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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From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group