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Monday, March 5, 2012

A Thank-You to our Funders

Joseph Bardsley
Development Manager,
Grants & Proposals
Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of overhearing the piano/vocal read-throughs for Gioachino Rossini’s The Barber of Seville in the Martha Lou Henley Rehearsal Hall downstairs. Since moving to The Michael and Inna O’Brian Centre for Vancouver Opera in July of 2011, Vancouver Opera staff members have enjoyed observing the development and evolution of mainstage productions as they make the transition from our rehearsal hall to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Overhearing the music downstairs, I took some time to reflect on the resources needed to sustain an organization of our size and scale – and on how fortunate we are to have a broad base of support from which to secure them.

Since the money we take in from ticket sales only accounts for 41 percent of our annual revenue, Vancouver Opera makes use of a variety of fund development strategies so as to make up the remainder.

To cover the costs associated with our mainstage productions, community education programs and other operational expenses, our Development team brings in over $5M per year through a variety of methods: individual donations, corporate sponsorships, strategic partnerships with charitable foundations and special events. Underpinning all of these initiatives are our ongoing relationships with civic, provincial and federal granting agencies. 

The O'Brian Centre for
Vancouver Opera
Government support has a big impact on our financial bottom line. It determines the quality of work we are able to showcase onstage and also plays a key role in our operational capacity. Many of our corporate funders and charitable foundation partners generally prefer to provide financial support for a specific project or program over a set period of time. Given this, it can sometimes be difficult to attract any interest from that sector in long-term operational or capital funding gaps.

Currently, Vancouver Opera receives government support from the
Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, the City of Vancouver and Metro Vancouver. Together, these granting agencies provided over $1.6M in funding for our programs last year. This represents over ten percent of our annual operating budget. Ten percent isn’t all we need, but it would be very difficult to replace – and, if it wasn’t there, we’d probably have trouble keeping the lights on!  
This type of support is invaluable due to the fact that we can often apply it directly to our day-to-day costs: the maintenance and upkeep of our facilities, or ongoing program funding – even basics, like paying to utilize the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for a production run! And, sometimes, this sort of funding helps us to improve our facilities for the benefit of our artists. Our upcoming upgrades to the O’Brian Centre’s acoustics and rehearsal spaces were made possible thanks to support provided by the City of Vancouver in 2011.

René Barbera and Maestro Robert Tweten rehearse in the
Martha Lou Henley Rehearsal Hall
Vancouver Opera has been receiving government funding since 1962, thanks to the vision and generosity of the Canada Council for the Arts. We first received provincial funding (by way of the BC Arts Council) in 1966. Our established relationships with these and other civic, provincial and federally-focused granting agencies also provide us with unique insights and opportunities for conversations at a provincial and national level about emerging trends in arts and culture funding, programming and advocacy throughout the country.

While we are always seeking support from a multitude of sources, we remain grateful for contributions from our government funders. Thank you!

So, as I continue to listen to one of Rossini’s most enduring works, as portrayed by a talented cast and production team drawn from throughout the country, I am grateful for what Canada’s government has done to make it so. 

Joseph Bardsley
Development Manager, Grants & Proposals

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