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PTS relaunching flagship fundraiser

Gala returns after five-year absence

Pink Triangle Services plans to re-launch their swanky fundraising gala on Jun 12 after a five-year absence.

PTS is Ottawa’s umbrella group for key gay and lesbian social services. It houses Pink Triangle Youth, the Kelly McGinnis Library and other queer support groups.

After rough patches in 2004 and 2005, the organization has returned to fine fighting form. Last year, they moved to a more functional space and hired a new executive director. In May 2007, research scientist Michael Henschel took over as president of the board.

Now, they have a compliment of over 100 volunteers at their fingertips. In January, it launched Ottawa’s only secular sobriety group, SOS. And Pink Triangle Youth is bursting at the seams.

“It’s a new organization,” says Henschel. “It’s getting harder and harder to book a room at PTS — if that’s not evidence of improvement from three years ago, I don’t know what is.”

The gala used to be at the Museum of Nature. This year, PTS will take over the chapel of Tabaret Hall at the University of Ottawa.

“It really is a great venue,” says Henschel. “They looked at all the available venues and chose Tabaret Hall and we’re very pleased with the choice.”

Promotions for the gala will begin at this year’s LGX on May 3.

PTS’s donations have declined over the last seven years, from nearly $100,000 in 2001 to a base number of $30,000 in 2007. It’s a trend that the PTS’s board is hoping to reverse.

Part of that transformation is reintroducing the gala, which was a fundraising anchor for PTS until it pulled the plug in 2003. Well-known community activist Lyle Borden is co-chair for the gala committee and a PTS Board member.

“The topic of the gala kept being brought up by PTS staff and supporters,” says Borden. “People kept asking when it was going to happen again, so we decided to bring it back.”

Ken Mews is the executive director of Pink Triangle Services, one of two full-timers they employ.

“It has traditionally been an extremely gainful and productive fundraising vehicle for us,” says Mews. “We wanted to indicate to people that we had turned a corner and we are a dynamic and forward-looking organization and we’re all behind it.”

PTS has tried other forms of fundraising with varying degrees of success. Mail campaigns, word of mouth and cold calling were some of the methods used in the past. Mews says to be successful at fundraising you have to keep at it every single day.

“The backbone of this organization has to be a plan to do fundraising 365 a year. We ask people to make monthly donations and this sort of planned giving approach is much more stable than depending too much on events,” says Mews.

“Events are very labour-intensive,” he continues. “They require volunteers and staff time and the final outcome is never too enormous. So you have to have the balance between events which raise the excitement level around the organization and give you the opportunity to talk to your donors one on one, and long-term lower profile approaches to fundraising.”

Borden says that when Egale Canada moved its headquarters from Ottawa to Toronto, a huge gap was left in the community and hosting the gala will help to fill that void.

“PTS is the only organization that operates as an umbrella for our community,” says Borden. “PTS is now the place people in Ottawa’s GLBT community go to for assistance and help. Imagine what would happen if we weren’t here or didn’t receive enough funding. You would have fragmented outposts of an organization, instead of an all-encompassing system.”