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Pride Toronto lays off staff, anticipates $250K loss

Pride Toronto lays off staff, anticipates $250K loss

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Sponsorship, beverage sales, toonie drive all down: ED
On July 14, Pride Toronto executive director Tracey Sandilands sent an email to staff announcing that two employees had been laid off and a third staff member, who had already given notice, would not be replaced. As well, a half dozen short-term contracts that expire at the end of July will not be renewed.

In an interview with Xtra, Sandilands predicts a deficit of $250,000 on the year ending July 31 and says the outlook for 2011 is “bleak.” Still, she says, people who wanted a smaller, less corporate, community-focused Pride in 2011 will likely get it — as Pride Toronto moves to live within its means.

Sandilands also elaborates on what the promise of community consultations will look like, including saying that open, public meetings are “not productive” because they can become confrontational.

Below is the text of Sandilands’ email to staff, and under that, the text of the interview.

* * *

With a fabulous festival behind us once again, we are now dealing with the wrap up of our fiscal year. As we do this it is becoming clear that we are not in great financial shape at present. We lost a significant amount in expected sponsorships as a result of the political messaging issue, and beverage sales during the festival were down against both 2008 and 2009 figures, while toonie drive also came up short. Due to this situation, we are reviewing all costs and will need to implement severe cuts for the 2011 festival year if we are to survive.

As part of this exercise, no temporary contracts will be renewed and the following staff will finish up by end July: TK, Dina, Cristina, Spink and Lina. We have had to let Mary Zondanos and Michael Ain go, and our office admin Coralee will be leaving to go back to school at the end of August. All these positions will remain unfilled until further notice. We thank them all for their dedication and hard work for the organization and are really sad to see them go, and please join me in wishing them the very best for their futures. We do hope they will all remain part of the Pride Toronto family on a volunteer basis for the foreseeable future.

The next year will be a challenging one under these circumstances, and we will need the support and commitment of all our incredible volunteers to get through it. If anyone has questions, please email me or call.
 
 
* * *

Xtra: Thanks for getting back to me. I know this is a difficult time and you’ve got a lot on your plate.

Yes.

Xtra: I wanted to talk to you briefly about the email you sent to staff yesterday and give you an opportunity to put it in context for our readers about what’s going on. My understanding is that there are a number of temporary contracts that are ending. Is that normal, that they would end after Pride?

Yes, it is. Possibly, there were some of those temporary staff that might have been kept on if we had some money, but we don’t. They were all on temporary contracts that ended in July, but some of them were hired with a view to giving them a try, with the possibility of making them permanent staff.

Xtra: And those contracts expire at the end of July?

Yes.

Xtra: And for the two permanent staff that you had to let go, is that at the end of July as well?

Well, I’m not going to go into details, because those details are confidential. Obviously, for staff that have been here a little longer, we have provided them with a package, as far as we could. So, they’ll be on the payroll for a while, but they’ve taken their lieu time. But they can come and go as they please; they’re still welcome in the office.

The office administrator, she’d already stated that she’d been accepted into a master’s program, so she’s indicated that she would be leaving, and we didn’t have to try to figure out what to do. We’re not going to replace her; she’s already given notice.

But for the two staff that have been laid off, they’re welcome to come and go as they please, but I can’t exactly tell you for how long they’ll be on the payroll.

But they have been given some kind of consideration. They haven’t just been dismissed summarily.

Xtra: How did you come to this decision?

We looked at what our financial position is expected to be, and it’s still being finalized because obviously our year end is July. So we don’t know what our final number is going to be. However, we do know that if you look at the expected sponsorships that did not come in as a direct result of the political messaging issue, that was $250,000. 

And then there were other issues, like the fact that we might not be able to count on city funding next year and existing sponsors who have given us notice in writing to say that unless we resolve the issues to their satisfaction, they will no longer be sponsoring us next year.

