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The increasing emphasis on acquisitions was reflected in changes in the lev­els of the board-restricted funds. Year-end balances of these funds, originated under then-president LeRoy Kimball in 1954 to help the board manage the Society's accumulated surpluses, are depicted in Figure 4.2.

Prior to Frederick Adams's tenure as board president, the three board-restricted funds were the accumulated surplus, the pension reserve, and the fund for special accessions. As mentioned previously, Adams had established a devel­opment fund and renamed the accumulated surplus (calling it, instead, the reserve for equipment, building replacement, and major repair) as part of the capital cam­paign to improve the Society's facilities. To pay for the renovation in 1966, the building reserve was totally depleted and the development fund was substan­tially reduced. After the renovation, Adams rebuilt the development fund with sur­pluses generated in the late 1960s. When Adams stepped down in 1970, the development fund stood at $302,000.

Under Goelet, the board spent down this reserve quickly, depleting it entirely in just three years. Rather surprisingly, however, the development fund was not spent down to finance deficits. Expenditures were cut in 1971 and 1972, and the Society posted relatively small deficits (approximately 3 percent of total expen­ditures) in 1971 and 1973.

See Table C.4-1 in Appendix C.
Although the financial statements do not explicitly state where the development fund reserves were transferred, it is apparent from Figure 4.2 that the special accessions fund was the beneficiary of a good portion of those transfers. As the development fund fell from $302,000 to zero, the accessions fund rose from $42,000 to $250,000.

Pressure to ensure that funds would be available to make important accessions can be seen in other ways as well. The Society began to entertain the possibility of selling some of its collections, particularly its European paintings. Originally re­ceived by the Society in 1867, many of these pictures were amassed by Thomas J. Bryan, one of America’s first serious collectors of European Art. Although some considered the collection important as a unique representation of early American tastes in European art, the Society maintained that the paintings did not fall within its mission. By selling the paintings, some of which were quite valuable, the Society hoped to further its capacity to purchase collections that were relevant to its mission and purposes.

Personal communication, Dec. 13, 1994.
The proposal was to sell the majority of the paintings and use the proceeds to finance future acquisitions of American paintings. The So­ciety would retain a small varied group of the Bryan paintings to continue to serve as an example of early American collecting tastes.

The Society originally petitioned the Supreme Court of New York for cypres relief in the mid 1960s.

Simply stated, the doctrine of cypres provides that where property is given in trust for a particular charitable purpose, the trust ordinarily will not fail even if that particular purpose cannot be carried out. The rationale is that the grantor had a more general intent to have the property used for something similar to the specific purpose specified in the gift or grant. To apply for relief from cypres is to ask the courts to rule that a recipient’s circumstances are such that the doctrine of cypres does not apply and that the restrictions on the grant or gift can be lifted.
It was not until May 1970 that the Society received permission from the court to sell 210 pictures. In May 1971, the Society sold at auction 13 paintings for $109,200. The first $80,000 was used to pay legal ex­penses, and the balance was used to establish the Bryan Fund, which was to be used only for the purchase of paintings. On December 2, 1971, the Society sold 179 more paintings from the collection for $299,220. The Society did not attempt to sell any more of the paintings for the rest of the 1970s (although ten paintings were loaned to the Metropolitan Museum of Art during that period). In October 1980, the Society sold another large group of the paintings, for which it again had to get approval from the courts, for $1,330,650.

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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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