As one of the legacies of Calgary being named one of the final two “Cultural Capital(s) of Canada” during 2012 which it shared with the Niagara Region in celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the War of 1812, was the crowd-funding platform InvestYYC.
The concept is great. Help small local arts organizations or individuals in nine stated categories according to their website, which are listed as culture, dance, film and new media; heritage; literary arts; multidisciplinary; music; theatre; and visual arts and funded by local individuals.
In developing InvestYYC, those involved were obviously looking at other models in the crowd-funding universe such as Kickstarter; Indiegogo, GoFundMe; Fundable and a whole bunch more that are still being developed worldwide.
It is a concept that should have resonance with the local marketplace since the theory is that it draws upon the resources of individuals that are most interested in seeing a proposal succeed; it does not add additional draw on tax-based revenue; and creates self-sufficiency and fund-development among the groups that are seeking funding; and requires no further ongoing subsidy to arts organizations. These are all values that I regularly read are considered to be important and valued by non-profit organizations in newspapers, the media, government and funders in a “small-C conservative city” that is also a major financial centre in Canada.
When I look at the InvestYYC website I noticed that this platform has done well for some organizations in the past. This was helped along by the Calgary Arts Development Authority which created a $50,000 pool where CADA would match donor contributions which began on February 26, 2013 in the twilight days of Calgary 2012.
Some of the successful organizations that used this platform were Wreck City; i-Robot Theatre at Beakerhead; a stage performance entitled Citizens of the World; a contemporary dance performance entitled Thin Places and others. It has definitely served an important purpose in the year or so that it has been operational.
Currently there are four campaigns which are active – two of which are flood related, one for Sled Island which was deeply affected as the festival began the day the flood began; and the other is the Alberta Arts Flood Rebuild fund. The Arts Rebuild fund also was involved in the recently ended ArtRise fundraiser that also helped out the Elephant Artist Relief (see http://www.elephantartistrelief.com/) at the Art Gallery of Calgary which had some beautiful artwork donated that wrapped-up, after a delay a few months ago, two days ago.
In this context, this morning I read with interest, today’s issue of the Financial Post. On the front page just below the fold is a story entitled “Equity crowd-funding planned; OSC Rules.”
Briefly the story is about the leading Canadian market regulator for equities and capital markets, the Ontario Securities Commission (OSC) exploring new rules and regulations to allow crowd-funding of early-stage corporate entities.
This potentially could be similar to what happened a number of years ago when the Alberta Securities Commission allowed Junior Capital Pools (JCP) to trade on the Alberta Stock Exchange (ASE) beginning in 1986 which continued through to 1999 when the ASE merged with the Vancouver Stock Exchange to create the TSX. Along the way some great stories came as a result of the JCPs, such as Boardwalk Equities Inc. which started with a small blind pool and through growth and acquisitions now trades on the New York Stock Exchange.
As a very interested, active observer and occasional participant in the arts, and to a lesser extent business (especially in the past), I note that business and the arts often intersect. This, despite the fact that there will always be a certain amount of denial, whether conscious or not, of the economic reality that everyone has daily expenses they must make if they are to continue living.
The reality is that money makes the world go around. In this respect arts organizations are no different than a corporate entity looking for money in capital markets – whether to start-up, expand, merge or have a bridge capital requirement.
So, it will be interesting to see how the talks and discussions currently underway by the OSC; any decisions that come from it; and governance that impacts this new funding model, will impact InvestYYC and the organizations it funds.
I will certainly be watching to see what happens.