So next year looks very bleak at this point. We can’t keep posting deficits. We have to reestablish our financial base. The only way to do that is to take what we are certain of for next year, which is very little at this stage, and make sure that our budgets fit into that. So, severe cuts in every respect.

I’m not sure we’ll be having all the stages as we had. I’m not sure we’ll be having as many beverage gardens as we’ve had in the past. I’m not sure we’ll be doing a lot of the things in the past, because we simply can’t be sure that we’re going to get the funds for it.

Xtra: In addition to the sponsorship, your email says that beverage sales and the toonie drive are down. Do you have a sense of — is that like five percent, or —

Beverage sales in 2008 were [$334,661] In 2009, we did [$337,611.] This year, we did $280,000. It’s part the heat, and part of being well stocked — in fact, we returned $100,000 worth of alcohol.

We had every expectation that beverage sales were going to do well this year, but it seems they weren’t, and I don’t have any idea what the reason is. They seemed to be busy most of the time. There were some of the beverage gardens that were not busy.  Whether that was because of the heat or the political messaging issue or the recession, I don’t know.

The sales were substantially down on what we had anticipated. We had, in fact, been hoping that with such good weather, beverage sales would be better than expected and that would help the situation, and of course they weren’t.

Xtra: You mention the recession. That’s external to anything you could have anticipated. I know, for instance, that Xtra didn’t participate in the parade this year, and that was a financial decision that was made in December of the year before.

That could have had something to do with the beverage sales. It was not a question in the sponsorship — the sponsorships that we lost were the expected sponsorships that in many cases were finalized verbally and agreed, but were put on hold because of the political messaging debacle.

By the time we banned the words, it was essentially almost too late. All the rhetoric that was bandied about, about “We’re still going to march in the parade,” and they were going to boycott every event — that made our sponsors very insecure, and they decided to bail.

Xtra: With that in mind, do we have a sense of how big the deficit is going to be?

I would say it’s going to be around $250,000 at least. Because that is what we came up short in sponsorship. I want to stress this: many of those sponsors, up until two weeks before the festival, we were still expecting their sponsorship. They had given verbal confirmations, they had agreements ready to sign, and we were trying to reassure them. And until this point, we were expecting them to come on board and they decided not to.

There were others where we had already committed the funds [we were expecting from them], because you have to do these things, you have to plan ahead. We planned these things, we paid deposits, we’d secured venues and secured artists. And then they didn’t come in, because they’d dithered on signing and then decided not to.

Xtra: You said throughout the spring sponsors were wavering. Was that specifically about political messaging?

Yes.

Xtra: If you had to do it over again, would you do something differently?

If I knew what I know now… when we started planning in January, in February, and even last year, none of this had been on the horizon. We knew the issue was coming up, but we had what we thought was a reasonable plan in place by means of the focus groups to get a mandate from the community about what they wanted.

And we did get a mandate from the community, certainly from the people who attended the focus groups, and we acted upon that when we issued the first decision that we would be vetting the messaging. It seemed to come out of the focus groups. Then, through one mechanism or another, various groups managed to get the focus groups and their findings discredited, and that was when all the trouble started.

Because up until that point, we had been operating on the premise that we have a reasonable plan to get through this year, we’re going get a mandate from the community. And we made that decision early enough for us to have told our sponsors, This is what we’re planning to do, and this is how we’re planning on dealing with it. And they were comfortable with it. They knew it wasn’t a perfect solution, but they were comfortable with it. It wasn’t a blatant takeover of the messaging.

And, um, when that fell through, when we were forced to rescind that initial policy, that’s when sponsors started wavering. And as I say, by that point we’d already committed ourselves and paid deposits.

The only way that ended was to go through with it and find other sponsors, in some cases. It probably would have been worse than it was if we hadn’t been able to find other, additional funds, but not enough to make up for those we had lost.

Xtra: What I’m hearing is that you think you behaved with the information that you had in the best way possible, given the circumstances.

We were certainly trying to do that, yeah.

