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An Eye Toward the Next Act

Opera Memphis bolsters its future with a reserve fund


Lean times are all Ned Canty has known since he became CEO of Opera Memphis in 2011. That fact makes him grateful Opera Memphis began an endowment fund at the Community Foundation more than 25 years ago.

“In the midst of chaotic times, when every dollar is critical, an endowment reminds you how important it is to think about the future,” Canty says. “The earnings from our endowment may be only a small percentage of our income, but they have helped sustain us.”


Opera Memphis’ endowment fund was created before Canty’s tenure, but he was the champion behind the company’s recent establishment of a reserve fund at the Community Foundation. The idea for that fund grew out of a missed opportunity, Canty says.

“We had a chance to purchase a fantastic used production set from another opera company at an unbelievable price. We could have done our own production, rented it, made money on it – but our budget was fully committed. That broke my heart,” he says. “In the future, we want to be ready when opportunities like that come along. The reserve fund isn’t a rainy day fund; it’s our sunny day fund.”

Earlier this year, Inside Memphis Business named Canty its CEO of the Year for small companies, citing his unusual combination of right brain/left brain skills. Making smart business decisions are as important to ensuring the company’s future as quality artistic productions, according to Canty.


“Opera Memphis is celebrating its 60th year,” he says. “We want to be around for another 60 years, so we are always looking at how we can be smart with our resources today, and how we can grow our resources for tomorrow.”

Excerpted from the 2017 Community Foundation Annual Report