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A legendary night

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A legendary night

After a long, long, long wait, Fashion Cares is back. The motherlode of Toronto gay events bursts back to life on Sept 9 with more star power than we’ve seen in a long time. It has enough wardrobe to make Jeanne Beker jealous, and moneyed and activist gays alike will be contributing to good causes: the AIDS Committee of Toronto and the Elton John AIDS Foundation.

ACT’s theme for the night, Glitter and Light, is one I’m intimately familiar with (and just wait till you see the ensemble I’m putting together), but if you worry that glamorous parties and superficial glitter overshadow ACT’s important work, stop right there. This night is about celebration; as ACT’s Adam Ferraro told me, “Fashion Cares is about raising money for the work that we do but also celebrating the work that has already been achieved and how far our community has come.”

The insanely starry lineup guarantees a night that will be talked about for years: yes, we are talking Elton John, Linda Evangelista, Janelle Monáe, Dean and Dan, Scissor Sisters, Jully Black, Anjulie, Greta Constantine, Marty Rotman, Sky Ferreira, Billy Newton-Davis — and that’s just for starters. Frankly, this year’s lineup obliterates previous years’, where attendees loved Jennifer Holliday or pre-“Teenage Dream” Katy Perry. Even Miss Shirley Bassey’s two performances of “Diamonds Are Forever” doesn’t compare!

After three years off, such heavy artillery is not accidental. “We wanted to come back with something bigger and better and reincarnate Fashion Cares as something truly unique. It took some time to figure out how we could benefit both ACT and EJAF with a massively well-rounded event: fashion that encompasses local and international talent, huge production and having Canadian performers come together while figuring out the coordination with international talent to create the best possible event to raise the most possible funds,” Ferraro says.

Not an easy task, but then again, ACT is known for digging in both hands. Fashion Cares is possible thanks to a huge and wonderful volunteer team, but I’ve always been impressed with ACT’s outreach the other 364 days of the year. Ferraro reminds me exactly how targeted that outreach is. “Our women’s program, our positive-youth outreach programs; we have specific outreach programs directed to trans and cisgender men. Our harm reduction focuses on safer ways of partying and trying to help people understand what their goals and needs are. We’re not only looking to do outreach in the downtown community; we aim across the city with programs geared towards empowering the queer community and ensuring there is adequate sexual health information that’s relevant to everyone.”

Dealing with HIV/AIDS issues in 2012 is a world away from what it was like 30 years ago when ACT came on the scene, and as HIV rates continue their steady climb it’s important to remain educated, aware and equipped. ACT uses social media and multimedia technology to great effect, but one of the best things about this year’s Fashion Cares is that ACT and the EJAF are looking to spread the wealth. The last Fashion Cares, in 2008, raised nearly a million dollars and hopes are high to top that this year, but where exactly is the money going?

The answer is pleasantly surprising.

“ACT’s programs and services need to continue to be up to par, but EJAF partnered with us to create a set of funding grants that can be accessed throughout all of Canada. Purchasing tickets means not only ACT is benefiting from this event, but AIDS service organizations and not-for-profits across the country can access funds as well.”

From the little bubble of Toronto nightlife in which we sometimes get lost, it can be easy to forget that a big wide world exists outside of the 416. Think it’s not easy being HIV-positive in Toronto? Imagine what it’s like in a smaller town or city.

As for the night itself? Expect to be dazzled. Art and fashion from Fashion Cares’ 25-year history will be on display. Elton John’s costume archives are also sending over some standout pieces. The setting will be spectacular. Red-carpet entrance. Eeeeeeeveryone will be there. All this before the actual show, and artistic director Philip Ing’s set is already creating buzz. Nights like this become legend.
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Comments

I love fashion cares and will miss it
to be honest, as long as ACT sees any kind of money, I'm happy. I LOVE fashion cares, so many amazing memories over the years....looking back I can see how I've grown up at each event.

Sad to see it go! But tomorrow's going to be AMAZING
Given the frivolity of the event...
Patrick, we obviously have different views. Given the frivolity of the event, I guess we could just watch an Elton John video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CtO_jSbNN6I
We seem to be talking past each other
"If generally accepted accounting principles of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants require that in-kind donations be recorded as revenues on the financial statements of charities, with an equal offset to expense, then that is the standard accepted by the accounting industry." Yes, that is true, for the purposes that publicized financial statements serve. There is a difference, however, between how financial information should be used for reporting purposes vs. management purposes.

"Economically, there is little difference between the scenario where (1) ACT receives a cash donation of $10,000 and spends it on $10,000 in luxury hotel rooms, and (2) ACT instead asks the hotel to donate $10,000 in luxury hotel rooms." There are two HUGE differences, one, that the cash donation would never have been received in place of an in-kind donation, and two, that if ACT had received said cash, it would have had control over how it was spent, and could have chosen to spend it on something else, which is not true of in-kind donations.