Xtra: Going ahead in 2010, there are a number of people and groups who have asserted that they want what’s best for Pride, but haven’t been working within Pride to do that. I imagine that with the rescinding of the ban, that you might be able to tap into some goodwill there.


Yeah, but all the community goodwill in the world is not — unless it helps to settle the fears of the sponsors so that they will fund us — we will go back to a Pride in Cawthra Park. The community unfortunately doesn’t have $2.5 million to fund us.

And what’s happening with the city funding — that’s on the line at the moment. We have no idea what the city manager’s instructions to us will be, but if we don’t comply, we will lose that money. So, we are planning for the new year expecting to not have that money.

This is fairly well in line with what the community has wanted. They’ve said Pride is becoming too corporate, we should be doing it without the funding. So we’re planning 2011 without relying on funding that is in any way uncertain. And that’s going to mean serious cuts in what we can produce. Everything costs money.

So the plan for the new year is to trim everything that doesn’t fit into the budget that we’re sure of. If we have to put on a small Pride, that’s what we’ll have to do. We’ll be hoping to rely more on volunteers and unpaid staff than we have, which is difficult, because people are busy and they only have a certain amount of time. And dealing with business ventures, you need people who are available during the daytime, and a lot of volunteers are not.

But, you know, we’ll do the best that we can. We have to reestablish that financial base. We have to at least break even. Otherwise we won’t survive. Pride can’t keep posting deficits.

Xtra: Fair enough, and that’s probably the most prudent course. Another question is, in the announcement of the rescinding of the outright ban on “Israeli apartheid,” there was a pledge to strike a group of community leaders to help guide your planning going forward and then to do broad consultations going forward. Has that work begun?

Yes it has. We’ve had an initial meeting to brainstorm a plan of action and Brent Hawkes, Doug Elliott and Maura Lawless, who were the three that came up with this idea, have gone away to put together some guidelines for the advisory panel. They’re brainstorming to get some idea of the people who should be on the advisory panel. They will be consulting fairly widely people who are perceived as community leaders, and Pride is not involved in that process. They are doing that process.

Xtra: Brent, Maura and Doug?


That’s right. They are doing that process to get an idea of who would be willing to serve on that panel, who would be appropriate people to have as part of it. And they will come up with a list of names that the board will give their input on. And we don’t know when that will be.

The plan is that the community consultations will happen in the beginning of September. So I still at this point need to go back to the trans community, because we promised to have a meeting with them on the 12th of August, but this probably needs to be done as part of the broader consultations, rather than having the consultations in a vacuum.

Xtra: You’re talking about big, public, open meetings where anyone can attend and everyone can say their piece?


I don’t know exactly what format the meetings are going to take. The advisory panel, once it’s been established, will recommend what format they feel should be appropriate. I do believe that there will be a combination of public, community meetings and some targeted or representative meetings and maybe some kind of an online survey as well.

There will probably be a combination of those, but at this point, we’re waiting for the panel to be established and them to provide some kind of recommendations as to the process.

Xtra: I guess the thing is, part of the process that you went through in December, January, February with the focus groups, one of the criticisms of it was that it wasn’t very open, or public.

I don’t know how people can say that, because we used every channel that we had in our means that didn’t cost money — we had it in our newsletter, on our website, on our social media. We publicized it everywhere we could, and we invited people to come and be a part of it.

Everyone who offered to be a part of it was accepted. There were one or two people who were clearly identifiable as being on one side or the other of the issue, and we didn’t include them. Everybody else. The focus groups were not only about the Israeli messaging issue, and we wanted broad representation from the community. We asked for 60 people in specific age groups and demographics. As they came forward, we included them in the different groups. And we struggled to find enough people, and they still got paid.

I’m not sure how much more public we have to [be]. We didn’t have the funds to go out and do a huge research study.

Xtra: It used to be that Pride Toronto would have these big public meetings. And I realize that they could be a bit of a dust-up sometimes, that it was messy—

We found that the one community consultation that was held had very little value because we were not given a chance to answer. That’s unproductive.

