3 min

Vancouver Pride Society lost money on every fundraiser last year

But directors say the organization is financially stable

Vancouver Pride Society president Tim Richards (middle) is flanked by new board members (from left): Alan Jernigan, Tim Ell, Jill Taylor, Azza Rojbi, Herman Nilsson and Darren Ewert. Credit: Shauna Lewis

Despite falling nearly $100,000 short in revenue and losing money on every major fundraising event it hosted in 2013, directors say the Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) is now in better financial shape for April than it has been in the last three years.

April’s revenue exceeded past years’ revenue at this time because of early parade entrance fees already collected, partnership funds and winter-event ticket sales.

“We are way ahead of the game,” executive director Ray Lam reassured the VPS’s annual general meeting April 27.

“We’ve started some changes already,” president Tim Richards added.

Richards describes last year’s revenue shortfalls as unexpected anomalies. “But since last fall, there has been a tremendous amount of work by the operations team and the board to move us past where we were,” he said. “We opened up the season right away, and that’s something we’ve never done in the past. It’s gone tremendously well.”

Last year, the VPS lost money on every major fundraising event it hosted, with the Davie Street Dance Party accounting for the biggest loss at a 50 percent drop in ticket sales, which resulted in nearly $83,000 less revenue earned than the previous year, for a $16,403 loss. (In 2012, the street party made $100,129 in revenue. In 2013, it brought in just $17,214.)

Organizers blame poor weather for the huge loss. But a few of the 20 members in attendance at the meeting wondered whether the VPS is benefiting from having a third party produce the Davie Street Dance Party.

“You went to a third party to produce the event, yet you’re still down in ticket sales. I don’t see where it’s beneficial to the society to just contract it out to a producer. The society seems to be on the bleeding edge of the risk,” Herman Nilsson said.

Past VPS president John Boychuk said the VPS should demand greater transparency and accountability from third-party contractors. He’d like to see a detailed report from contractors outlining expenses and revenue for any events they produce.

“I find it odd that you would not have a detailed report back from a third party who is providing services,” Boychuk said.

“How do you know how to gauge the success of your partnerships?” he asked. “Especially if the VPS is going to be negotiating with them another contract or not.

Lam says the VPS receives reports from its third-party producers. The Davie Street Dance Party report “is available for any member to look at. It just wasn’t available at the time of the AGM,” he explained.

Members also asked that detailed summaries from each VPS committee be presented at the next AGM.

The VPS also saw an increase of more than $150,000 in general and administrative expenses last year, mostly going to staff wages and contractor fees.

Executives staying on for another term include Richards as president, Chrissy Taylor as vice-president, Bernard Leclair as treasurer and Rick Leonovich as secretary. Directors Emma Lehto and Rhawnie Vallins will also stay on for a second season. 

New to the board of directors are Darren Ewert, Alan Jernigan, Tim Ell, Jill Taylor, Herman Nilsson (returning) and Azza Rojbi.

Richards says he is thrilled with the new board. “I’m really excited about the new directors that stepped up today,” he said.

“Diversity is key,” he added, noting the various business backgrounds, ages and ethnicities of the new directors. “One of the strengths of the board, and any board, is to have really diverse skill sets and backgrounds. I think that makes a really strong organization because you get better representation.”

The official lineup for 2014 Pride events won’t be announced until the end of May, but the VPS has confirmed that Gay Day at Playland, Picnic in the Park and the Davie Street Dance Party, among others, will continue.