Crawling around in Factory Theatre’s nether regions

Anthony Marshall, who is in the thick of doing energy audits for Creative Trust’s Toronto’s Green Theatres program, had us hanging on the edge of our seats as he told us  about his recent visit backstage (and back-backstage) at Factory Theatre.

I think I am not exaggerating in saying that Anthony will never again think that working in “show business” is glamorous.

I personally came into this project fresh off having our 1920’s home energy audited and completing some of the audit’s recommendations. I thought I had this in the bag – companies would just have to replace some HVAC systems and spray insulation in their attics and they’d be set…!

Turns out that while we’ve always said our buildings are full of life – in a way it’s like they really are alive.  Spraying insulation into the roof of heritage buildings is sometimes not recommended because as they exist the roof “breathes” (or as one of our building managers joked,  hers “hyperventilates.”)  Insulating the roof could create condensation which could damage heritage features like plaster ceilings, moldings and medallions over time .

Anthony also told us that Factory and others who use hot water radiators could quickly and easily (and possibly without cost free through an incentive program at Enbridge) install heat reflector panels to stop loss of energy through their uninsulated exterior walls Anthony, who is rapidly becoming an expert on the unique characteristics of heritage buildings, is excited to create an overarching report of common findings and recommendations after he is completed all the audits.  We’re hoping this report becomes a resource that other companies can use as a starting point when looking at their own buildings and that it creates some general knowledge in the community around the terms and how to interpret an energy audit.   low cost fixes they can do on their own.

Any stories of your own to share? Let us know by commenting on Facebook.

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Mining data for gold

by Jini Stolk

People know that I’m not really a data-analyzing, number-crunching kind of person – but I’m going to talk about data and audiences once again. As I said in a recent post , I find myself getting excited about the untapped value of the information and insights in our databases. It almost makes me want to come back as a professional fundraiser, charged by a smart manager with the task of truly understanding the data and using it well.

Amelia Northrup-Simpson, writing for the National Arts Marketing Project emphatically reinforces what we should focus on: “Two decades of arts consumer study is clear. The metrics surrounding loyalty—keeping patrons coming back and increasing their investment—are the ones that really count when it comes to building a sustainable audience (and revenue) base.”

That’s why I’m glad that Creative Trust, with the help of the Ontario Trillium Foundation, was able to take a leading role in presenting Smart Data, a workshop series delivered by Young Associates to members of the Neighbourhood Arts Network and CPAMO. The November 2012 sessions reached over 46 smaller companies and independent artists; attendance grew to 59 in February. Word of mouth was strong for sessions whose names speak for themselves (“Managing Data, Policies and Procedures”; “Researching your Data: Advancing Marketing and Fundraising”; “Singing from the Same Songbook: Harmonizing Database & Accounting Software”; and “Managing up, Down and Across: A peer exchange.”). A condensed one-day workshop in Ottawa, presented through CPAMO’s networks, was equally well attended and received.

SOFII (the Showcase of Fundraising Innovation and Inspiration) posted another intriguing piece on the topic, an interview with Chuck Longfield, chief scientist at database giant Blackbaud. In Data is Gold , he wonders if “at least part of the problem is that, in the art and science of fundraising, data seems to fit mostly in the science bit whereas most fundraisers tend towards the arty side. Fundraisers are creative, imaginative, even intuitive. Data, by contrast, seems solid, complicated, unfashionable, perhaps even a bit unfriendly.”

The rest of the interview makes it clear that the simplest act of acknowledging a change of address can become a satisfying and important personal interaction with a donor.

Overall, the Smart Data workshop participants expressed a strong desire for consistent training and support in contact management, data strategy, and choosing the right database. When you consider the potential impact on our arts organizations, it seems like this should be an ongoing learning priority in our community.

I’d be eager to know who’s mining their data well, and what results they’re seeing.

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Not simply to survive

by Jini Stolk

“Our mandate as an arts organization is not simply to survive, but to create. Its function in society is to create. The only thing that justifies the money that we get is putting out work that counts.”

With this profound statement, and a public letter filled with gratitude to the artists, staff and board members he’s worked with over the past 35 years, La La La Human Steps’ founder and choreographer Édouard Lock announced the company’s closing.