Xtra: Sorry, you’re talking about the Blockorama meeting?


There were questions asked, and accusations thrown, that we could have answered if we’d been given the opportunity. We found that when we tried to speak, we were shouted down — much as what happened at the press conference. That’s not productive. That’s not productive for the people attending the meeting from Pride or from the community. We have to find a new way of doing that.

Xtra: Have you read the Pride Community Contract?

Yes, I have.

Xtra: What do you think of it?

This may be a surprise to the people that wrote it, but some of the things in there, we’re already doing.

And maybe our messaging is faulty, that it’s not clear that we are doing those things. Other things have been in the cards to do for some time, but this year we got railroaded by the political messaging issue. Nothing else really got the attention it deserved.

There are some good ideas in it. There are some ideas that aren’t practical. But by and large, it’s essentially not far from what we also think. By and large, we’re mostly in agreement with it.

Xtra: Yeah, I wanted to get a sense of how you feel about the Pride Community Contract and the other folks who are working on suggestions or ways to help out Pride.

Well, Marcus, I would be appreciative of anyone who comes to us with constructive suggestions and comes to us in the spirit of wanting to do what’s best for Pride. There are some people who have done that, and we are in talks with them. And it’s not just the three that I’ve mentioned. There are others as well, who have clearly come in with the spirit of, “We want to help. We understand this is difficult. And we want to give you whatever we can put into this. We want to contribute.” And we would welcome them with open arms.

There are also people out there who are professing to want to help, but it’s contingent on things like — and I just hear these things — that it’s contingent on things like firing the entire board, firing the entire staff team, shutting down Pride for a year. None of those things are practical, and none of those things are going to benefit Pride.

You shut down Pride for a year, and who’s going to fund you after you’ve defaulted on all your accounts. It doesn’t make any sense.

Xtra: I haven’t heard that from anyone — that they want to shut down Pride.

I’ve heard it very loud and clear from at least two people. So there is someone saying this, and I know who the person is.

So we have to be very careful, we have to be very clear that those who want to help Pride actually want to help Pride and don’t have an ulterior motive. I also happen to know that there are people out there who are seeing this as an opportunity to put themselves in a position where they can fill their own pockets. That’s happened in the past, and it could happen again.

We have to be very careful with what’s left of Pride. It’s a very fragile situation at the moment. And my job, as uncomfortable as it is, and as difficult as people have made it for me, I don’t intend to let Pride fold.

Whoever comes to us with the right spirit and the right intentions, I’d be very glad to have them on board.

Xtra: What would you want gays in the community to do next?


I think the community can help us best at this time by allowing us a little bit of time to get the advisory panel in place, by attending the community consultations, and by taking the time to tell us what they want. For a long time, we’ve been in the position that we’ve been guessing. We’ve been guessing what the community wants. Now we’re saying to the community, come and tell us what you want.


Pride Toronto’s annual general meeting is tentatively scheduled for Sept 23, location TBA. Stay tuned at pridetoronto.com and xtra.ca for details of the community consultations. The Pride Coalition for Free Speech will hold its next meeting July 20, 7pm, at the 519 Community Centre.
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Comments

