It’s not a Happy New Year for me. I’ve spent the last few months looking at budgets, trying to forecast income in uncertain times, and having sustainability discussions with two community organizations: the Rat Creek Press and Alberta Avenue Community League. It’s not looking good. On the bright side, both organizations are currently solvent and able to continue operations. But, the crisis is coming, and it is coming fast.
Most not-for-profit organizations piece their funding together from three income sources: grants, gaming (casino & bingos), and user or service fees such as memberships, sales, or rentals. All of these income streams have taken a hit over the last two years. It has always been difficult to get grants for operating costs; grants tend to focus on projects, programs, or capital improvements. Casino funds make up half of the RCP budget. We will run out of casino funds this summer. Due to the pandemic, casino events are running almost two years behind, so we may not have more casino funds until the end of 2023.
Alberta Avenue Community League (AACL) will be out of casino funds by the end of 2022, and their rental revenue has dropped by two-thirds. They have one of the largest, most expensive facilities to operate. They never closed or stopped running programs during the pandemic. The projected 2022 deficit is large and will likely deplete their remaining cash reserves. They are undertaking fundraising so that they can sustain normal operations in 2023. It may be a challenge.
Some community organizations are already having issues paying the monthly utility bills and finding enough funds to continue normal operations. Alberta Avenue Business Association (AABA) and all seven community leagues partnered with Rat Creek Press in 2020, each giving an annual donation to the newspaper. In 2021, Westwood and Delton were no longer able to financially sustain the partnership, and Eastwood and AABA had to scale back their donations. In 2022, there will likely be more scaling back of RCP partnership donations. With few events and programs taking place and businesses closed or struggling, advertising sales have also been dismal.
Another integral community organization, Arts on the Ave, constantly pivoted to continue programs and events, re-imagined and re-worked their large signature festivals still employing dozens and dozens of artists, all to continue free or low-cost offerings to our community. Many days they struggle to make $100 at their volunteer-powered Carrot Coffeehouse. They wade through COVID regulations, unpredictable and extreme weather conditions, and staffing and volunteer challenges to produce vibrant festivals open to all. Their ability to continue operating in this manner is also being challenged.
I hope this new year is better for many of you because your support is needed. If you value having local independent businesses to eat or shop at, if you value festivals like Deep Freeze & Kaleido, if you value community centres, ice rinks, and community gardens, if you value community programs and events, then you need to do everything you can to support them.
All of these local, non-profit organizations (including the RCP) are connected. We are integral pieces that make your communities thrive. Your league needs you to buy a membership, all organizations need donations, businesses need you to shop and eat and bring your family and friends. You can also offer your time, skills and gifts, especially with fundraising activities. Work casinos and bingos when they come up. Offer to play music or give a free service for a community event. Donate to a silent auction.
This plea for support is the same for RCP. This community paper has been around for over 20 years. We’re a unique, independent newspaper. There’s very few independent newspapers around anymore. In 2022, the RCP needs your financial support. I hear all the time that people read and value the paper. This is an opportunity to show it.
For the last 17 years, I have been working in some capacity or other to ensure a copy of the Rat Creek Press made it to mailboxes in the community. There’s a high probability that the print version of the RCP newspaper won’t make it to the end of 2022. There is also no guarantee that RCP will have enough funds to produce an online-only publication in 2023. RCP distributes to 12,000 households. If five per cent of households (600) purchased a membership ($36), that would raise one quarter of the annual budget.The future is never written in stone; we create the future day by day. The community has the power to help keep the RCP, the community leagues, and the local businesses afloat. Will you do your part?