La La La’s artistic impact was huge. Its financial model, however, which rested on international partnerships, extensive touring, and an unyielding commitment to new work, hit the wall of economic downturn – and its founder’s unwillingness to restructure or compromise. There were no ifs, ands or buts at the end: “My letter of resignation has been sent to the funders and a resolution dissolving the company has been signed by the board. LHS is no more. It’s time to say goodbye and to give thanks.”

I found this stark message exceedingly touching in its dignity. I also found it to be illuminating of some essential differences between arts organizations and other nonprofits and charities. Could a women’s shelter, a refugee settlement house, a food bank, or a freshwater environmental group ever have closed in this way? The primacy of an arts organization’s artistic vision in its reason for being demands a different understanding of its approach to sustainability.

Perhaps, as Alan Harrison argues, resilience for an arts organization is not the goal: impact is. Many companies of great impact (such as Alameda Theatre, which developed more than 25 works by Latin American writers across Canada before closing last year) have opted to end on an artistic high note. Others, I think you’ll agree, have diminished their early success by hanging on too long.

Andrew Taylor says that sustainability should be seen less as an organizational strategy (focusing on the survival of individual organizations) than an ecological strategy (sustaining our community’s access to a broad range of creative experiences.)

These ideas have fascinating implications for governance in the arts. What exactly are an organization’s and its board’s “legal and moral obligations to its constituencies” if its primary responsibility is to create “work that counts”? There are subtle differences that we have to be aware of here. I would never argue against an arts board’s responsibility to guard its organization’s mission, relevance and financial continuity – but always in service to the art.

Things get more complex, of course, when an arts organization becomes the institutional steward of a building or other assets, employs a significant staff, and contributes in unique ways to its neighbourhood and community.

Many people have noted that arts organizations resemble entrepreneurial enterprises more than typical non-profits – and that one-size-fits-all governance may not be what’s needed when a unique vision is paramount. (It you want to delve deeper into these differences and similarities, you might find these “top 10 startup founder blogs every entrepreneur should follow” interesting.)

I don’t have all the answers, but I do know that arts organizations have to carefully consider their real governance needs and obligations – perhaps taking a more creative approach to stewardship than found in most board manuals.

Here’s an example of a non-profit that filed for bankruptcy at the start of this year, but whose beautifully crafted goodbye proudly asserts that its mission is far from ending.



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Crowdfunding redux

by Jini Stolk

It might seem that I’ve been unusually bullish about crowd fundraising. I’ve definitely been fascinated by the ways in which successful crowdfunding is reliant on strong relationships and networks; that when supporters rally to save a company they care about they can achieve surprising turnarounds; and that notable success stories as well as a few failures contain important lessons for anyone venturing down the crowdfunding road.

It’s certainly clear that when crowdfunding is done well it’s a powerful new way to reach out, well beyond the usual suspects, for support – and that the crowd is more willing to take a chance on innovative arts projects – expanding the number, and potentially the type, of projects that have a chance of success.

Imagine Canada has brought up concerns that the plethora of crowdfunding campaigns might be taking a bite out of charitable donations, and is making it hard to differentiate between personal, business, and charitable causes (not to mention a growing number of fraudulent appeals.)

Wild West? Brave New World? Inexorable Wave of the Future? Great Way to Go Around Conventional Funding Bodies or Donors ? Or do you agree with Jonathan Jones in The Guardian that where art is concerned, the crowd is an idiot?

However you lean, you’ll be glad to know that CSI and HiveWire have just published a free, comprehensive guide to crowdfunding success. It covers every aspect of creating, running and completing a successful crowdfunding campaign, based on learnings from 27,000 nonprofit campaigns. It’s a comprehensive, practical guide tailored to nonprofits and charities, but valuable also to social impact projects considering crowdfunding.

This terrific piece by Theatre by the Bay’s Alex Dault in Canadian Theatre Review is more specific to the potential and downside of Indie Theatre crowdfunding campaigns.

Returning once again to the wisdom of Alan Brown. “New technologies are reshaping the giving patterns of ordinary people who understand that they can play a small, meaningful part in changing the world, or at least their own community.”