Is anyone still reading and want to stay on topic?
FYI to all:
In several comments above, the beer gardens during Pride have been referred to in such a way as to imply that Pride Toronto is responsible for ALL of them...
The Beer Grdn @ the 519 is separate from the other beer grdns run by PT. There is no connection btwn the two other than they both occur during Pride Wknd.
The $$ raised @ the 519 green space goes directly to support programming, volunteers & services provided by the 519 and is run in part by staff & volunteers, and on only 2 of the 5 days, an outside staffing company.
PT on the other hand hires outside staffing for all its beer grdns and the profits (?) go into the general coffers of PT to balance their budget and offset ANNUAL costs. i.e. the BUDGET they present @ the AGM is the cost of maintaining the organization (staff salaries; office space & overhead; admin expenses; and the festival costs) incurred year-round.
PT needs to earn in one week (or in lead-up to that one week) what it spends over an entire year.
...and the beer grdns is just one of many sources of revenue for the organization.
Addressing Ken's Ignorance
Ken - you didn't actually offer any figures just statments without proof - your opinion. Your statement fromt eh World Bank about Palestinian incomees refers only to Palestinians living in Israel, not the West Bank or Gaza. Since you "quoted" from the World Bank, here's another for you * First, unless the Palestinian territories are able to achieve high levels of economic growth, the prospects for future poverty reduction are not encouraging. Not only will the number of poor Palestinians grow rapidly, but their share in the population will also increase which could become a socially destabilizing factor.* You say Arabs never supported Palestinians in 1948 so are you saying that excuses Israel's actions for the last 60 YEARS? You basically say Arabs kill Arabs so why can't Israel kill Palestinian Arabs, where is your logic? Many people discuss the atrocities committed by Omar al-Bashir (Sudan) that's why the United Nations has charged him with war crimes in Darfur. The war crimes committed on both sides (Hamas and Israel) have been discussed in many international papers and reports from Amnesty Internation and Human Rights Watch etc, but you ignore all of this. QuAIA is not responsible for Pride losing money - Pride actually had MORE sponsors this year than last year, it is pure mismanagement. Pride has been losing money for years but they decided to get even bigger this year which was a mistake. You are so paranoid about anti-semtism that you see it everywhere and in everything.
the truth about QuAIA
Go on the QuAIA site: no names, no affiliation with anyone (including similarly named groups in Israel). Who is the President, Vice-President, treasurer of QuAIA? Who bankrolls this group? Who is responsible for the LIES they disseminate over and over? Just a couple of figures to help put things into perspective (from the World Bank): Palestinians have one of the highest per capita incomes of all Arabs in the Middle East... despite Israel. Palestinians have the highest life-expectancy of just about any Arab group in the Middle East...despite Israel. Someone is obviously telling us LIES about their poverty and their "horrible"living conditions. ..If you look at the history of the last 50 years you will discover that the Arabs never supported Palestinians in 1948... they attacked Israel with the hope of expanding their OWN territory. The number of Palestinians killed by the Lebanese and others (Egypt) surpqsses the number killed by Israel. So why is Israel continuously being singled out for disparagement? 20 times more Arabs have been killed in Sudan by other Arabs than the Israelis have killed in the last ten years...and the butchery continues...why is no-one discussing Sudan and ONLY discussing Israel? Are the ONLY Arab lives that matter those of Palestinians? Or is anti-Semitism REALLY what is being disseminated by a group (QuAIA) which has no openly responsible leaders? It is time the Gay Press started doing some investigative journalism insteqd of simply parroting what their pals in QuAIA have been telling them. Aren't the people at Xtra capable of thinking for themselves? For 40 years Fatah and later Hamas have been targeting civilians..a definite war-crime.; why is this not worth discussing too? As for Pride... sponsors have the right to remove their funding when they see fit. The gay community uses boycotts, why can't others? It is hypocritical to pretend that QuAIA is not at the centre of the loss in funds.
Incomprehensible!
I missed the parade this year (I attended 2008 and 2009) and all the political fireworks. QuAIA are an incomprehensible group. My father (not gay) fought for gay rights and he would be turning over in his (Catholic) grave at what QuAIA are doing. Israel is a leader in gay rights not only the Middle East but in the world as a whole... ask all the Arab gays who seek refuge in Israel from the persecution - even outright lynching - they are subject to in their home countries. Forget about advertising or beer sales; what QuAIA is doing is sheer idiocy! Pride should be sponsoring campaigns for gay rights in Arab countries, not campaigns to destroy the only safe haven gays have in that part of the world.
Continuation (Pride in a new decade)
... please simply don't complain to Pride, because what it boils down to is that you did not help, and is that what being a community if to you ? Thanks for listening and I encourage and respect any thoughts or feedback. Looking forward to 2011, I know it can and will get better with discussions like these. Thanks.
Pride in a new decade
I think we can all agree, PRIDE WEEK can't be an easy event to schedule. I have my own issues with the way Pride has been handled lately. I didn’t attend very much of it, since I really didn’t want to be associated with the fetish groups not only being given a float but a huge platform to perpetuate their sexual stereotypes and agendas. It disgusted me. It’s funny how back in the 90's, when Pride was smaller - it seemed even more community based rather than a huge corporate conglomerate. Trans Pride ? Pansexual, billboard like signs shouting “legalize the sex trade” - are you kidding me PRIDE TORONTO ? I know we want to be fair, but I always thought the point of having a pride week was to show the country (and now the world) that we are not the stereotypes they once thought we were. It’s taking 10 steps back if you ask me. Now onto the “money loss” issue. A massive deficit is very sad indeed, but here’s how I see this one : perhaps Pride visitors, “especially Torontonians” should ask themselves "What did I do to help Pride Toronto this year ?" Gay Torontonians do have a rep of "expecting" without “giving” anything in return. People with that attitude truly perplex me. It reminds me of a city in Ontario a few years back, who could not afford to host any “pride related”. The community complained and the response given was perfect - "We wanted a pride celebration, we put in our work, but did you?" Yes, this was a smaller city and perhaps the city’s governance did not have the funds (or desire) to help out like Toronto does. We are lucky to have such an amazing government that can and will sponsor us in any fashion (and yes, I know there were budget cuts, but still money was handed out.) Basically, we can't expect everyone else to foot the bill while we walk around like pretensions teens expecting candy for free. If you attend the private events, that’s great - but if you do attend those not sponsored by PRIDE TORONTO - please don't co
BITCHES AGAINST ISRAELI APARTHEID
"Bitches-Againstst-Israeli-Apartheid" group applied to march in the CARIBANA Parade. Allegedly. They were rejected, as they were NOT an appropriate group for the venue —as they were inappropriate for Pride 2010. ____

