The Vancouver Dyke March and Festival Society is again calling for community help as it faces the upcoming Pride season with the possibility of just one board member left at its helm.
“About half of our board members left in 2013, and that left us with a bit of a skeleton crew for 2014,” says board member Catherine Mateo, who will be the only existing board member staying on at the society’s annual general meeting on March 1. “I’m the only one on the board who will be going forward.”
Mateo, who joined the board a year ago, after the death of her partner and longtime board member Danielle Macdonell, plans to run for reelection on March 1. Including Mateo, the board currently has four remaining members.
“Board members have work, school, life events that are taking up a significant amount of their time and leave them unable to put in the same volunteer hours they did last year,” Mateo told Daily Xtra Feb 16. “But we’ve spent the last few months making sure we pass on all the knowledge and resources we’ve gathered,” she adds.
The Dyke March has struggled with dwindling participation off and on since 2008, when only four directors led the society into its annual general meeting amid calls for greater community participation. That call was answered as the board doubled in size after that meeting, and that summer’s march and festival drew record numbers, with an estimated 5,000 participants. But by 2011, the board was once again struggling to keep its seats filled and the community engaged. Last year’s estimated attendance at the Dyke March was approximately 500 people.
Mateo says she hopes community members will step up once again to join the dwindling board at the annual general meeting and volunteer their time to save the Dyke March.
Despite low participation and attracting only two people to the group’s last meeting, Mateo is adamant that the 12th annual march and festival will go forward.
“We’ve already done the groundwork of getting a permit for the march and use of the park for a festival, so the march is happening this year, no matter what happens,” she promises.
Marigold Rondeau, who organizes the Dyke March’s biggest annual fundraiser, Diva’s Den, says she plans to continue her fundraising efforts. But, she says, fundraising is not enough to keep the organization afloat.
“I would like to see community members come out and join the board and put on the festival,” she says. “In order to have a festival, the group will probably need more than a one-person board. Ten members would be perfect, but we’ve had seven and that was manageable.”
Even if people can’t commit to sitting on the board, Rondeau says, she hopes more people will donate their time and talent to the event. The Dyke March is looking for volunteers with an array of skills, including accounting, marketing, volunteer coordination, social media skills and community networking experience.
Rondeau is confident that the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS), which has actively supported the Dyke March for years and especially since its membership hit an all-time low in 2011, will continue to support the event. “Pride won’t let it dissipate. They will work with us to make it happen,” she says.
VPS general manager Ray Lam says he was unaware of the Dyke March’s recent board concerns but says the VPS will continue to support the march and festival. “Absolutely, we’re committed to working with the Dyke March,” he says. “They’re an amazing community partner, and we’ve been with them since they’ve incorporated.”
Among other support, the VPS helps the Dyke March with infrastructure and equipment rentals, which, Lam says, it will continue to do.
Meanwhile, the city has yet to receive the Dyke March’s annual grant application. “In terms of applying for funding, we haven’t seen anything from them come across our desk yet,” says spokesperson Jag Sandhu.
Sandhu says the group received $5,000 grants in 2012 and 2013. The city’s Community Art Grant deadline is March 18.
Mateo admits the group has not yet applied for a grant this year but says she plans to work on it this month. She’s not concerned, she says. “We have some savings even if we don’t have a grant,” she notes, “but it will be tight.”
Mateo didn’t have the group’s financials on hand but says that information will be shared at the upcoming annual general meeting.