Sunday, February 1, 2004

Look Who's Talking: James F. Orr

The chairman of this year's Fine Arts Fund campaign, James F. Orr is no stranger to corporate support of the arts.

Orr is chairman and CEO of Convergys Corp., which was recognized nationally last year for outstanding support of the arts by Forbes magazine and the Business Committee for the Arts.

In less than the five years since it was formed, the billing and customer care provider has contributed more than $1.75 million to support arts in the communities where it has operations, including Cincinnati.

The Fine Arts Fund, which provides operating support to eight local arts organizations such as the Cincinnati Art Museum and Cincinnati Opera as well as grants to other arts groups, kicks off its 55th fund-raising campaign Feb. 15. The fund is the oldest and second largest united arts campaign in the country.

As chairman of this year's Fine Arts Fund campaign, you have a tough act to follow. Last year's campaign, led by Procter & Gamble chairman A.G. Lafley, raised a record $10,003,550, up 7.5 percent from the prior year.

We have not formally established the goal for this year, but clearly what we hope to do is exceed last year's results.

We have a great team. I've been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and willingness to serve. There's no one I've asked to serve in a leading role on the campaign who's said anything other than yes.

One of the reasons you were picked to head the campaign was the success you had in increasing the level of leadership giving ($1,500 or more) within Convergys. What did you do?

We held a meeting, inviting every company vice president and above based in Cincinnati, and asked someone from the arts to come in and talk about the importance of the arts and the fund to their group. The arts are a unifying force particularly for kids in public schools who get access to the arts through the Fine Arts Fund.

I simply ask the leadership team of our company, which was about 65 or 66 at that time to play a leadership role by giving at the leadership level. My recollection is 60 gave a leadership gift. From 1999 to 2002 we were single largest supporter of the fund in terms of leadership gifts.

The success was remarkable because it isn't heavy handed. No threats. It's simply: We think you can afford to give. We're all very fortunate. The company supports this. I'm going to give a leadership gift and I'd like all of you to.

What's driven Convergys' support of the arts?

I like the arts, but it's not a personal thing. It's really part of our corporate values. We as a company need to do everything we can to make the communities where we live and work better places.

From the economics side, you've seen the studies on the economic impact of the arts in our community, which is tremendous.

Who is your favorite artist?

The problem is it is reasonably eclectic and broad. I certainly enjoy things like the Playhouse in the Park and the symphony, the opera and the ballet. I also enjoy Cincinnati artists. The company has worked hard to support them by buying their artwork that we use throughout our buildings.

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