* The group claimed an African member to support their legitimacy, and they all got dark chocolate spray-tans, and dressed as enormous GerrySpringer-fat, vicious, female Dobermans and Pittbulls in skimpy glittery bikini costumes, with feather headdresses and high stiletto hooker heels, in front, and their hind legs had heels on wheels. ____

* The Bitches also irritated grass-roots-groups and sponsors to pressure Caribana to change their minds. Allegedly. They also petitioned the Human Rights Commission claiming that their Freedom of Speech and Expression Rights were violated. Allegedly the Commission stated that their Freedom of Expression rights were not violated because they could still march elsewhere and quoted Marcus McCann: "If I don't publish your letter in XTRA, your Human Rights are not violated, because you can still publish elsewhere." ____

* Allegedly, the spokeswoman for Caribana suggested that the Bitches rent some children and march in the Santa Claus Parade. Allegedly, supporters of Caribana threatened to pellet the group with garbage if they come near Caribana —as was done to them in the Gay Parade in 2009. Community activists called "Retards-Against-Repression" vowed to boycott Caribana and to protest during the parade —as they don't have jobs— it's something to do. ____

(: P.S. Irony, Parody, Satire, Sarcasm, have been used as forms of protest worldwide for millennia. There is even a Pulitzer prize for Satirical cartoons :)
thank you again
Thank you very much for your advice, Ms. Tam. I will do this. Can you provide me with some links. When I put "internet dynamics"; into Google, I only receive information about internet companies which provide internet services. I don't think this is what you mean. You must mean something to do with communication. I think it must be how to talk to somebody but I'm not sure of the proper wording.
@Sav
Done! I will take a hiatus.
@Dhalia
Dhalia, Just a suggestion, why don't you read something about internet dynamics and how they differ from regular dynamics. I am sure a lot has been written about it.

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