THE SECRETARIAT AND FINANCES OF CERTAIN CANADIAN VOLUNTARY ORGANIZATIONS*
The difficulties confronting many Canadian voluntary organizations were discussed in a letter dated November 6, 1950, from Professor Hunter Lewis, President of the Federation of Canadian Artists; the letter reads, in part, as follows:
". . . Before replying to your questions, I should like to confirm, at least for the Federation of Canadian Artists, the impression which you say the Royal Commission has formed, namely, 'that many voluntary organizations are performing work of national importance with relatively restricted financial resources'.
This impression is distressingly true of our national organization. The question of paying a part-time secretary evokes the notorious Scylla and Charybdis. Without payment, it is both unjust to ask anyone, and, ordinarily, impossible to get anyone to perform the arduous duties that are required of a secretary. But when we pay for a secretary we have not sufficient funds for paper, printing and so on to perform the organizational and contact work, or to carry out the services for which a secretary is needed.
Last year the National Conference of the Federation of Canadian Artists decided to engage a part-time secretary. In consequence the National Executive finds itself this year in the position I have just described. To be exact, our position is worse than I have described, for we have voluntarily made more than usually heavy financial commitments. We felt last year that the appointment of the Royal Commission was an event of such historic, national
importance that we were duty bound to expend ourselves fully in any way that would help to make its hearings fruitful.
To that end, as you know, we undertook to stimulate across Canada the preparation of briefs both by our own regional and local branches and by all other appropriate organizations that we could reach. Even amongst organizations that were not likely to write briefs we spread information about the nature of the Royal Commission and encouraged study and discussion of our cultural needs and the situation of cultural activities in Canada.
The method we adopted was to send out five hundred mimeograph copies of the terms of reference of the Royal Commission, of our national brief, and of a letter to the recipients urging them to study our brief and the questions involved, and to submit briefs, or endorse some brief,--either some local one or our own. We distributed this material freely across Canada to (a) newspapers, (b) free-lance writers, (c) organizations for their own use, and (d) to organizations that we knew, for distribution to ones with which we were unacquainted. Although we are satisfied that this effort was one, both that we should make, and that was worth making, it has had seriously restricting effects on our subsequent activity; for it cost us over $350.00 which we have been compelled to advance and borrow.
I mention this particular work here, not to call attention to it, in itself; but as an example of the kind of thing that the Federation could and should do, but is ordinarily prevented from doing by its restricted finances. For though, in this case, the present national executive actually did perform this work which it wished to do, it would not have felt justified, as an executive, in performing it at the price of violating its financial boundaries, had not the National Conference, in May, 1949, declared in favor of doing everything possible in this direction. And even with the executive's knowledge that its action is thus approved in principle by the conference, it still might very understandingly have refrained on grounds of cost; and it still has the responsibility of facing hampering financial difficulties it has created for itself.
The following information under symbols (a), (b), and (c) will answer your specific enquiries, and may be published if you consider it desirable to do so.
(a) The Federation of Canadian Artists was founded at a national conference in Kingston, Ontario, in 1941.
(b) The income of the National Headquarters of the F.C.A. this year (Sept. 1949-Sept. 1950) has been $500.00. (Last year Mar. 1948-Mar. 1949) it was $660.00. Average for two years: $580.00.
The income of the National Headquarters is derived wholly from a fixed sum assigned to the National office from the fees paid by each Artist member and each Associate (layman) member.
All members of the Federation of Canadian Artists are members of regional or local branches whose basic membership fee is $4.00. Of this fee $1.00 is assigned to a subscription of Canadian Art, to whose support the Federation has committed itself; and $1.00 is assigned to National Headquarters.
The revenue noted under Sec. (b) does not, however, by any means indicate our total membership; for we have two kinds of members from whom the National Headquarters derives no income, namely, Student members and the members of affiliated organizations. These two classes of members represent a total that approximates the total of the Artist and Associate members who do contribute to the National Headquarters revenue.
In an effort to make membership in the Federation available to students and other artists who cannot afford high fees, and to small and not very firmly established groups in more or less rural towns, the Federation set up a scale of fees and assigned percentages that is altruistic but not economically sound, and that has to be revised upward if the F.C.A. is to survive as a national organization. Unfortunately this necessity comes at a time when financial and economic conditions have resulted in a decline in membership.
(c) For the second time, and after an interval of several years, the F.C.A. has undertaken to pay its secretary a small annual honorarium. It has also provided $200.00 a year for stenographic assistance. The total of these amounts is in no way commensurate with the secretarial work that we receive. If our arrangement with our secretary had been made on a business basis, rather than on one involving her personal devotion to the aims of the Federation, we should have had to pay from two to three times what we do. And if our general financial position would permit us to carry out the projects we have as objectives, we should have, as a minimum, fulltime work for an executive-secretary. When this was done the F.C.A. was on a curve of increasing membership. The collapse of this curve has left us in the financial straits that I mention elsewhere in this letter.
To further clarify the picture of our financial situation -- and, I am sure, that of other voluntary national organizations of a similar nature -- I must add that in addition to the outlay of $350.00 for the brief we have, of course, been at considerable expense for such routine matters as mimeographing, printing, stationery, postage and so on; and that if we could have done more of the organizational and other kinds of work that require such outlays our organization would have profited by it.
In addition, we are confronted by the very important problem of holding next spring our constitutionally required National Conference. Originally, this conference was held annually, as it is still desirable that it should be; for I believe that such meetings are of the greatest importance in developing enthusiasm, and in promoting mutual understanding and co-operation between members and branches that are far removed from one another. Because, however, of the expense involved in travelling great distances, the conference has now been made biennial. But even yet, and in spite of a general recognition of the importance of these conferences, experience has shown us that unless we build up a fairly large travel-assistance fund, there will be few if any delegates from the more remote parts of the country--in this case from the East. Last year we held in Montreal a conference that was particularly stimulating because it was an unusually representative one. But all delegates who came from points west of Ontario (and I do not know how many from closer points) were enabled to come only by virtue of a travel-assistance fund. To build up such a fund from our ordinary revenue is impossible, and by its nature it is a difficult one for which to request donations. Last year's fund was, I believe, the unexpected gift of a single perceptive but anonymous donor. But gifts of that kind (of from $500.00 to $1,000.00) are not things that any organization can count upon; and it is most unfortunate that meetings as vital as annual conferences should be dependent upon them. As things stand at present anything that we spend above five or six hundred dollars has to be donated by individual officers, members or friends of the federation. And there is nothing for which it is more difficult to secure funds than the unspectacular business of maintaining an organization."
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* From: Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters, and Sciences. Report. Ottawa : King's Printer, 1951. By permission of the Privy Council Office.