But Boards and Managing Directors take note! As with so many things, there are CRA implications to consider. Here, forwarded by my legal colleagues at CSI, is a summary of the Canada Revenue Agency’s views on the tax implications of raising money via crowdfunding:

  • Depending on the facts and circumstances, money raised through crowdfunding could represent: a loan; a capital contribution (a form of equity); a gift or a windfall; business income; or a combination of some or all of these.
  • It’s unlikely that crowdfunding will be treated as a loan or as equity since crowdfunding rarely results in the creation of a debt or equity interest in the entity raising the money. (In the event that this does occur, the money raised would not be subject to tax as it would not represent income but rather amounts that would ultimately be returned to the lenders or shareholders.)
  • A crowdfunding initiative might be treated as a gift or a windfall. A gift is defined by the courts as “a voluntary transfer of property to a donee with no right, privilege, material benefit, or advantage conferred in exchange”; a windfall is similar to a gift, but because it requires that the recipient has neither sought nor made an organized effort to receive the payment, crowdfunding will tend to fit more naturally into the category of gift than of windfall. To the extent that money raised through crowdfunding constitutes a gift or a windfall, the amount received will not be taxable.
  • When crowdfunding occurs in the context of a business (whether in the start-up phase as funding for the creation of a new product, service or enterprise, or in the course of operations of an established business), the CRA considers that crowdfunding proceeds constitute business income “unless it can be shown that the crowdfunding arrangement otherwise clearly represents a loan, capital contribution or other form of equity.” In such cases, crowdfunding proceeds would be taxable and subject to GST/HST.




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Top Tips for Creating a New Program

by Jini Stolk

Arts organizations tend to be skilled and inventive creators of programming. Each new season is a planning adventure and each production requires the careful weaving of many strands – artistic, financial, contracting, marketing and much more. These 8 Top Tips for Creating a New Program are designed for those moments when an entirely new initiative is in the works: it could be an unexplored artistic direction, or a new approach to education or outreach, or a diversity or access initiative. It could also be the creation of something like Creative Trust – a 9 year, $7 million program to energize and sustain an essential performing arts sector.

These tips are taken from the Creative Trust/Toronto Arts Foundation Open Source Took Kit, Creating the Program – a larger initiative to share knowledge and learning from the Creative Trust experience  with arts management professionals in Toronto, Canada and beyond, providing ideas and examples for arts and other non-profit leaders to explore and borrow from.

  1. Make research and consultation your foundation. Expand and add to your own experience and knowledge by learning from others. Ask potential participants what they want and need, and how you fit in. Know the territory; understand the milieu. Look beyond your sector to people who’ve broken through barriers to new ways of thinking and working. Use these people as essential resources; learn from their successes and mistakes. By consulting with others you’ll be inspired, avoid mistakes, and create a program grounded in best ideas and practices.
  1. Create clear and understandable goals. The more work you put into clarifying your vision and goals the more likely you are to achieve them. Anticipated outcomes, business plans, structure and methods should begin with – and circle back to – an inspiring vision statement and clearly articulated goals.
  1. Develop a workable structure. For the program to work it must exist in the real world, so ensure that you have the financial and logistical resources to make the program a success. Develop careful, long-term budgets. Surround yourself with the best board/advisory members and staff possible; understand how decisions are going to made, and develop staff and governance policies and practices that define separate and mutual responsibilities. Think through your needs for space, computer systems, and basic administrative resources.
  1. Plan, plan and plan. It can be a long journey from having an idea to designing and carrying out a program that achieves what you set out to achieve. Design the program around your vision and values, and make sure everyone understands them. Who shares your vision strongly enough to contribute funds? Develop a prospect list and fundraising plan. Discuss and debate every expectation and process, and think through every step along the way; write them down as action plans. Develop timelines and deadlines; stick to them.
  1. Embrace flexibility. Make sure the program is flexible enough to respond to changing circumstances or new understandings of what is needed or will work. Welcome learning. Expect the unexpected; make sure that everyone involved is prepared to revise and adapt even the most well prepared plans.
  1. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Create a multi-targeted, multi-strategy communications plan. Reach out to potential participants, stakeholders – and anyone interested – in as many ways as possible: talk, write, blog, tweet about your program and how it will unfold. Start big and bold: perhaps have a launch party. Stay in touch with monthly emails. Ensure that your stakeholders and participants stay connected to what you are doing.
  1. Build in an evaluation and monitoring plan. How will you know if your program is a success without evaluation? Be sure to build evaluation, measurements, feedback and analysis into your plans from the beginning.
  1. Share your knowledge. Now we arrive right back where we started. You have knowledge that you can impart to others. Don’t be territorial or competitive – share your work widely and help your sector grow.

