The pandemic continues to impact our society, with non-profit organizations affected financially and facing challenges and changes.
Rona Fraser, CEO of Nina Haggerty Centre for the Arts, says, “We have had to [make] all of our programming virtual for our collective of over 230 artists with developmental disabilities.” But artists are still able to create. “Our staff delivers art supplies safely to our artists’ homes every couple of weeks to keep them creating.”
Their community programs and exhibits have also gone online. More people are now able to see their exhibits virtually as well as host virtual workshops with artists from around Canada. “We have even had some incredible virtual field trips of galleries and museums from around the world.”
While the Nina receives government funding, they still must raise about 40 per cent of their annual operating budget. “The Nina has been very fortunate that we had so much support last year. The upcoming year may be more challenging with the lack of casino funds and foreseeable in-person fundraisers.”
Fraser adds, “The big challenge is when we return to in-person [attendance]. With social distancing, we can only accommodate half of our capacity at a time. This means doubling our sessions and also maintaining a virtual program for those who need to stay at home. It is a big staff cost, but we will make sure that no artist gets left without an opportunity to keep creating.”
Fundraising events have been affected because people can’t gather for their usual fundraisers.
“We have been creative and did a drive-in event and are planning a virtual luncheon with lunches and gifts to be delivered to our patrons who are supporters of the Nina who give $500 a year,” Fraser says. “We have also had our casino funding postponed, which is a big impact for us financially. The Nina is so grateful for the support we have had, including wage subsidy, corporate sponsorship, personal donations, and community foundation funding.”
People can buy the Nina’s merchandise and artwork, donate, or become a patron and get matched with an artist. The Nina also started a fundraiser called Create Box, which is an art kit people can buy to create art at home.
Community Leagues have also been affected.
“AHS guidelines and Alberta government phase restrictions limited the access to the hall, [so] no indoor events could be hosted, [and] cleaning protocols for volunteers was too much to expect,” explains Roisin Hawkswell, Westwood Community League president.
The league typically earned its revenue from hall rentals. “This past year has been the complete opposite of the last few years with no revenue coming in,” says Hawkswell. “We are solely relying on the [Community League Operating Grant] from the City of Edmonton and the savings in the league bank account.” They’ve also done fundraising to help with finances.
She adds, “We are definitely worse off than we were a year ago. Paying the bills to operate the league is still required and with no revenue coming in, the league’s bank account is depleting slowly every month.”
They are looking at other options to bring in income, like a regular 50/50 draw, a physically distanced summer sidewalk sale, block parties (if allowed), and a membership drive.
Like other non-profits, community newspapers like Boyle McCauley News have been hit hard.
“First of all, a lack of events happening due to the pandemic made us reduce our page count from 16 to 12 pages. The second way the pandemic has impacted us, and by far the most serious way, is financial,” says Paula Kirman, editor and volunteer coordinator. “We’re in a very precarious situation, far worse than pre-COVID. Without our casino, we don’t have a stable source of funding and it makes planning for the future difficult.”
A significant revenue source is from advertising and casinos, with casinos being their primary source. “Because of the pandemic and the resulting health regulations, we don’t know when our next casino is coming up.”
Due to the loss of revenue, Boyle McCauley News will not be publishing their remaining two print issues for the current fiscal year, and it’s unclear what the publishing schedule will be like after that. But they’ve been focusing on their online presence and continue to publish articles.
The publication saved money by moving into the Edmonton Community Development Company offices. “We moved there in October, so not having to pay rent has helped. We also received a grant from the federal government that helped cover some expenses for a while.” Kirman adds, “We are looking at doing some 50/50s. We’re also planning a socially-distanced fundraiser where people can contribute funds.”
While they were able to save money on rent, balancing the budget was still difficult. As a result, they stopped delivering to the Boyle Street area through Canada Post. “In McCauley we have block carriers who deliver door-to-door, but Boyle Street is mostly apartments,” says Kirman. “We now have more newspaper boxes in the Boyle Street area, and are actively recruiting apartment ambassadors and condo connectors to accept delivery of papers at their buildings.”
The publication is currently running a Toss Us Your Toonies campaign. To participate, donate as little as $2 to the paper through PayPal, either on a one-time or ongoing basis.
The Rat Creek Press has faced similar problems as Boyle McCauley News, and also had to reduce the number of issues while focusing on building a larger online presence.
Mark Henderson, artistic director of Theatre Prospero and Thousand Faces Festival, says they got lucky.
“[We got lucky] with a bunch of things. With generosity of artists, generosity of funders, generosity of partners.” Theatre Prospero, Thousand Faces Festival, and National Stiltwalkers of Canada forged partnerships. They were able to use National Stiltwalkers’ space “as a sort-of a green screen streaming studio.” The streamed shows were available to watch by donation.
In previous years, their revenue changed from year to year, and came in different forms.
“A huge amount of our revenue was from touring shows to schools and from artists-in-residence programs in schools. Obviously, we aren’t doing that right now,” Henderson says. “We did do a virtual residency and it was worthwhile.”
Their revenue this last year has been almost entirely grants, with some donations. They received emergency funding, a wage and rent subsidy, and provincial and federal government funding. Compared to before the pandemic, their current financial situation isn’t too far off of what it was.
“While we are doing OK, I don’t really want the world to think that artists are doing OK,” Henderson adds. “Maybe I should say that we are no less tenuous than we were.” If people want to help, they can either donate to Theatre Prospero or support local artists.