The OAF Blog

Arts and Culture Organizations – Adapting for a New Environment

May 21, 2020


I’ve observed recently that Ontario arts organizations are now moving to an environment where they are trying new ways to communicate their arts mission, how best to respond to the current COVID-19 world we live in.

Plans for the future
TRG Arts has produced a helpful report that may be useful as arts managers and Boards make plans for the balance of 2020, and into 2021 and beyond. It suggests that every organization consider four questions: 

• What might next year look like?
• What is the source of our strength? What do we do that is most meaningful and relevant to the community?
• How will we manage our people and revenue propositions to confront this new reality?
• When our doors reopen, where will we gather?


Helpful articles
The report offers a series of discussion points that every organization can consider and apply to its own specific mandate and place in its local community. Along with the report are links to a series of related articles that can add depth to each of the questions and issues arts organizations face.

It is refreshing to see that, despite the significant challenges, arts organizations are exploring new options for presenting art and supporting our communities during this time of social distancing. This is truly an example of resilience and creativity.


Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy

March 30, 2020


During this morning’s address to the country, Prime Minister Trudeau offered more important details on the Government of Canada’s Emergency Wage Subsidy that was first announced on Friday of last week.

The following eligibility parameters and details were announced:

  • Businesses that can show that their revenues have decreased at least 30% since the start of the pandemic will be eligible for the 75% wage subsidy.

  • The assessment of the 30% revenue drop will be done after the fact. If the drop was actually not this low, the company will have to repay.

  • The number of employees a company has will not determine eligibility.

  • The subsidy will apply to non-profit and charities, as well as companies that are both big and small (no cap).

  • The government will cover up to 75% of the first $58,700 that employees earn. That means up to approximately $847 a week. This will be backdated to March 15.

  • The subsidy will be a direct payment to the company so they can pay employees.


The Prime Minister indicated that there will be additional background documents and details coming tomorrow, including the estimated fiscal cost of the new program, from both the Minister of Finance and Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade.

In his remarks after announcing the new details of the Emergency Wage Subsidy, the Prime Minister also made very clear that any businesses that seek to take advantage of the new program, or game it, will face strict consequences – expect those details tomorrow as well. He also noted that should employers be able to cover the additional 25% of salaries not covered by the subsidy, they should pay their employees that difference.

For more information:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/trudeau-covid19-business-supports-1.5514558


Supporting Arts Organizations with Operating Funds

October 28, 2019


One of the most important benefits to arts organizations who established endowments with the Ontario Arts Foundation under the Arts Endowment Fund program (AEF) (and new organizations continue to) is the fact that endowment distributions are unrestricted. Unlike most grant funding, which is directed towards particular programs, AEF income can be used by an organization where they choose. This allows arts managers and their boards to decide each year if the income will be applied to core operating costs (rent, salaries, overhead), or a particular production, outreach initiative, or an investment in something new.


Operating Expenses

The Chronicle for Philanthropy recently published an article highlighting how five of the US’ wealthiest foundations have decided to focus efforts on grant makers to join them in offering funding that can be directed to operating expenses. In doing so, they hope to set an example to encourage other funders to ‘stigmatize’ in the eyes of donors and granters operating costs and help funders understand supporting an organization in this way helps them thrive and grow and make wise operating decisions. The article identified six ways, a funder can consider supporting operating costs of a not-for-profit:

  • Flexible enterprise support – overhead, allowing arts managers to decide how funding is to be used
  • Targeted growth support – directed at salaries, or building a new facility/physical need or invest in developing a new program
  • Outcomes funding – improving a mission ( arts ) in a specific way. The applicant for funding agrees to success/outcome measures and how much funding is needed to attain that goal
  • All in one project pricing - funding for anything project specific related – the distinction is that the grant recipient doesn’t have to specify if the money is used specifically for the project itself or overhead
  • Indirect cost rate-based project funding – funding to cover a initiative, plus a %age of project expenses such as overhead
  • Flexible program support - e.g. rent and other costs that go beyond a projects projected budget

All the approaches are intended to give an organization much needed flexibility to carry out their mission, potentially on a multi-year basis. This approach, which we endorse can be a valuable tool in the range of financial support options pursued by arts organizations, allowing to produce, explore and create.



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