Citicorp's South Dakota Card Division Makes Big Splash with Arts Donations: $32,000 Donation in 1983 Was State Symphony's Largest Corporate Gift

Article excerpt

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- When word got out four years ago that Citicorp would move a credit card division to South Dakota, Mary Sommervold didn't waste any time doing business with them. She called the company's New York headquarters.

And when Dick McCrossen, the new division president, came to Sioux Falls, he had no more than set his bags down than she was in his office. She had her hand out.

As executive director of the South Dakota Symphony, which is based in Sioux Falls, Ms. Sommervold was aware that Citicorp gave generously to the arts. In 1983, Citicorp gave $1.8 million nationally -- nearly as much as all private contributions to the arts in South Dakota.

"We hoped they would enter Sioux Falls in the manner they had in other communities," she said.

Ms. Sommervold was rewarded for her anticipation. Last year, Citibank (South Dakota) NA gave $32,000 to the symphony, including $10,000 to support a member of a new woodwind quintet and $17,000 for children's concerts that featured Bob McGrath of "Sesame Street."

On Citicorp's list of 1983 arts gifts were few larger contributions. Larger sums went to organizations like the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts ($70,000), the American Ballet Theater tour ($40,000), and the Houston Opera ($50,000). But when taken in context of arts donations in South Dakota, it was, well... "extraordinary," said one arts administrator; "enormous," said another; and "staggeringly positive," said a third. In short, Citibank wowed'em.

Citibank's contribution totaled 7% of the symphony's budget and was $7,000 more than the musical organization received from the state. The donation far outdistanced any previous corporate gift to the symphony.

Mr. McCrossen was elected chairman of the symphony board, where he helped set up a financial system. The new system has broadened the symphony's financial base, forecast expenses, and eliminated a small annual deficit. Fund-raising also increased. For a time, the joke in arts circles was that Citibank had bought itself an orchestra. Positive Publicity

"Our experience is you get an awful lot of positive publicity when you support the arts," said Mr. McCrossen. "We found we got an awful lot of acceptance in the community for what we did."

Citicorp encourages returning something to the community, he said, and the credit card operation has yielded earnings beyond the company's expectations.

Mr. McCrossen, a Brooklyn native who lived on Long Island's North Shore before his transfer, said he was not particularly knowledgeable about music: he used to take in a couple of New York concerts a year. Referring to his decision to support the symphony in Sioux Falls, he said the symphony just "was there first."

Overall, Citibank (South Dakota) gave $50,000 to the arts last year and budgeted about the same for 1984. That support includes donations to a Sioux Falls dance group and community playhouse. The total does not include art works for bank offices. These artworks include three $10,000 tapestries purchased from a Rapid City, S.D., weaver.

In Rapid City -- where Citicorp bought a local bank in anticipation of setting up an insurance subsidiary -- the company began making donations in spite of an indefinite delay in federal approval for the insurance unit. Promising to give more than anyone else, local Citicorp manager R. …