Hitting the Right Note

Edmonton’s professional choir creates endowment fund in honour of long-term supporters Russ and Johann Mann

Like many nonprofits, Edmonton choir Pro Coro Canada was hit hard by the global recession in 2008. Suddenly unable to afford an executive director, the organization now faced an uncertain future.

The stars aligned in 2005 when Johann Mann “voluntold” her husband, Russ, to join Pro Coro’s board of directors. Russ had recently retired from a career in banking, finance, and sales and his wife —who had also served on the board from 1983-1985 — knew his experience would be invaluable to the organization.

In 2008 Russ’ experience was put to the test as he stepped into the role of executive director on a volunteer basis. Under his guidance, Pro Coro weathered the economic storm and continued pushing the boundaries of contemporary choral music. Russ held the position for eight years.

Johann and Russ Mann

“That shows you the kind of person he is,” says current executive director Mireille Rijavec, who took on the role a couple of years ago when Pro Coro finally acquired funding for the position. Wanting to recognize the contributions of both of the Manns, the board decided to create an endowment in the couple’s honour. “They’ve both given a lot of time and money to Pro Coro, as well as lot of expertise,” says Rijavec.

The first step, she says, was taking part in the ECF’s Endowment Sustainability Program last year with Pro Coro’s other employee and members of the board. “I thought it was fantastic,” she says, explaining that the program offered helpful information about how to go about starting a sustainable fund and how to have conversations with prospective donors and the organization’s supporters.

On October 1, Pro Coro launched a fundraising campaign to reach the $10,000 threshold that will allow it to begin granting (it’s currently just $2500 away from that goal). Donations will be eligible for matching by the Canada Cultural Investment Fund (CCIF), a federal granting program for arts-based non-profits.

Rijavec says The Russ and Johann Endowment Fund will give the organization more financial “wiggle room” when it faces lean times again, but it will also help to hire composers to write original music for the choir to perform. “It’s not just Pro Coro that the money will support,” she says. “There’s a real legacy to it since it will support composers and music that becomes part of our musical landscape.”

Click HERE to support Pro Coro Canada through the Russ & Johann Mann Endowment Fund.