Creative Trust pools fundraising resources

There's strength in numbers. That, put succinctly, is the rationale behind the formation of The Creative Trust - an alliance of some 23 mid-sized dance, theatre and music companies across the province of Ontario, which banded together last fall with the...

There’s strength in numbers. That, put succinctly, is the rationale behind the formation of The Creative Trust – an alliance of some 23 mid-sized dance, theatre and music companies across the province of Ontario, which banded together last fall with the goal of raising $2.5 million in corporate support.

Scaring up sponsorship dollars in this day and age is a struggle even for large cultural organizations, like the National Ballet of Canada or the Canadian Stage Company, that have highly placed corporate board members and fully staffed marketing and development departments. But it’s particularly challenging for smaller companies, says Catherine Smalley, co-ordinator of The Creative Trust.

The reason? In a word, resources. A typical mid-sized arts organization, Smalley says, may have just one staff member responsible for all fundraising activities.

So when the Ontario government announced, in 1998, the creation of its Arts Endowment Fund, which will match whatever donations the province’s arts organizations can raise by Sept. 30 of this year, mid-sized outfits realized that they needed a creative solution.

‘Large organizations already have endowment funds and hold fundraisers all the time,’ Smalley says. ‘And for the smaller – tiny – organizations, the government made certain special provisions. But that large group in the middle, the mid-sized organizations, were stymied. They could see what a great opportunity this was, but they didn’t know how to take advantage of it.’

A core group of about 12 arts organizations came up with The Creative Trust model, Smalley says, and then invited similarly sized groups to join, setting $2.5 million as their fundraising target. Members include Toronto Dance Theatre, Tafelmusik, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre, Opera Atelier and Tarragon Theatre.

As far as she’s aware, Smalley says, an alliance of this nature has never been attempted before in Canada – at least, not in the arts.

Since its establishment in mid-November, The Creative Trust has been canvassing a ‘hit list’ of companies and associations. (By agreement, none of the organizations on this list will be approached again by an individual Creative Trust member for at least three years.)

One of the fringe benefits of the alliance, Smalley says, is that those members with more experience at drumming up financial support can provide help and advice to those less well-versed this area.

Individual member organizations also have the opportunity to meet corporate sponsors and cultivate relationships with them ‘beyond what might happen as part of the Trust,’ she says.

In February, Toronto-based Jackson-Triggs Vintners became the first major corporate partner to lend support to The Creative Trust.

The winery, which is owned by Vincor International, donated $50,000 to the alliance, and launched a promotional effort aimed at raising another $10,000 through sales of Jackson-Triggs wine.

Jackson-Triggs has been involved previously in sponsorship of the arts, says Don Triggs, president and co-founder of the winery. But after a blockbuster 1999 – which included international awards and the decision to develop a new winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont. – the company was looking to get more aggressive in its image-building efforts.

‘We as an industry continue to build our own image and reputation, and I think creative arts have that same struggle,’ Triggs says. ‘That makes us interesting partners.’

In addition to Jackson-Triggs, supporters of the Creative Trust now include The Metcalfe Foundation, which has kicked in $200,000, as well as several yet-to-be-named sponsors.

Sponsorship benefits include signage and other standard forms of recognition, plus hosting opportunities, which enable corporate partners to see the quality of the work they are supporting, and entertain clients at performances.

While Creative Trust members originally had no intention of sticking together past the Sept. 30, 2000 deadline, Smalley says the organizations have already begun to consider future collaborations. It might, for example, be possible for alliance members to pursue collaborative marketing efforts in the tourism arena – something that most individual organizations would lack the resources to do on their own.

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Meat and plant-based sales are both strong at Maple Leaf

Both priority areas performed well in the company's full-year results, helped by a boost in marketing for new products.
Maples Leaf All Natural 4

Maple Leaf Foods reported higher Q4 and full-year 2020 sales, driven by its sustainable meats and plant-based proteins. 

The CPG co. reported quarterly sales of $1.13 billion, up from $1.02 billion for Q4 2019, as well as net earnings of $25.4 million, compared to $17.5 million for the same period the year prior (an increase of 45.2%).

For full fiscal 2020, the company reported a total increase of 9.2% in sales, driven by what it says is “strong growth in both the meat and plant protein groups.”

“We have repositioned our portfolio towards two high-growth categories now representing 20% of our annual sales generating a compounded growth rate in excess of 25% over the last three years,” says Michael McCain, the company’s president and CEO.

Meat protein group sales  comprised of prepared meats, ready-to-cook and ready-to-serve meals, snack kits, value-added fresh pork and poultry products that are sold to retail, foodservice and industrial channels, and agricultural operations  grew 11.3% for the quarter. 

Meanwhile, sales of plant protein products  refrigerated plant protein brands such as Lightlife and Field Roast, premium grain-based protein, and vegan cheese products sold to retail, foodservice and industrial channels  was up 5.5% over the same period. 

Sales growth for its meat portfolio was driven by “a favourable mix-shift towards sustainable meats and branded products,” but also growth in exports to Asian markets, and pricing actions implemented to mitigate inflation and other structural cost increases, according to the company. Strong demand in the retail channel was offset by lower volume in foodservice as a result of COVID-19.

For its plant-based offerings, sales for 2020 were $210.8 million compared to $176.4 million last year, representing a growth of 19.5%, or 18.1% after excluding the impacts of foreign exchange. The segment was driven by expanded distribution of new products, continued volume increases in its existing portfolio, and pricing actions implemented to mitigate inflation and other structural cost increases.

SG&A expenses totalled $144 million for the plant group alone in 2020, with investments focused on advertising, promotion and marketing to build awareness, as well as supporting brand renovation and new product innovation. SG&A for meat proteins were $346.6 million for the full year, and the company says it expects SG&A levels and marketing investment in 2021 to be largely in line with where they were in 2020.

The company, which in 2019 announced it had gone carbon neutral, says it’s amplifying this commitment while “focusing on eliminating waste in any resources it consumes, including food, energy, water, packaging, and time.”