This is the first of a series by Kasia Gladki and Jini Stolk, drawing on the work and Open Source Tool Kits of Creative Trust. We hope these tips may offer inspiration and valuable ideas to others as they work to improve their impact and communities. See the full Creating the Program toolkit here.

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Interesting about the Doras

by Jini Stolk

I missed the Dora Mavor Moore Awards this year, I’m sorry to say, but I wanted to share a few thoughts before the new season takes off.

I did remarkably well last year, seeing a larger number of nominated shows (in each and every category) than I usually rack up. This was mostly because I foreswore procrastination and jumped to buy tickets for productions that sounded interesting or got great reviews.

Looking over the list of nominees one more time, I have to say it was a terrific season: from weird and wonderful new work to startling and and moving interpretations of classic texts; beautifully staged operas and musical theatre; young audience shows that were simply excellent theatre; and exceptional dance from here and around the world. We’re very lucky to be able to see work of this extraordinary calibre in Toronto.

What else did I see? Houses that were full. Shows that were totally sold out, in that I couldn’t get tickets. Shows that were staged in unexpected and exciting venues.Inventive, charming, and appealing marketing from small companies like Against the Grain Theatre and for indie shows like Little Death. The rise of Storefront Theatre!

I also saw Fringe line-ups in July that were long, eager and overwhelmingly filled with younger audiences. I just confirmed that 57% of Fringe attenders are under age 34, and that the Fringe’s sales were higher this year than ever before. Affordable, fun, impromptu theatregoing obviously has a market and a future – as does the full range of performing arts in Toronto, judging by this past stellar season.

Another show I was delighted to see was the PanAm Games opening ceremony, created by Cirque du Soleil and featuring choreography and dancers from my very favorite Toronto Dance Theatre with students from the National Ballet School.

BUT (and here I’m about to criticize another of my favorites, the CBC):

Come on CBC! I know you could have found an announcer for the opening ceremony who didn’t sound slightly stunned that he wasn’t calling a hockey game; perhaps someone who could speak articulately, with knowledge and passion about a cultural event. You might even have tapped Kim Roberts for this task; she did a fabulous job – warm, welcoming, enthusiastic – introducing PANAMANIA acts at the CNE grounds.

And what was with the camera work? I seriously feared that someone had put the opening ceremony cameras on a bungee cord. As soon as I thought we were going to be shown the dancers up close on stage, we were whipped up to bird’s eye level, and then just as I was beginning to see the movement patterns on the ground, we were swooped down for a brief glimpse of the dancers, and then….and so on and so on.

That being said (by a cranky blogger) Christopher House’s choreography and Toronto Dance Theatre’s dancers shone brightly, and I loved the Games almost as much as I loved the 2015 Dora Mavor Moore Awards Season.

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Heritage preservation and the arts

by Jini Stolk

Matera is a beautiful city in southern Italy, whose Romanesque cathedral overlooks a deep ravine lined with ancient cave dwellings, which may have been human settlements from as long ago as 7,000 B.C. These sassi were inhabited until the 1960’s when their unhealthy living conditions and poverty became known as “the shame of Italy” and their inhabitants were forcefully relocated. Officials planned to destroy the sassi but recently artists, artisans, internet start-ups and a few restaurants and boutique hotels began reviving these stunning and remarkable neighbourhoods. Matera was recently declared the European Capital of Culture for 2019.


Craco is another smaller town in the southern Italian region of Basilicata. Like Matera it’s built on a steep summit, in cascading levels joined by narrow and precipitous stairways. Unlike Matera, its ancient storefronts, houses and palaces have settled into decay following disastrous landslides in the mid-1900s. Complicated ownership issues make the repairs and upkeep that could have saved the town impossible. Craco is, heartbreakingly, returning to rubble.

