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Funding for Ontario’s not-for-profit cultural organizations comes from three main sources:

  • government grants (federal, provincial, municipal) that may support annual operations, special projects and/or capital (building and renovations)
  • earned income (admissions, membership, merchandise, gift shops)
  • philanthropy (gifts from individuals, organizations, clubs, businesses) or sponsorship (corporations and businesses)

Typical operating budget items include salaries and benefits, rent, property maintenance, program costs, insurance, advertising and marketing, IT and office supplies, auditor and legal costs. In order to secure operating grants, cultural organizations often need to meet many of the following grant application requirements :

  • Have core operating budgets in place
  • Have yearly audited financial statements prepared by chartered accountants. Often the costs for an audit are prohibitive for many organizations
  • Be able to provide matching funds to the grant amount
  • Employ professional staff (curator or arts administrator)
  • Meet industry standards for storage of collections

The majority of the cultural organizations in the City of Kawartha Lakes do not meet these criteria and are therefore ineligible for operating grants. Some cultural organizations may be eligible for time-limited and specific project grants.   Project grants create the following challenges:

  • Limited staff and volunteers often don’t have the skillset to compose increasingly intensive grant applications
  • There is a high level of competition to secure grants
  • Project grants to not cover operational costs
  • Staff are in place only for the life of the project
  • If no grants are in place, there is no staff and no program
  • Heavy reliance on summer student funding (Canada Summer Jobs, Young Canada Works) to hire students to do programming, tours, events, and daily activities to keep their organizations open to the public, while organizations struggle to keep operating and to provide adequate supervision
  • Many exceptional local projects have been developed and run on grants; once the funding ends, the project shuts down.   Not only is there the termination of valuable projects, but there is no continuity of operations and profile for the cultural organization, and it causes undue pressure on the rest of the staff (if there are any) and the volunteer board  
  • Project funding does not create sustainability

A current example of project funding coming to an end is the Ontario Trillium Foundation grant of $64,000 awarded to the Kawartha Lakes Arts Council and the Heritage Network in October 2017 to hire the first Program Coordinator for the new City of Kawartha Lakes Arts & Heritage Trail.  

With this dedicated staff person, membership on the Trail has grown from 22 to 50 in ten months, members  have connected with one another and learned more about the geographic and cultural ranges within our region, have received professional training in data collection, marketing, working with the media, programming and experiential tourism.  The Arts & Heritage Trail provides great profile for the City of Kawartha Lakes, and is enjoyed by residents and tourists. It is a tangible example of cultural tourism and economic development. The Trail has garnered the attention of regions outside of Canada who wish to follow the City’s example.

It needs to be sustained, grown and invested in otherwise it will result in:

  • Limited communication among current members
  • No recruitment of new members or destinations
  • Limited promotion of destinations on the Trail
  • No seeking out of opportunities for the further development of the Trail

Philanthropy and sponsorship are also potential sources of funding.  To be successful, organizations need to have the capacity – staff and leadership volunteers - experienced in developing long term relationships with donors, businesses and foundations.   Dedicated staff are required who understand donor cultivation and stewardship, proposal writing, donor and sponsor recognition programs, how to evaluate programs and write impact reports, tax receipting and other laws related to charities. 


    In 2014, the estimated direct economic impact of cultural industries in Canada was $61.7 billion. This impact is greater than that of other sectors such as agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting ($29 billion); accommodation and food services ($38 billion); and utilities ($43 billion).

    Desjardins, E. (2016). Provincial and Territorial Culture Indicators, 2010 to 2014. Statistics Canada.

    In 2011, each dollar that the Canada Council for the Arts invested through operating grants for Ontario arts organizations leveraged $17.16 in total revenue.

    Canada Council for the Arts. (2013). Canada Council for the Arts Funding to Artists and Arts Organizations in Ontario, 2011-12: National Overview. Ottawa, ON: Research and Evaluation Section

    According to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, “arts, culture and heritage improve the ability of municipal governments to influence local economic development by attracting and retaining a skilled and talented workforce.”

    Policy Statement on Social-Economic Development, Federation of Canadian Municipalities, March 2016.


    22 heritage destinations

    (museums, historic places, natural heritage landscapes)

    28 arts destinations

    (galleries, atudios, artisan and craft shops, theatre, performance, culinary culture)



    Our cultural organizations need basic core funding to hire and maintain staff who, in turn, can leverage other funding sources, create collaborative programming and share resources across the sector. Our municipality needs to make further investments as our partner and assist eligible cultural organizations with core operational funding support.

