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Members declining in BC’s gay business association

GLBA still recovering from difficult period: chair

Brad McPhee (second from right, with board members Meera Thakrar, Isabelle Swiderski and Ryan McKinley) says the GLBA is still recovering from 2008/2009, when there were frequent staff changes and the office moved twice. Credit: Nathaniel Christopher photo

On June 30, the Gay and Lesbian Business Association of British Columbia (GLBA) held its annual general meeting, with seven out of a possible 326 members in attendance.

GLBA board chair Brad McPhee summarized the current fiscal year as a period of stability and a continuation of the previous year, which he said was characterized by organization and restraint.

“For the most part, we were able to build upon the structure and design of the previous year, but the board was not particularly well focused, and the results show this,” he said in his management report. “There were many absences from meetings; the sub-committees were slow to form and slow to achieve. The board had had some excellent ideas, but the implementation was weak and the board recognized this issue late in the year.”

McPhee said this had to do with the board’s efforts to “clean up” the GLBA from previous years. He also noted the board was mainly made up of new members who joined after the GLBA’s annual vision meeting, in which the board sets out its priorities and work plans.

“Most of the cleanup was done by the last AGM,” he noted. “Everything was completely cleaned up last year because we couldn’t submit clear financials. There were no records of financials without a forensic accounting being done.”

McPhee attributes the need for cleanup to frequent staff changes in the past. “It was fiscal year 2008/2009: there had been three employees at the office; the office had moved twice. It was a whole series of issues, and all of a sudden I become chair, I am on the board, and we cleaned up over a period of two years. Today the GLBA has completely accurate accounting methods, so anyone can look at the books.”

Still, McPhee acknowledges that membership in the organization is declining and the board is having difficulty meeting some of its goals. “I don’t think the board delivered strong performance on its three Rs: revenues, referrals and reach.”

The GLBA currently stands at about 61 percent of last year’s total of approximately 533 members. It hopes to add 125 paid memberships by the end of July.

McPhee attributes the membership decline to competition from a competing business directory coupled with an economic downturn.

In his report, he said the GLBA’s annual business and community directory does not seem to be regarded as highly now because of competition from another directory produced by Pink Triangle Press, which also publishes Xtra Vancouver.

“The economic malaise seems to have tightened up the GLBT marketing dollars, and owners/entrepreneurs and managers are asking what is the ROI [return on investment] for this expenditure,” he said.

However, McPhee reported that the GLBA’s finances are “completely in hand.”

According to its 2010 profit and loss report, the GLBA reported a deficit of $3,996.25, with $89,230.48 in income and $93,226.73 in expenses.

“The operating budget continues to be at about $89,000 a year,” said McPhee. “Now we can see a path to $72,000 a year. We know how to get there. We need to close that gap. We need to raise more money to do things like the website and increase the marketing effort for Gala next year and other events. The board will accomplish that at the visioning meeting.”

On May 26, the GLBA’s philanthropic arm, known as the Leadership, Opportunity, Unity, Diversity (LOUD) Foundation, hosted its third annual Scholarship Gala, which awarded four scholarships to “future leaders of the Canadian LGBT community.”

“Aside from the fact that we didn’t reach our fundraising goals due to lower ticket sales — and we blame it all on hockey — we did achieve success if we look at the number of people who attended and money that was money raised,” said board member and LOUD president Isabelle Swiderski. “We do believe it was a positive event. We managed to give away three $2,000 scholarships and one $1,000 Little Sister’s award.”

The GLBA’s new board will consist of existing members Ryan McKinley, Isabelle Swiderski, Meera Thakrar and Darrell Wahl, as well as newcomers Bob Leier and Ron Partaik. McPhee will remain on the board for another year as a non-voting ex officio president.