I mention these things because Toronto still hasn’t recognized in any meaningful way that Toronto’s cultural organizations are its most important heritage caretakers. Toronto has no policy of support for renovating or upgrading even City-owned heritage cultural spaces even though the City’s balance sheet benefits from any increase to these buildings’ value. This shows a lack of appreciation as well as a lack of imagination about the advantages of filling Toronto with lively arts centres in beautifully restored heritage buildings.

Tafelmusik, Young People’s Theatre, Factory Theatre, Toronto Dance Theatre, Theatre Passe Muraille and the Theatre Centre, among many others, have renovated and revived former churches, industrial or municipal buildings – which have been reborn for public use thanks to arts companies. Through their hard work and the work of their volunteer boards and capital campaign committees, arts organizations have brought significant government and private funds into saving neighbourhood heritage spaces, and into the improvement of City-owned heritage assets (saving the City millions in long-term maintenance and capital improvement costs, by the way.)

Partners for Sacred Places in the States, notes that “Across America, many places of worship suffer from declining attendance…and the burdens of aging, under-maintained, and over-scaled places of worship.” The solution, increasingly, is to open the doors of older churches and invite artists and nonprofit arts organizations—many of whom have neither the need nor the resources to own real estate—to share these “hallowed spaces, breaking down barriers with neighbors and paying the heating bills.”

I recently spoke with Alex Corey, a Canadian graduate student pursuing a Master’s degree in historic preservation at Columbia University. His thesis was about the lack of tools and support to non-profit organizations in Canada – as compared to those available in the US and UK – to acquire surplus federal heritage buildings. Alex has proposed that transferring underused heritage buildings to nonprofit organizations should be a recognized heritage conservation activity, which would likely result in the buildings being better preserved than if they were sold to a private individual or organization. Brian Anthony, former ED of the Heritage Canada Foundation, wrote in a recent Letter to the Editor in the Globe and Mail: “Canada does not have an enviable track record of preserving its built heritage…The federal government’s best architectural gift to us all for Canada 150 would be the tax incentives and regulatory safeguards to preserve our built heritage for future organizations.”

The Ontario Nonprofit Network’s submission to the Province’s Advisory Group on Community Hubs (which have great potential to provide space for groups of cultural/non-profit organizations), contained many excellent recommendations including that each hub’s purpose and design should emerge from the needs and priorities of local communities; that a hubs framework should address the need for predictable and sustainable capital investment; that the Province should expand the surplus public lands registry (operated by ONN for nonprofits) to include surplus lands from the broader public sector, including school boards; that the province should support school boards, municipalities, and the nonprofit sector to work together on long-term planning for the use of school space; and that the province should institute a program to transfer heritage properties to community nonprofits. These would all be wonderful initiatives. Here’s hoping.

In the meantime:

Toronto arts groups seeking to renovate or repair their heritage spaces now have access to the well-used and invaluable Culture Build Investment Program, which granted around $330,000 in 2015 to help bring cultural facilities closer to a state of good repair. Toronto Heritage Grants offer small grants to help preserve heritage buildings.

The Toronto Arts Council’s Animating Historic Sites and Museums Program, now in its second year, provides wonderful opportunities for artists to animate five Toronto heritage sites and the Royal Ontario Museum, bringing together art, history and historic built form.

ArtsBuild’s Bricks&Mortar database houses the profiles, needs and plans of arts organizations and their facilities across the province.

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Fear of advocacy

by Jini Stolk

When one of the non-profit sector’s most authoritative online journals covers the Canada Revenue Agency’s “intrusive and damaging audits” of certain nonprofits you know you’re in trouble.

The Nonprofit Quarterly’s story Newspapers protest attack-by-audit of Canadian charities notes that as many as 52 charitable organizations had come under CRA scrutiny by the end of 2014, thanks to special funding ($13.4 million through 2019) to enforce rules limiting charities’ “political” or “partisan activity”.

This may have been news in the States, but not to those of us who’ve been following the stream of stories and exhaustive reports about the defunding, delisting, and auditing of Canadian charities – many which had been critical of government policies and perspectives. The Watershed one of PANAMANIA’s signature presentations, explores the closing of a federally funded, internationally renowned freshwater research station and the impossibility of getting anyone in government to go on record about the reasons.

And so we wonder…and worry…and fear the consequences of speaking out. I’ve seen highly intelligent, informed and progressive board members helping to institute policies that curb their organizations’ voice on issues core to their missions. I’ve known boards to worry about the funding repercussions of presenting politically-themed works of art.

Admittedly, part of a board’s “duty of care” is to ensure that their charity’s actions don’t lead inexorably to being shut down by the CRA – but isn’t self-censoring abandoning our role as an alternative voice to that of power or perceived truths?

It can be very persuasively argued that advocacy is an essential board responsibility. BoardSource’s new edition of its classic Ten Basic Responsibilities of Nonprofit Boards just added advocacy to their list, arguing that our missions are too important to sit on the sidelines; we – experts in the field on issues that matter deeply to society’s future – are the people decision-makers need to hear from.

Let’s figure out exactly what we’re dealing with. CRA has set out its understanding of political activities in its published policy CPS-022, which acknowledges that Canadian charities have experience, expertise and ideas that should be used to help government develop better public policies and programs. Imagine Canada has written a clear and helpful piece differentiating between permitted activities, like public awareness campaigns; partisan political activities, that are strictly forbidden; and limited political activities, that should take up no more than 10% of a charity’s resources. Limited political activity, which is much more circumscribed than in most other jurisdictions:

  • explicitly communicates a call to political action (that is, encourages the public to contact an elected representative or public official and urge them to retain, oppose, or change the law, policy, or decision of any level of government in Canada or a foreign country);
  • explicitly communicates to the public that such laws, policies, or decisions should be retained, opposed, or changed;
  • explicitly indicates in internal or external materials that the intention of the activity is to incite, or organize to put pressure on an elected representative or public official to retain, oppose, or change any such laws, policies, or decisions; or
  • involves the making of gifts to qualified donees intended for political activities.

Law firm Miller Thomson’s non-profit and charitable wing has clearly outlined what you should do to keep track of political activities, and what to do if you are faced with an audit in which your percentage of political activities might be under question.

Remember that the CRA leaves plenty of room for charities to analyze issues that affect our communities; communicate with and inform elected and government officials; and let people know where elected officials stand on issues as indicated by their public statements or voting records (as ArtsVote does so well). Also note that these rules only apply to charities, not nonprofit organizations, and might be another incentive to forming non-charitable organizations (like the Ontario Nonprofit Network) and unincorporated coalitions to tackle crucial issues.

As for arts organizations who are struggling to maintain the power and freedom of their voice, I think I’ll refer (again!) to the Pope who, in his recent passionate calls for economic justice, fairness, equity and dignity, has been described by the ED of the Institute for New Economic Thinking as “singing to the music that’s already in the air. And that’s a good thing. That’s what artists do…”


Further reading:

Five Good Ideas about Registered Charities and Political Activities

Canadian charities and political activities: Keeping room temperature in a chilly environment – Part one

CRA and the Political Activities Audit – an Update

The International Rise of Philanthropic Protectionism 


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Death and taxes

by Jini Stolk

Nothing, it is said, can be certain except death and taxes but I wonder how often anyone has spoken to you, as an artist or arts manager, about wills and inheritance. That’s what I thought: never.

I mention this because friends recently inherited a beautiful collection of paintings left by an artist in their family. The line of inheritance was somewhat complicated, and they’ve been through a seemingly endless series of legal procedures to establish clear ownership. (a project of Social Enterprise Advocates) just wrote a post about artists’ wills which makes the important point that “Creative people (not just artists but designers, inventors and company founders) have creative output, whether a drawing, sonata, patent or brand, which are a particular kind of assets” more ethereal, in some cases, than works on canvas or paper but subject to financial valuation, taxation and possible dispute.

We all know that The Martha Graham Dance Company went through “years of darkness and litigation” after her death – but choreographers can now access the Dance Heritage Coalition’s Artist’s Legacy Toolkit to clarify their creative holdings and legacy intentions.

