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Thriving in Calgary Ė A Hands-on Seminar for the Arts

Bob McAuley

Your intrepid executives, Martin and I, attended a seminar presented at Mount Royal College by the Calgary Region Arts Foundation. There were representatives present from CRAF, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Calgary Foundation, the Arts Stabilization Fund and others. CRAF and AFA are two of our primary sources of funds to subsidize our operations. For you, our members, support from these and our other sponsors means low prices for concert tickets, masterclasses and membership dues. It also means bringing in performers who would be too costly for us to have otherwise.

We came away with some new perspectives and information about how funding agencies and corporate sponsorships work and with practical information for us to use in the future. We not only saw new opportunities and ways of doing things, but we saw what we have been doing right for many years regarding our grant applications. We also learned that private donors are the fastest growing sector in the charitable funding field. Governments are, at best, holding the line but not growing.

First, the basics in applying for funding. Know yourself as a Society: what is your purpose for existing and what are your goals for the next year? Know who the funding agencies are, and what their respective goals are. Some of them focus on health issues, some on the arts and some are looking for favourable public exposure through association with worthy causes. When you know the appropriate agencies to match up with your own group, make your applications to them complete and clear. If a funding agent has 90 of these to read through in two weeks, they will soon grow weary of your groupís paperwork if they have to hunt for information or canít find it. This hurts your case, regardless of the basic merit of your project. They also want to know that you are financially responsible and can demonstrate that the money will be used according to the agreed purposes. Make it as easy as possible for them to understand and like your application. Our report card as CGSC: we have a good idea of our purposes and goals, but we can also consider other options or shifting priorities in the upcoming year. We have a good relationship with our granting agencies, but are now aware of several more. Our applications have been complete and clear, and our financial management has been very good for many years.

With the growth in the non-profit fundraising industry (many billions of dollars each year) the questions of regulation and ethics are coming more and more to the forefront. Changes are already under way, and we are aware of them. In general there will be closer scrutiny of all recipients.

We also gained the perspective of the media/corporate sector. Round-table discussions included representatives from QR77/Power 107 Radio, A-Channel television, the Calgary Herald Newspaper and Canadian Airlines. Each sponsor has a different primary motivation for charitable giving and community support. They want to give something back to the community in which they live and work, as all good citizens should. The most important things to consider here are that they wish to support good causes and wish to gain the positive perceptions of their customer group in return. In other words, what can we give to them in exchange for what they are doing for us? This may be specific to a given organizationís business for donations in kind or to a mutually targeted demographic group. A little imagination can go a long way here. This is an area that CGSC might tap into even more than we have in the past.

Finally, you should treat your supporters with respect and gratitude. An entitlement mentality will soon lead to oblivion. Nobody is obliged to assist us, and prior success is no guarantee of future success. You must always work for your funding every year. With that, it is now appropriate to acknowledge our partners for the upcoming year: Calgary Region Arts Foundation, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, Alberta Guitar Co., Enron Oil Canada Ltd., Rideau Music, Charles Shifflett Luthier, Stone Rooster Handmade Paper, Art Show Gallery of Penny Lane Mall, the Lazy Loaf and Kettle, Xerox Canada, Bill Carne and finally the society members who make personal financial donations in addition to their time commitment. Thank you all very much.

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