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Writers fest seeking larger endowment

Writers fest seeking larger endowment

At the end of its 35th year, having grown into one of Canada’s most successful literary festivals, the Sunshine Coast Festival of the Written Arts has launched a “Literacy for a Lifetime” campaign to create a $1 million endowment to sustain its operations.

The Society already has three endowments with the Sunshine Coast Community Foundation: the Lynn Pakulak Endowment, Marie Steel Memorial Endowment, and a general endowment that was set up on the festival’s 30th anniversary. The goal is to grow this quarter million in funds to a full million. Since the festival qualifies for matching funding through the Endowment Incentives Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage, they hope they can reach their goal by raising $375,000 locally.

A larger endowment would generate about $40,000 per year in core funding to support the festival’s operations. At present they have one paid full time employee (festival director Jane Davidson), a ten-member volunteer board, and about 175 other volunteers who make the festival possible.

“One of the things we’re trying to build awareness of is that we’re not a single event organization,” said board president Jean Bennett. For the last 10 years the society has been running the Celebration of Authors, Books in the Community (CABC), which takes authors into local schools.

Approximately 1,000 local studentsfrom K to 12 participate annually. And CABC has also published seven issues of Coastal Voices, an annual anthology of work by students.

“We receive no regular ongoing funding to deliver CABC. The school district puts some money in but the majority of the money is money that we raise,” said Bennett. “And yet that is such an important program. That early exposure to writers is so powerful for kids.”

The festival board has also considered contingencies. “If anything ever happened for some reason that the festival did cease to exist, then we’ve set up our endowment so it would remain in the community to fund other literacy initiatives,” said Bennett.

She said they have a deep commitment to literacy because it is not just about reading and writing, but “about how we engage with the world around us.”

The festival’s current annual budget of $220,000 is funded 50 per cent by earned revenues (ticket sales and sponsorships), 30 per cent by government grants and 20 per cent by donations and other initiatives. The Festival owns its building, which is on land provided by the District of Sechelt at no cost.

Bennett said they already received their first donations at this year’s festival, but she does not want to venture a guess as to how long it will take to raise $1 million.

“We will carry on until we get there,” she said.

Donna McMahon

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