Barbershop Harmony Society urges donors to give directly to BHS
As Foundation withholds funds, donors can ensure new gifts are used as intended.
Having received no funds from Harmony Foundation International in more than a year, the Barbershop Harmony Society is asking members and supporters to make any new donations directly to the Society.
As recently as 2019, HFI allocated $600,000 to $900,000 a year to the Society, and even then, it returned only a fraction of every dollar donated by members.
“When you write a $100 check to HFI, you’re donating to the Foundation, not BHS. They decide when, if and how much of that $100 goes to BHS,” said Jeremy Brann, Society Board member.
“That’s why I give directly to the Society,” he said. “It cuts out that middleman, who keeps a large portion of the donation. I work hard for my money and want every penny going directly to the BHS programs I care about.”
Society CEO Marty Monson said most donor gifts are intended to fund initiatives such as Next Generation Barbershop youth events, music educator scholarships to Harmony University, support of local singing communities, and barbershop history preservation. Up to 85% of a donor gift can go directly to a local chapter. He noted that BHS donor funds are not used for non-program or legal expenses.
The upcoming Midwinter Convention in Pasadena is of special interest to donors, with its Next Generation Barbershop Junior Chorus Invitational spearheaded by the Society. The event, formerly called Youth Chorus Festival, will immerse 500 students from 11 U.S. high schools in barbershop.
“Every donation, no matter its size, helps pay a young person’s way,” Monson said. “You’ll help students gain confidence, skills and lifetime friends. And only a direct gift to the Society is guaranteed to support these student programs.”
Harmony Foundation has not forwarded donor funds to BHS since May 2020, Board President John Donehower said.
“This breach of fiscal responsibility disregards donors who expected their money to benefit BHS. Unfortunately, nothing has come to BHS the past 14 months,” he said.
Board Treasurer John Santora said the Society adapted plans and made cutbacks to weather HFI’s discontinued funding and the pandemic’s impact on income from conventions, Harmony University, music sales and membership. Staff endured more than a year of compensation reductions and roughly a third of the BHS staff positions have been eliminated or furloughed. Travel by BHS staff and volunteer leadership stopped in March 2020 and remains limited.
Blair Brown, BHS board member, said efforts of the Society and its singing communities to spread the joy of barbershop harmony are the top priority in fundraising.
“All of us can be a force for good in others’ lives,” Brown said. “When we donate to the Barbershop Harmony Society, we fuel human connection. We support the life-changing experiences that BHS and its singing communities have created for generations.”