    On September 18, 2018 the Kawartha Lakes Arts Council and the Kawartha Lakes Heritage Network will present to Council recommendations for the following:

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    2019 Budget  - expand on the current funding model that is in place for Maryboro Lodge/Fenelon Museum to include similar funding for comparable cultural organizations using eligibility criteria developed by the Steering Committee noted below 

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    Municipal Leadership - to increase the number of City cultural staff positions in Economic Development from one position to the following:

    • Senior Leader, Culture
    • Heritage Planner – currently proposed by Development Services
    • Cultural Organizations & Arts & Heritage Trail Programmer
    • Administrative Assistant – to be shared with Kawartha Lakes Arts Council and Kawartha Lakes Heritage Network
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    Steering Committee -  to meet immediate needs in the cultural sector (including develop funding eligibility criteria for core funding) and develop the first Municipal Cultural Plan:

    • Senior Leader, Culture
    • Heritage Planner
    • The Cultural Organizations & Arts & Heritage Trail Programmer
    • City Councillors (number to be determined)
    • Members from the Arts Council/Heritage Network’s Cultural Centre Committee
    • Shared administrative assistant
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    New Cultural Centre - in the next six months, the City, the Cultural Centre Committee (a joint committee of Kawartha Lakes Arts Council and Kawartha Lakes Heritage Network), and other potential partners create the RFP and fund the feasibility study study for a future Community Cultural Centre/Community Complex



    Please check out the following excerpts from, Environmental Scan of the Culture Sector Ontario Culture Strategy Background Document Prepared for the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport by Communications MDR April 2016

    4.1.3 Social and Economic Benefits of the Arts
    The arts have inherent value and make valuable contributions to the quality of life in Ontario’s communities. They widen individual perspectives, give voice to points of view and aspirations, stimulate curiosity, and bind people together in shared experiences. The arts are increasingly recognized as an important factor in wellness. For youth, there is a demonstrated link between the arts and improved education outcomes.

    For example, music education contributes to the development of hard skills such as math, logic, and cognitive processing. Arts education programs have been shown to build skills in critical inquiry and lateral thinking. Artists and arts organizations offer arts education programs for learners of all ages and engage in outreach activities in their communities. Arts in learning environments is associated with a wide range of social benefits, such as increased self-esteem, resiliency, and enhanced discovery skills. Youth engagement in the arts has been demonstrated to promote social relationship skills. The arts are also important to Ontario’s economic health, contributing $936 million to GDP and creating 24,786 jobs in 2010.


    Ontario alone is home to more than 58,000 professional artists.

    Ontario Arts Council. (2014). Vital Arts and Public Value: A Blueprint for 2014-2020.

    79% of Ontarians believe that the government should spend public dollars to support the arts.

    88% of Ontarians believe that if their community lost its arts activities, people living there would lose something of value.

    Impressions of the Impact of the Arts on Quality of Life and Well-Being in Ontario: Ontario Arts Council Survey Findings, by Nanos Research for the Ontario Arts Council, March 2017.

    4.2. Key Trends
    4.2.1 Evolving Demographics and Arts Practices

    Ontario’s demographic trends are mirrored in a blossoming of diverse art forms, activities, and services. Studies have linked cultural diversity amongst artists to the development of hybrid artistic practices that combine traditional and contemporary art forms, particularly by artists trained in both traditional and contemporary practices. This evolving arts scene brings opportunities for greater engagement by diverse Ontario audiences, along with the challenge of accommodating new artists and art forms within the existing physical and fiscal environments. In the past two decades, “Deaf and disability arts” has gained recognition in Canada as an emerging field of practice. Key concerns for these artists are access to funding, access to training, and access to physical resources such as training institutions, performing arts venues, and art galleries.

    The Ontario Art Council’s latest strategic plan designates Deaf artists and artists with disabilities as a priority group and has established distinct programs and services addressing their needs. Responding to an aging population, collaborations are forming to place the arts in settings concerned with healthy aging.

    The Ontario Trillium Foundation supports a number of community-based projects that engage seniors in arts and cultural activities. Projects are built on the themes of Active People, Connected People, and Inspired People. Some other jurisdictions have added arts programs for seniors to their program offerings (e.g., Vancouver’s Healthy Aging Through the Arts project). The challenge is to ensure that the artists have appropriate supports through collaboration with health and elder-care professionals. The Vancouver program, now expanded to other parts of British Columbia, matches professional artists with people working in the seniors’ services field.

    Artists, especially young artists, are increasingly interested in working with other sectors such as environment, justice, or human rights. Collaborations between artists, the scientific community, and cultural industries can drive innovation in artistic expression, creative tools, and products.

    In Ontario, the Adjacent Possibilities in art+energy project of the Studio Y fellowship program of MaRS (a registered charity) is bringing artists and energy entrepreneurs together to reframe how climate change is considered. Some First Nations, Métis or Inuit artists are experimenting with and developing hybrid Indigenous art forms that bring together traditional worldviews with contemporary art practices. Many jurisdictions have developed policies and funding structures to encourage Indigenous arts. The Ontario Arts Council has an Aboriginal Arts Office with dedicated staff and programs.

    To read the full document: