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As the 1960s drew to a close, so did the presidency of Frederick B. Adams Jr. Under his leadership, the Society completed a successful campaign that helped finance major capital renovations; the Society's board was restructured and the Society's first female trustee was elected; the Society adopted a total return ap­proach to the spending of investment proceeds from endowment; and the Pintard Fellows were established. In addition, the Society's renovated exhibition spaces and expanded emphasis on public programs positioned it to serve a larger con­stituency than it ever had before.

Not all the news had been good, however; the latter part of Adams's tenure exhibited a shift away from the careful stewardship that characterized his early years. Whereas Adams had shown great caution in 1963, warning the Society of impending budget problems and urging a capital campaign even as the Society was running surpluses, he and the board did not anticipate or respond to the financial difficulties of the late 1960s. There is no mention of financial concern in the remaining reports of the period; in fact, it was not until 1970, after the Society suffered its first operating deficit in many years, that Adams sounded the alarm. That was the first year that the Society's total return investment policy and 5 percent spending rule did not provide sufficient income to cover expenditures. As he turned over the presidency to Robert G. Goelet, Adams warned that "the prospect for 1971 and beyond is not cheerful; we shall have to draw heavily on our carefully husbanded Reserve Fund balance to make up operating deficits."

Formula for disaster: dramatic change outside, status quo inside, 1971-1982

The 1970s proved to be an extraordinarily difficult decade for all cultural insti­tutions, especially those that depended on endowment for much of their income. The "stagflation" of that period affected these institutions negatively in terms of both revenues and expenses. On the revenue side, the recessionary economy that prevailed during the early 1970s reduced the return on these institutions' investments, driving down total income. In 1973 and 1974, for example, the annual total return for domestic common stocks was -14.8 percent and -26.4 per­cent, respectively.

Kennedy and Schneider (1994, p. 19).
As for expenses, inflationary pressure from the oil crisis, among other things, drove up the cost of operations during the same period.

The Society's ability to meet the challenges was constrained. First, the capi­tal improvements and renovations had reduced the Society's unrestricted reserves, inhibiting its financial flexibility. Second, and equally important, the Society con­tinued to move aggressively to expand its services to a rapidly growing public constituency just as the financial noose was tightening. As had happened at other times in the Society's history, the expansion of services (and the concomitant growth in expenditures) was not matched by a comparable growth in existing rev­enue or by the identification of new sources of revenue.

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Source:  OpenStax, The new-york historical society: lessons from one nonprofit's long struggle for survival. OpenStax CNX. Mar 28, 2008 Download for free at http://cnx.org/content/col10518/1.1
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