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Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society projects annual loss of $460,600 in newly released financial disclosure

Folk fest by Clayton Wong
Scenes like this won't take place at Jericho Beach Park this summer because the Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society board has decided to cancel this year's event. Photo by Clayton Wong.

The Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society has provided a deeper look into its financial challenges. It came in a document placed on its website following a February 1 online town hall.

The document reveals a forecasted “projected loss” of $460,600 in the fiscal year ending August 31, 2023. Moreover, it states that there’s a need to replay a $30,000 Canada Emergency Business Account loan by year-end.

Last month, the board announced that this year’s festival has been cancelled.

“The loss is primarily due to a loss in grant revenue from one-time COVID support grants received in 2021, that won’t be renewed; adding back an essential 3rd full time staff position; and inflation costs for everything from artist fees and travel costs, merchandise and supply costs, to volunteer/artist meal vouchers,” the society states on its website.

One of the most dramatic charts showed a 68.5 percent increase in site expenses in the last fiscal year compared to the one ending in 2019. The last festival before the pandemic was held in the summer of 2019.

Over the same period, artist expenses fell by 18 percent and salaries fell by 19 percent.

Chart courtesy of Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society.

The document notes that 47.5 percent of revenue comes from the box office. The society raised an additional 32.7 percent from the public sector.

The town hall was held instead of a planned annual general meeting, which has been delayed until March 1.

Festival policy outlines naming rules

At the town hall, which was held over Zoom, some members asked whether the board could sell naming rights. They wanted to know if a large corporate sponsorship deal could save the 45-year-old festival.

One director, Karen Cooper, doused expectations for this year. She noted that it takes three to five years to develop a strong enough relationship that might lead to a “high-dollar” corporate sponsorship.

Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society.
Chart courtesy of Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society.

Another director, Phillip Hemming, acknowledged that the society’s policy was changed to lay the groundwork for the sale of naming rights. However, he emphasized that it had been some time since he had examined it. Then he added that it’s not possible under the policy for the entire festival to be named after a single entity.

“It could not be the Acme Vancouver Folk Festival,” Hemming said.

Nevertheless, he suggested that there are other opportunities for naming rights, subject to a review process.

Some members expressed an interest in seeing the amended policy.

While the society has since posted its bylaws on its website, Pancouver could not find the policy regarding sponsorships. Shortly before this article was posted, Pancouver emailed the president, Mark Zuberbuhler, seeking a copy. He has not responded as of this writing.

From the town hall meeting, it did not appear as though the board has revoked a planned motion to dissolve the society. This would have to be approved by members at the annual general meeting.

folk fest finances 2
Chart courtesy of Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society.

Last year, society posted a $24,981 shortfall

A group called Save the Vancouver Folk Music Festival has created a Facebook page to try to prevent the dissolution. It includes former staff and musicians, including Gary Cristall, Veda Hille, and Bob Bossin.

Under the bylaws, if the society is wound up or dissolved, any assets remaining after payment of debts and liabilities “shall be given or transferred to such organization or organizations concerned with social problems or organizations promoting the same purposes of this Society”.

Members of the society would make this determination at the time of winding up or dissolution. If this “effect cannot be given”, then any funds would be transferred or given to some other charitable organization, charitable corporation, or charitable trust recognized by the Canada Revenue Agency.

Last year, the society reported a $24,891 shortfall on revenues of $1.94 million when it held a festival. In the two previous years when there was no Vancouver Folk Music Festival, the society posted a surplus of $361,186.

The board has stated that it will require an additional $500,000 up-front every year to pay suppliers.

Below are additional charts about the financial situation.

folk fest finnances 3
Chart courtesy of Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society.
folk fest finances 4
Chart courtesy of Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society.
Chart courtesy of Vancouver Folk Music Festival Society.

Follow Pancouver editor Charlie Smith on Twitter @charliesmithvcr. Follow Pancouver on Twitter @PancouverMedia.

 

 

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Charlie Smith

Charlie Smith

Pancouver editor Charlie Smith has worked as a Vancouver journalist in print, radio, and television for more than three decades.

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We would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the traditional and unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations. With this acknowledgement, we thank the Indigenous peoples who still live on and care for this land.