Pride Toronto is $458,000 in the hole.
“Simply put, we had a difficult financial year,” Michelle Cherny, Pride Toronto’s treasurer, told members at Pride’s annual general meeting on Nov 22, 2017.
The organization started the year with $848,000, which has now been wiped out and replaced with almost half a million dollars in debt.
“We’ve worked hard over the years to build a reserve, a reserve that enables us to weather a difficult storm or a difficult year,” Cherny said. “This past year was one of those times.”
While some expenses, such as festival infrastructure costs did rise, the deficit was mostly driven by significant decreases in revenue from sponsorships, grants, donations and beverage sales.
Cherny pointed to a complete staff turnover before the 2017 festival as the primary reason revenue cratered.
Almost all of Pride Toronto’s staff, including the executive director, left the organization after the 2016 festival.
She said that the lack of staff meant that Pride Toronto didn’t meet deadlines for a number of government grants and that the organization missed out on a number of sponsorship opportunities.
“These are difficult to do with a lack of staff,” she said.
Cherny assured the membership that Pride Toronto will be applying for those grants again before next Pride, and expressed confidence they would be approved.
On beverage sales, Cherny pointed to construction getting in the way of putting up some of Pride Toronto’s most lucrative stages, including the south stage.
Pride Toronto was able to decrease expenses in a number of areas, including salaries, promotions and office administration.
“We worked hard to manage costs in every facet of our organization while ensuring that we maintained the quality of our programming,” Cherny said.
Cherny wasn’t willing to speculate whether the controversy around police involvement had any impact on Pride Toronto’s ability to bring in money.
Earlier this year, an effort to strip Pride Toronto of its $260,000 grant from the City of Toronto failed. Had Pride Toronto lost that grant, its debt would be 50 percent larger — over $700,000.
Pride Toronto did not outline a plan to bring the organization back to a surplus, beyond having enough staff to now pursue grants and sponsorships.
But Cherny expressed confidence that the organization wasn’t in danger of becoming insolvent.
“The good news is we’re still here,” she said.