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The 519 seeks funding to fill $125,000 Pride shortfall

Poor attendance during Green Space events blamed for fallen revenue

Credit: Nick Lachance

The 519, Toronto’s LGBT community centre, has launched a desperate fundraising appeal for $125,000 — a gap attributed to poor attendance at its Green Space Festival during this summer’s rained-out Pride.

Since its start in 2008, the Green Space has evolved into The 519’s signature fundraising initiative, raising more than $500,000 during last year’s massive WorldPride celebrations. But with this summer’s poor weather, the number of revelers who turned out and drank beer at the two outdoor dance spaces in Barbara Hall Park and the Ryerson Quad was down sharply.

“Thanks to the amazing support of our communities over seven successive Green Space Festivals, The 519 has been fortunate to have raised significant revenues,” says executive director Maura Lawless, in a notice posted to The 519 website on Sept 17, 2015. “We were not so fortunate this year.”

The 519 is asking community members to make a donation or run a fundraising event to help close the gap.

Although The 519 is a city-owned agency, it is governed independently from the city. The city pays only for the building’s capital maintenance and upkeep, while The 519 fundraises to cover all of its programming costs. Since the 1970s, The 519 has been a key resource for the LGBT community, providing meeting and event space and key social services. 

Director of development John Farrell says the increased revenues from the Green Space Festival over the past few years had allowed the centre to dramatically expand its programming, in particular for newcomer and refugee services, and for education and skills training.

Despite the funding shortfall this year, The 519 is not planning to reduce its services, Farrell says.

“We’ve had to go through a process of taking a look at our programs and services, streamlining costs, and identifying medium-term savings where possible. We’ve had to gap certain positions in the organization. What we’re determined to do is make sure programs are protected from impact,” he says. “At this point, we are proceeding with plans and strategies to get us to the goal of raising those additional funds. We’re confident that our communities will respond to the challenge.”

Farrell says that the community has already responded positively to the fundraising appeal.

“The response we’ve had already is nothing short of tremendous. In addition to very generous donations, we’ve had two dozen calls from people offering to do third-party fundraising activities to help,” he says.

The 519 also saw some additional revenues from its PrideHouseTO events, which were catered to help welcome gay Pan Am athletes to the city, but those revenues were shared with several partner organizations. Farrell says The 519’s share of the PrideHouseTO revenue has not yet been calculated.

The 519’s upcoming fundraising gala featuring kd lang has also sold out — in 2014, the event raised $140,000 for the organization.