The Vancouver Pride Society (VPS) will end 2012 with a deficit of more than $75,000, president Tim Richards told the 27 members who attended the organization’s annual general meeting on Dec 2.
“Financially we are ending the year with a loss,” he says.
Richards attributes the $76,885 loss to a decrease in overall revenue coupled with increased event and staff costs.
The higher staff costs were necessary, he says, to ensure this year’s Pride celebrations proceeded after members voted to oust the previous president and elect an interim board of directors in March.
“Right after the special general meeting, staff quickly started work preparing for the 2012 season, and we hired additional staff at the end of May to get things ready,” Richards says.
According to its financial records, the VPS spent $40,000 more this year in wages and benefits for a total of $202,080 in 2012.
The financial records also indicate that donations and grants declined by nearly $20,000 in 2012, and the Sunset Beach Pride festival lost $25,883.
The Davie Street Dance Party also failed to generate much revenue. The financial records show it cost the VPS $98,107 to run but earned only $100,129 in revenue, for a net profit of just $2,022 in 2012.
Since its inception in 2008, the Davie Street Dance Party has rarely made much profit, except in 2010 when it made just over $40,000. Sponsorship revenue also increased by $60,000 in 2010, and overall the VPS ended that year with stable finances and a surplus of more than $30,000.
The VPS ended 2011 with a surplus as well, of approximately $22,000. According to its financial records, the organization has ended each year since 2008 with some surplus. The last time it posted a deficit was in 2003, when it ended the year with a $107,000 deficit.
Despite barely breaking even this year (and losing more than $11,000 of its cash float to theft), Richards says the Davie Street Dance Party will continue. The new board will approach the city, local bars, VPS members and the community to transform it into a more community-inclusive and lucrative event, he says.
“It hasn’t really been successful for the society, so we need to step back and ask, ‘What do people want to do?’” Richards says.
“It’s really great to have that space,” he continues. “One of the things that’s wonderful about what we do is that we create safe spaces for our community. We want to hang on to that, and now we have an opportunity to look at how to recreate that.”
Former VPS president Shawn Ewing asked the board if it’s open to event and operating suggestions from the membership and community.
“We want feedback from our members around our engagement,” Richards replied.
“We do recognize that we’ve lost the focus in recent years, and we are trying to take that back,” he added.
The board also says it wants to encourage more queer, grassroots, non-profit organizations to march in the parade. “What I’m hearing from members here at the AGM and members in our community is that it [the parade] really needs to reflect our community,” Richards said.
Former VPS president John Boychuk told the board that expensive parade entrance fees are deterring non-profit organizations from participating.
“One of the concerns I’ve been hearing back from organizations is that it’s getting more and more costly to enter the Pride parade, which is the showcase of our community,” Boychuk said.
“It’s becoming more cost prohibitive for some of the community organizations, who have been struggling, to make it to the Pride parade, and it’s becoming a little bit more of an elite group of individuals,” he continued, urging the board to consider freezing entry fees.
“The parade expenses have exponentially increased over the last few years,” parade director Tim Kraumanis acknowledged. “The main reason being is because of crowd control. We had to significantly increase the fencing.”
Kraumanis says the board is looking into pairing larger corporations with smaller community groups and weeding out for-profit companies who are looking solely to capitalize on Pride.
It would be a sort of buddy system, Kraumanis explains, in which big business entries must partner with smaller, queer, non-profit organizations to enter the parade.
The City of Vancouver has also passed a motion to consider designating the Pride parade a civic event, something Kraumanis says would greatly offset parade expenses. City staff is expected to report to council in January. The VPS says civic event status could cut its expenses by $60,000 to $75,000 annually.
The VPS has also been exploring the idea of altering the parade route, as noted in the organization’s 2012 annual report, but Richards tells Xtra the change won’t be happening in 2013.
VPS members elected by acclamation a partial board of seven directors to replace the interim board that has been overseeing operations since the special general meeting in March.
Tim Richards will continue to serve as president; Chrissy Taylor as vice-president; Rick Leonovich as secretary; Bernard Leclair as treasurer; and Rhawnie Vallins, Tim Kraumanis and Emma Lehto will be directors at large.
That leaves five vacant seats on the board. The VPS’s bylaws require a minimum of five directors for quorum.
Former volunteer coordinator Mischa Bartkow was also nominated for a director seat and accepted, but due to bylaw requirements must wait the required 60 days as a new VPS member before joining the board.
Other business addressed at the annual general meeting included a motion to change the $10 membership fee to a sliding scale to make it more affordable to community members. The motion passed by a slim margin of 14 to 11, as did a second motion to extend the dues to cover two consecutive annual general meetings.
Of the VPS’s 101 registered voting members, only 25 percent attended the meeting, including 22 independent voting members and three corporate voting members (and two members who abstained).
Despite the deficit, Richards says he feels confident for 2013 and his role as president.
“I’m feeling good. The team we have and the directors that are coming back to serve again are wonderful and have done a tremendous amount of work for the society, and I think we are getting our stride,” he says. “There will be some good things going forward.”