COLUMN: Reflections on a remarkable year at The Civic Theatre

From Civic Theatre executive director Eleanor Stacey

By Eleanor Stacey

If you are a patron of The Civic Theatre, you may have received a letter or email, or seen a social media post in the last few weeks asking you to “Help Us Spread the Light.” Indeed, it is that time of year when we, like many other charitable organizations, reach out to our members, patrons and past donors to ask for a little bit of help to meet the goals of our mission: to bring engaging entertainment and educational content to our screen and community, offering much more than movies in this local cultural media arts centre.

In fall 2018, we began a three-year operating fund campaign, knowing that while we are still a single-screen, we will need a little more help to continue to build our mission-based programs and services for the community. These activities are unique to our organizational character, and crucial in making our case for support to funding prospects for our capital campaign.

Unlike the average Canadian charitable cultural organization, which relies on between 40 to 60 per cent of their budget to be sourced through grants and other fundraising, we do not receive core funding from government sources. Instead, we only needed to raise 12 per cent of our budget to end our 2018-19 year in the black. This was done while continuing to build our programs, improving our operations, and increasing our capacity to serve our community.

During our recent AGM we announced that $87,000 in fundraising contributed to our positive year-end, but less than half of that was in local fundraising. More than $45,000 of that total was awarded to us through grants and employment funding for specific programs.

Over the course of the 2018-19 year, we have been able to continue to grow our our Screen-Based Industry Program, adding the Craft Brews of the Columbia Basin film competition and the teens-only Super 8 film challenge. We continued to accommodate facility rental events and show independent film as much as possible, despite growing restrictions from many film distributors that make it harder to get single-week engagements or show films on their release dates.

We were delighted to be awarded a Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce Business Excellence Award in the category of Non-Profit Community Service. We are grateful to our 1,450 members for their passion and enthusiasm for our organization, and the more than 45,000 visitors who come through our doors annually for their patronage. Because of the diverse audiences and community interests we serve, NCTS now employs 21 people in Nelson in a wide variety of program, service and administrative roles. It has been a remarkable and successful year.

We have also seen considerable forward movement in our capital campaign, receiving a $1 million line of credit from the City of Nelson towards our project, making us eligible to apply for larger funding, currently pending. The BC Rural Dividend Fund awarded us $336,000 towards the development of our architectural plans and our work to develop the regional screen-based industry — a project that is working towards effecting positive and reverberating economic growth across the Kootenays.

While our cash flow ebbs and flows over the course of the year, we are, in fact, a thriving nonprofit organization with a diverse and enviable funding model. We need a little help as we move into the next phase of our existence, but our strategies are careful and calculated, with a goal of seeing our venue stay open for many, many years to come, while presenting diverse, compelling and engaging content for the diverse audiences we serve.

If you would like to help us Spread the Light, please visit civictheatre.ca/donate to make a tax-deductible gift to NCTS. Please also consider starting or renewing your membership.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker starts Friday. We look forward to seeing you at the movies!

Eleanor Stacey is the executive director of the Nelson Civic Theatre Society.

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