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Vancouver Pride Society ends year with largest surplus to date

Surplus is a reflection of new policies ‘and certainly teamwork,’ says president

Vancouver Pride Society general manager Ray Lam addresses the annual general meeting Feb 14.  Credit: Nathaniel Christopher

After three years of budget deficits, the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) ended 2014 with its largest surplus to date, president Tim Richards told the 26 members who attended the society’s annual general meeting, held Feb 14.

The financial statement shows that the society ended the fiscal year with a net surplus of $139,597 — an increase from a deficit of $132,821 at the end of 2013.

At the end of its financial year in August 2014, that left the VPS with $135,937 in the bank.

“I believe we really focused on being a learning organization and understanding what has to happen and looking at how we can put processes and policies into place, and certainly teamwork,” Richards said. “I believe this annual report — this is a reflection of that.”

The largest single increase in revenue was a $79,100 grant from Canadian Heritage.

“The previous record for Heritage Canada contributions was $15,300, so that’s an increase of 516 percent,” said VPS general manager Ray Lam, who also noted an eight percent increase in income generated from partnerships. This figure, however, pales in comparison to the 53-percent increase in partnership revenues between 2012 and 2013.

“This year we struggled a bit because a lot of the bigger partners were putting their money into WorldPride,” Lam explained, “so a lot of our partners were saying, ‘Well, we can’t commit the way we committed last year, but we can still talk about coming back to Pride after the season. Partners in general were declining because they wanted to focus on WorldPride and get the global media for their money, and we were still able to increase eight percent.”

The VPS also earned $20,589 in ad revenues from its Pride Guide — an 88-percent increase from 2013.

“The Pride Guide isn’t anything new — it’s something we’ve always published,” Lam said. “But what’s changed is that we started bringing the publication in-house, so we have a lot more control over the Pride Guide and what goes in it. In the past, it was an event listing with some ads, and this year we developed it so that it’s more of a community publication.”

The VPS also raised $33,540 in new revenue from a series of Pride fundraisers. In 2014, the society’s Pride events brought in a total of $304,881, compared to $147,306 the previous year. Expenses for the events totalled $347,232 in 2014.

“In 2014 we increased our expenses by 1.3 percent, but in turn our income increased 49 percent and we were able to produce 23 official events as opposed to 18 the year before,” Lam said.

Though the Pride events brought in significantly more revenue in 2014 than in 2013, they are intended to build community rather than generate profit, Lam noted. That they still lost money overall was deliberately offset by grants, he said, leaving the VPS with a net surplus overall.

In 2013, the VPS lost money on its major fundraisers as well, with the Davie Street Dance Party accounting for the biggest loss, losing $16,403. Organizers blamed poor weather for the dance party’s financial difficulties, though some VPS members at last year’s annual general meeting asked whether continuing to contract out the event’s organization to a third party was wise.

In 2014, the Davie Street Block Party, now organized in-house and featuring lower fences, more open space and fewer beer gardens, again lost money: $18,162, according to the financial statement. The VPS relies on grants and partnership revenue to pay for community events like the Pride parade and the Davie Street party, Lam emphasized.

In its financial statements, the VPS included a breakdown of revenues and expenses by Pride event. “The purpose of that schedule is to show the membership how much these events cost versus how much they directly bring in, so we excluded things like grants and partnership revenues to really underline that the events don’t pay for themselves,” Lam explained. “We rely on grants and partners to fund these events.”

The VPS received a grant of $48,918 from the City of Vancouver last year to offset parade costs. In May 2013, Vancouver City Council unanimously approved civic designation status for the Pride parade, which means the city waives certain parade fees. 

Treasurer Bernard Leclair said the VPS was also able to reduce general administration expenses to $319,653, from $378,407 the previous year. The society had seen an increase of more than $150,000 in general and administrative expenses in 2013, mostly going to staff wages and contractor fees.

“We’ve been able to manage our staff costs and contractors very, very well, and travel is another area where we made a very conscious decision that travel was going to be reduced by quite a bit because of the situation we were in,” he said.

Board member Herman Nilsson challenged Leclair about payroll expenses. In November 2014, Nilsson introduced a board motion that would have compelled the general manager to produce payroll records for audit and review. “This was defeated,” he said, “so my question to the treasurer is: there’s $226,773 in payroll expenses that are on unaudited financial statements and that the directors are not being adequately provided the access with the information to even review. Do you think that these, as you presented, financial statements constitute fair fiscal management on the part of the board and on the part of the society?”

“Yes,” Leclair replied.

An audit is a comprehensive inspection and verification of all the financial dealings of an organization by an independent chartered accountant. Morrow Marsh and Co Certified General Accountants reviewed VPS finances and, in a written statement, say they believe they are in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, but as is commonplace for reviews of not-for-profit financial statements, it does not constitute an audit because the completeness of donation-derived revenue is not considered satisfactory for audit verification.

Executives staying on for another term on the VPS board include Richards as president, Chrissy Taylor as vice-president and Rick Leonovich as secretary. Director Alan Jernigan replaces Leclair as treasurer.  

New to the board of directors are Charmaine de Silva, Debbie Oon and Nick Spurling.

Leclair and director Azza Rojbi will stay for another two-year term. They join returning directors Nilsson and Jill Taylor on the board.