In Canada we have exceptional archival organizations like DanceCollectionDanse and Theatre Museum Canada to preserve collections, and Archives and Special Collections at York University (mostly dance) and University of Guelph (mostly theatre) hold excellent and fascinating personal and organizational materials – including, at Guelph, Creative Trust’s complete archives.

Now, pension deductions and taxes: that’s another thing entirely, although some fine people love taxes because they’re so clearly essential to the public good. Artists can still be remarkably like the Grasshopper in Aesop’s fable, who had to beg some industrious ants for help because he’d been too busy playing music to store up food for winter. That story didn’t end well, but not all of us have changed our music-playing, art-making behaviors as a result.

There’s lots of information (including from the U.S. and Australia) about the difficulties artists have in finding sustainable employment. Meanwhile, Actors’ Equity in Los Angeles is still fighting with stage performers who oppose minimum wage requirements for very small theatres because they don’t want to risk losing professional development and exposure opportunities.

The Ontario Nonprofit Network knows that nonprofit workers, who usually don’t have workplace pension plans and often work on part-time, casual, and short-term contracts, have a hard time saving for retirement. ONN has been supportive of Bill 56, which provides a legal framework for an Ontario Retirement Pension Plan (ORPP)  because “We know it will increase compensation costs in the sector, but we also know that our sector’s workers deserve retirement income security after dedicating their working lives to serving the public good. “ ONN is trying to ensure that non-profit employees, employers, and self-employed are recognized and protected in the upcoming plan. For updates and high level pension discussion, register for the 2015 ONN Conference.

ONN is also recommending that nonprofits participate in the Boland Survey – the only source of comprehensive Canadian labour market and compensation data for the nonprofit sector. Survey results are only made available to participating organizations, and reports including salary ranges, pension contributions, overtime, turnover, training budgets and more, are priced by annual operating budget. You can sign up to participate at, until Sept. 1, 2015.

Also. Performing artists can now come together to learn business and professional skills through the recently formed IRCPA: check out their interesting and informative workshop series.


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Earn more money

by Jini Stolk

Let’s forget about phrases like “up-sell” and “cross-sell”, although they’re scattered liberally throughout a 7-minute Audience View video I like. Let’s think instead about how we can boost sales and income by putting ourselves in the shoes of our audience members when they’re buying tickets.

Since EVERY performing arts organization is a social enterprise (i.e., we engage in selling tickets and other items not to make a profit but to continue making art that has an impact on human and social well-being) each sale we make advances our mission. Thus we should be devoting a lot of creative energy towards making the most of each online sale in a way that’s sensitive to what our audiences want and need.

The video is filled with I-wish-I’d-thought-of-that ideas that can be as useful, with some imaginative adaptations, for small and mid-size companies as for the large houses the video uses as examples. Here are a few ideas I thought of:

  • instead of making people line up to buy a glass of wine at intermission, or making them line up before the show to order that drink, how about giving ticket-buyers the chance to pre-order a drink that can be picked up quickly and easily during intermission
  • helping people plan their evenings by adding links on your ticket ordering pages to the reservation sites of a few fabulous local restaurants – this could also secure some great new sponsorships
  • giving people the opportunity to purchase your beautiful t-shirts/carry bags when they order tickets – this should be de rigueur during the holiday season, but who knows when an audience member is searching for that perfect gift for someone special
  • letting them know about your plans to upgrade your theatre space, and giving all ticket buyers the opportunity to make a contribution to their own and others’ enjoyment of your lobby, washrooms, etc.

Of course we don’t want to force people through a thicket of hard-sell merchandising when they mostly want to pay for and get their tickets. But “leaving money on the table” is fundraising’s most egregious sin, and I wonder if it’s not just as big a problem in sales. I’m hoping to see a few elegantly or amusingly phrased, customer service-minded new options next time I order tickets.

Here’s another piece that offers useful advice to arts marketers. The National Endowment for the Arts recently posted a three-part blog series by Sara Leonard (part one is here , with links to parts two and three), unpacking their 2015 research on barriers and motivations to arts attendance for marketing staff faced with interpreting these findings in a practical way. It’s one thing for people (like me) to say we should learn from large audience surveys to reach our own audiences in more effective ways . These posts tell us how.

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