Strengthening community ties and generating more revenue are top priorities for the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS), says its new general manager, Ray Lam.
“It’s a huge year coming up,” he says. “There’s significant potential for us. It’s the 35th year of Pride and there’s a lot we can do to better integrate the community.
“The top priorities are bringing in revenue and creating synergy with community and partners so it’s not just about getting a cheque at the end of the day,” he says.
Lam, who has sat on VPS’s board of directors off and on for nearly a decade, accepted the position on Dec 20. He had been serving as interim general manager since the previous manager’s departure in March.
The VPS began advertising the position after Pride, in October. President Tim Richards says 25 people applied; seven candidates were interviewed and three shortlisted before a committee, consisting of four board executives and a member of the community, decided to hire Lam.
Richards says the board included a community member on the hiring committee to help make the process fair and transparent.
“It was a really difficult decision,” he adds. “We had a lot of great candidates.”
Richards says he looks forward to working with Lam. “I believe Ray Lam is a great choice for the Pride Society. He has done some great work. He has passion and persistence.”
Lam says he’s thrilled to be the new general manager, and he’s confident that he can serve the VPS well.
“If you look at my record with Pride, I think I am the best candidate,” he says. “I know the organization and all of the events, and I know how to move the organization forward.
“I’m really excited,” he continues. “I was on the board for eight Prides, and every year we always come back saying we are going to do this and this and this, and we were coming up with great ideas that we didn’t have the resources to do.
“Now that I am the general manager, I have at least 40 hours a week to dedicate to Pride,” he says.
Asked how the VPS, currently facing a deficit of more than $75,000, can afford to hire and pay staff, Richards says there is cash in the organization’s coffers.
“We have cash in the bank,” he says. “There is enough to cover our expenses going in to 2013.”
Money has already been allocated to pay staff salaries, he adds. “No one has to be laid off.”
The VPS has only three salaried employees for the winter: Sharon Nelson, as operations coordinator; Joseph Haney, as operations assistant; and now Lam.
By the time the VPS hires more spring and summer staff for next year’s Pride, it should have accumulated the funds to cover those expenses, Richards says.
The VPS has made arrangements to pay off its debts gradually in 2013. “We don’t have to pay all the bills when they’re due,” Richards says.
One of Lam’s first projects will be to create a commemorative guide for the 35th anniversary, to focus on people who have contributed to building Vancouver’s Pride celebrations. The VPS will be asking for public submissions from queer organizations, businesses and individuals, he says.
The VPS is looking for ways to better engage local trans and queer women’s groups, he says. “Pride is such a monumental celebration and it goes beyond the VPS.”
The VPS is also working on re-envisioning the Davie Street Dance Party to make it more inclusive for all and “not just a big dance party,” he adds.
“I really want to focus on making the Davie Street Dance Party less of a liquor-focused event and more of a community-focused event,” he says.
“We want to focus on what the VPS was intended to do, which is build a community.”