"What it boils down to is that most of ticket price that wealthy people pay to attend Fashion Cares, is represented by the food, alcohol and entertainment they receive." I don't know if that's true, but if it is, it has nothing to do with in-kind goods and services received. If you are concerned about how much of the ticket price is being expended on those things, then the way to do that is to look at how much is received in ticket revenue vs. how much is spent in cash expenses, which is all I was saying in the first place.

"And, the wealthy people get a tax credit for part of the ticket price!" Again, I don't know if that's true, but if it is, they can only get credit for the portion of the ticket price that is over and above the value of all that food, alcohol and entertainment they received.
An excuse for an expensive party
Patrick, again I disagree. If generally accepted accounting principles of the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants require that in-kind donations be recorded as revenues on the financial statements of charities, with an equal offset to expense, then that is the standard accepted by the accounting industry. That's why they are called generally accepted accounting principles. Economically, there is little difference between the scenario where (1) ACT receives a cash donation of $10,000 and spends it on $10,000 in luxury hotel rooms, and (2) ACT instead asks the hotel to donate $10,000 in luxury hotel rooms. The effect is the same: $10,000 of goods and services has been received and consumed. In any event, the fundraising cost-revenue ratio of ACT in 2008 shows that the event was costly (both in terms of the goods and services that were paid for in cash or received by in-kind donation), when compared to the revenues received (both in terms of terms of revenue received in cash or by in-kind donation). What it boils down to is that most of ticket price that wealthy people pay to attend Fashion Cares, is represented by the food, alcohol and entertainment they receive. And, the wealthy people get a tax credit for part of the ticket price! The Fashion Cares event is really just an excuse to throw an expensive party, rather than actually making a real difference to ACT's programs. It's just another form of pinkwashing by the Toronto AIDS establishment.
Financial transparency is a different issue...
...from the cost effectiveness of fundraising. Those in-kind donations only exist because the event they are attached to took place, and usually because they result in little out-of-pocket cost to the donors. To use the example you raised - a hotel that would be willing to donate hotel rooms that would otherwise be empty, and which do not incur much additional cost to the hotel to have filled (extra sheets and towels being laundered, etc.), would probably not be as amenable to providing food because they would be out-of-pocket for the cost of raw materials and preparation. It's unreasonable to wag a finger at how in-kind revenues are supposedly being mismanaged when they could not have been applied to any other purpose anyway. Looking at how much the agency is actually having to spend to put on its fundraising events is a far better metric of value for money.
In-kind donations and financial transparency
I disagree with Patrick's post above. The accounting rules don't result in any distortion of the fundraising cost-revenue ratio. I understand that in-kind donations are generally recorded as revenues on the audited financial statements of charities, with an equal offset to expense. For reasons of fairness, financial statements of charities like ACT should generally record the value of any gift in kind in this matter for two reasons. (1) As a tax fairness matter, in order to issue a tax receipt for a gift in kind, a charity must be able to determine the gift's value. For example, if a luxury hotel donates free hotel rooms having a value of $10,000 to ACT for the celebrities attending Fashion Cares, the hotel will presumably want a tax receipt for the donation and will claim the donation as a tax credit (so the hotel can pay less taxes). The story in the financial statements should reflect the story told to the Canada Revenue Agency. (2) As a transparency matter, in-kind donations to Fashion Cares should be seen as part of the true costs of the event. For example, if ACT spent $10,000 in cash on luxury hotel rooms for the celebrities, it would have to record the $10,000 as expense. If instead, ACT asks the hotel to donate the hotel rooms in return for a tax receipt, the value of the hotel rooms should be recorded as an expense. After all, it’s not as though ACT received $10,000 in cash from the hotel that could be used on something else. It received $10,000 in luxury hotel rooms that could only be used for someone to stay in. By having to record the hotel rooms as an expense in the above example, ACT is accountable for having to justify to its stakeholders why it asked for a $10,000 in-kind donation for luxury hotel rooms when it could have asked for $10,000 in-kind donation from the hotel for something that perhaps has a better value for money (e.g., catered food for the event).
Those numbers are misleading
Charities are required to record all in-kind donations as expenses. An organization that relies heavily on events to raise money will attract large amounts of in-kind donations, which will skew the ratio of fundraising costs to revenues. If one looks only at cash fundraising costs vs. revenues, the picture is much different.
What will be the fundraising cost/revenue ratio?
According to a past Xtra article, in 2008, the AIDS Committee of Toronto (ACT) had a fundraising cost/revenue ratio of about 75%. In other words, $0.75 of every dollar raised was spent on the cost of fundraising, while only $0.25 went to ACT’s programs. ACT’s horrible cost ratio for 2008 was due to the very expensive annual Fashion Cares gala, which the organization discontinued after a disastrous 2008 year. See http://www.xtra.ca/public/Toronto/Where_does_the_money_go-11220.aspx In the past, Fashion Cares galas featured expensive costumes, sets, props, food, and alcohol. Now that the Fashion Cares event has been resurrected in 2012, I assume that the event will again have a high amount of costs, when compared to actual revenues. Oh well, at least it's an opportunity for posers at ACT and in the Toronto “Queer scene” community to pretend that they are glamorous and wealthy by helping to organize an expensive event featuring Elton John.
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