159 million since last year with a preliminary performance return of 29.5 percent. We hope to do a bit better when all private equity managers have reported final results in the coming months. Many thanks and kudos to Lila Hunnewell who chairs the Investment Committee effort. In terms of our outstanding debt, we paid back an additional $5 million by year-end, bringing the balance to $100 million. In May, we recommended the adoption of the fiscal year 2022 budget to the full board, who agreed to it after their review. This budget has as its key goals: attendance at 600,000, increased membership, and an appropriate uptick in headcount to fill positions temporarily cut, as previously noted, due to the pandemic. The budget has a planned deficit of $13.6 million. The Museum is adequately funded to address this deficit, however a future key budget challenge remains a systemic deficit of plus or minus $4 million that needs to be addressed in FY23 and beyond. This must be part of an anticipated capital campaign for unrestricted endowment.

As I depart after four years as treasurer, I leave with the confidence that management, in conjunction with governance and Susan Weatherbie, the succeeding Budget and Finance chair, will continue to work toward our goal of financial sustainability for the Museum. Key to this will be appropriately conservative and flexible budgets, ongoing review of our key performance indicators and our operating costs, and over time eradicating the forward deficits. In this regard, I want to thank the entire Budget and Finance Committee for their efforts, as well as the Business Model Subcommittee, which met monthly this last fiscal year, working with Financial management to be agile in this uncertain time.

Lastly, I cannot overstate the effort and contributions of Mark Kerwin and his finance team. I am deeply grateful for their time and advice at a critical moment in the Museum’s history.

Respectfully submitted,

Samuel S. Plimpton
Treasurer and Chairman of the Budget and Finance Committee

Financial Reports

Notes to the financial statements are available upon request to the Museum’s Financial Department.