The OAF Blog

Recovering from the pandemic

February 17, 2021


Hard to believe, we can actually turn our thoughts to these four words…..”Recovering from the pandemic”.

The environment for arts and culture remains grim and cloudy, the level of federal support through income support programs has allowed many arts organizations to sustain their core operations and keep key staff with them. Often that means people are multi-tasking in their jobs, but I’ve learned that goes with the trade – arts managers typically do a little of everything. It has allowed the sector to pause and think – how will we return to performing – be it virtual, be it outdoors and importantly how will it look when performance venues can re-open. There is a strong role for provincial arts and culture support to take shape, and we hope the government will do this in the next year.

I came across an interesting post from Ludwig van Toronto – “ How Do We Help Cultural Industries Recover From the Pandemic?”  It is a short but inspiring read, on some of the positive thinking going on, and how arts and culture are actively re-imagining their world. We will continue to monitor the sector, what’s happening at government levels and maintain dialogue with arts organizations – partnering, sharing current ‘best practices’ is more important than ever.




Insights for Building Resilience in our Social Sector

January 07, 2021


Navigating uncertainty: Building resilience in Canada’s social sector is a short but well set out article from Price Waterhouse Coopers setting out key insights on how leaders of not for profit (arts ) organizations and their Boards can focus on.

Capacity - In what ways can the social sector adapt to meet new needs under changing conditions ?

Structure - How can the social sector refresh business models and rethink strategic plans to better prepare for the long term?

People - How can upskilling opportunities help motivate, connect and prepare social sector leaders for the future of work ?

The insights can be helpful, particularly for Boards in suggesting NFP organizations look both at responding to immediate impacts of the pandemic to a longer term view that supports sustainability and organizations having the skills to adapt programming, operations to new ways of working. The article concludes with a checklist for boards and management teams to help prepare for the future.

  • Shifting the Mindset
  • Empowering learning for the long term
  • Aligning support to help future-fit the sector




The Role of an Endowment in COVID-19 Times

June 04, 2020


As arts organizations seek to manage the financial challenges they face during the current pandemic, the place an endowment holds in their financial picture is gaining attention.


Long-Term Asset
Foundations are being called upon to use endowments ‘more actively’, and provide much needed cash flow and income to their beneficiary organizations. It has long been a successful model that an endowment be considered as a long term asset.  The stability of a stable, recurring annual income is important to an organization’s day to day operations and financial planning. The perspective of long term investing, disbursing a portion of annual returns ( generally 3 to 5%), allows a fund to grow over time, protect that annual income against inflation and provide for increased cash flow over time. It is a model that serves the arts community through the Ontario Arts Foundation well.


Source of Additional Income
The Ontario Arts Foundation has tried to address this by recognizing the need for financial support (which is now), and deciding to pay out additional income to our arts organizations in addition to the annual payout. The Board felt comfortable that the positive growth in endowment portfolio’s over time, leaves the foundation with the ability to increase current support, be confident that we can continue our pattern of stable income over time, and continue to carefully grow for the long term. That translated in May to an additional $1.0 million dollars in operating support for Ontario arts organizations.


Different Endowment Use Perspectives
For a U.S. perspective, this New York Times article shows how U.S. cultural organizations are considering the use of endowment assets more broadly, more creatively in response to current needs.

In Canada, a group of Foundations, through Give5.ca, are encouraging funders in 2020 to increase the level of endowment giving to 5% of assets – traditionally the high end of range of annual payouts. The sector recognizes, that endowments have a strong role for the long-term, but can be adaptable and accessible when shorter-term needs become paramount.  


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