July 3, 2020

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Winnipeg Foundation unveils arts, charity stabilization grant

"We know groups are stretched and stressed," Megan Tate said Monday. (Mike Sudoma / Free Press files)</p>

"We know groups are stretched and stressed," Megan Tate said Monday. (Mike Sudoma / Free Press files)

The Winnipeg Foundation is bringing $6 million to the table to aid city charities, non-profits and arts groups, many of which have been ravaged by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation's new stabilization grant will offer up to $50,000 to help charities continue to operate over the short and medium term, says Megan Tate, director of community grants.

"We know groups are stretched and stressed," Tate said Monday. "Related to the arts, groups like the MTC, PTE, Theatre Projects, Winnipeg Jewish Theatre — they all had to cancel productions, so that's a pretty big loss."

Another city arts group, Manitoba Opera, is interested in the grant, with applications due June 1.

"I think its terrific and forward-thinking of the foundation," said chief executive officer Larry Desrochers. "We have a board meeting (Tuesday) night, and I'll be bringing the application to the board."

Manitoba Opera was one of several arts groups that decided to cancel the remainder of its 2019-20 season, owing to the COVID-19 threat. It its case, a three-night run of Carmen, scheduled to start March 28 at the Centennial Concert Hall, met its demise without a note being sung.

Desrochers said the company expected about $330,000 in revenue from the three shows, but says about half of the ticketholders chose to donate their tickets back to the company for a charitable receipt, lessening the financial blow.

The stabilization grant is the second of a three-phase pandemic plan the foundation and its donors are undertaking.

The first phase, the COVID-19 Response Fund, was launched March 12 and has given $2.1 million to more than 115 front-line agencies, including charities, personal care homes and homelessness initiatives. The largest gift was a $100,000 grant to Winnipeg Harvest on April 21.

Like businesses around the world, Winnipeg's charitable organizations, non-profits and arts groups have seen revenues plummet since March, when the novel coronavirus officially reached Manitoba and people began following social-distancing guidelines.

In a story published in Monday's Free Press, Imagine Canada, an umbrella group of Canadian charity groups and non-profits, revealed almost 70 per cent of charities have averaged a 31 per cent drop in revenue since March, with arts and recreational organizations among the hardest hit.

Bruce MacDonald, Imagine Canada CEO, said only one-quarter of charities have sufficient reserves to keep operating the next three to six months.

Those are the groups the stabilization fund aims to support, Tate said. "We do anticipate that it will be a popular grant. All (Winnipeg-based) charities are allowed to apply."

In a video released Monday, executive director Rick Frost says the foundation has been in close discussions with 18 bellwether organizations, as well as others it communicates with usually.

"The reality is that COVID-19 has impacted any kind of gathering of people together, which is fundamental to most fundraising activities," Frost says in the video. "If you're selling tickets for events, like arts organizations, of course, that has all pretty much dried up."

The Winnipeg Foundation is in its 99th year. It became Canada's first community foundation with a $100,000 donation given by William Forbes Alloway, a city banker and philanthropist. In 2019, its total grants were $57.5 million.



Alan Small

Alan Small
Arts and Life Editor

Alan Small was named the editor of the Free Press Arts and Life section in January 2013 after almost 15 years at the paper in a variety of editing roles.

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