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PTS experiments with crowd-sourcing to pay for its services

Director says Ottawa community organization is struggling to generate sustainable revenue

Since relocating in 2012, PTS has been able to generate revenue by offering extra space for use by other community groups. Credit: Courtesy of PTS

PTS Ottawa marks 30 years of serving Ottawa’s LGBT community in 2014. That’s undoubtedly something to boast about, but the organization is starting the year with a modest goal in mind for an ongoing crowd-sourcing campaign to help pay the bills.

PTS is asking the community for $5,000 to support of a wide range of services, including a counselling program that will help PTS clients navigate the challenges of coming out or transitioning.

“One of the challenges that we have, that seems to be a challenge all charities are having right now, is generating sustainable revenue,” says PTS executive director Claudia Van den Heuvel. “We get a good chunk of our revenue from the City of Ottawa and then we’re always applying for other grants. Some years we don’t get any of those grants and we have to rely quite heavily on individual donations, which is one of the things that happened this year.”

This is PTS’s first attempt at a crowd-sourcing campaign, Van den Heuvel says. She views the effort more as an experiment than a success or failure proposition, adding that, however it turns out, other more traditional fundraising methods are meeting expectations.

“We threw out 5K without any real way of knowing if that’s a realistic number,” she says. “Every donor that’s contributed so far through this campaign is not one we’ve had connection with in the past. So we are generating some new support. That alone to me is a win. I suspect we’ll fall short, but this is just one arm of the overall holiday fundraising campaign.”

Whatever is raised, she adds, will ultimately benefit many areas of PTS’s work, which includes getting the most out of every dollar. “We’re a volunteer-driven organization, so basically every dollar we receive, we’re matching it by at least a dollar, sometimes more than that, with volunteer support. We’re very thankful for all the work our volunteers do.”

She says the language on the campaign page puts an emphasis on counselling because it’s an especially “concrete” example of the organization’s work with a highly visible impact. “With some of our other programs, it’s a little bit harder to see exactly how [donors’] support impacts an individual.”

Van den Heuvel says last year was a busy one at PTS; community members accessed its programs more than 8,000 times. It was also the group’s first full year in its current home on Cooper Street, which, she adds, has allowed for both the expansion of existing programs and the addition of new ones, ranging from the purely social (Friday games nights) to the deadly serious (applied suicide intervention).

The rent is higher than what they paid previously, Van den Heuvel explains, but having more physical space not only frees PTS from having to pay to hold large events elsewhere, but is also a revenue generator, with other organizations paying to use various rooms.

Donations to the Indiegogo campaign are being accepted through Jan 31.