Dear members and friends of the Comhaltas Ottawa Branch,
I am writing to you about our exciting Trivia Night (4 February), and to share concerns on the financial status of the branch.
We have organized an Irish Trivia Night, as a fundraiser, that was held Thursday, 4 February, at Patty Boland’s in the Byward Market, 101 Clarence St., starting at 7PM. It was only $10 per person to enter, and teams of up to 4 were allowed. It was a great time and a fun way to test your knowledge of Irish history, geography, music, dance, literature and sport.
Finances - background
Trivia nights are a necessary fundraiser for us because over the last several years the chipping away of revenues due to a decrease in attendance at monthly activities, and increases in costs, are taking their toll on the branch. While the situation is not yet dire, it is nonetheless serious and of concern to Executive. If you wish to understand the financial strain in more detail, read on.
Costs: In 2013 rental fees at Blessed Sacrament increased from $100 to $150 per use. This translates to monthly costs ranging from $400 to as much as $900. Yet, less than 20% of the money taken in for Irish language and dance instructions fees is kept as Branch revenues. In 2013, our financial obligation to the Provincial level of Comhaltas increased. Within the last year our Treasurer, Gord McFee, undertook an analysis of the fees which the branch sends to the Region for further distribution up the chain. We were rudely reminded that approximately 80% of the membership fee is sent from the branch. This means our branch exports, approximately, the rather significant sum of $1,500 to the higher levels of CCE, annually. It is understood that these contributions are used to mainly publish and distribute the Treoir magazine (3 issues per year, now, and it is now available online), and to send delegates to Provincial meetings, and meetings in Ireland. A lively discussion on this very topic took place at the recent Canadian Eastern Region Comhaltas AGM held in Kingston. A motion was passed, asking the Provincial executive to precisely describe what these large branch contributions are used for. We hope to have an answer by the time of the Convention (St. Louis, March 31 - April 3).
Revenues: Over the past several years our revenues have fallen off. Branch membership has slowly dwindled, lowering income from memberships. Sometimes people simply forget to renew. If you know former CCE members, why not ask if they are still members, and encourage them to join. Commensurately, céilí attendance has dwindled, though a steady number of people still attend (30-40) each month, many are non-members, and many are students ($5 entry). The cash bar at céilís just breaks even. It is good that people are not using the bar for over indulgence, yet while we continue to provide this service to céilí guests, it generates no revenue to speak of.
We live in a busy world with many demands on people’s personal time. Numbers attending Monday night set dance classes have tended to be low, while numbers attending Irish language classes have tended to be higher. Nonetheless, holding classes incur a weekly rental cost, plus instructor fees.
For some years, the March St. Patrick’s Céilí provided good returns on tickets sold at the door and at the bar, but despite these events being resounding successes and a lot of fun, numbers have fallen off. Attendance peaked at over 150 three years ago, but we barely had 100 last year. At that level, a catered céilí is not profitable, and we are reluctant to raise ticket prices.
All of these costs, fees, and decreases of income have exerted pressure on the Executive to look seriously at the future of the branch and its activities. We are fundamentally a volunteer run organization which is paramount to survival. The number and frequency of events will be looked at, adjustments to payments and honoraria are necessary, and scaling back the traditionally large March céilí is now under serious consideration. Your thoughts and suggestions will be actively sought by telephone or email in order to engage you in the future of our branch and its activities. If you wish to discuss any of this with me, please email Acting Chair. We might even go for a tea, coffee, or a pint?
Our elected Chairperson, Sheila Scott, has been off work on sick leave since Thanksgiving. She has been unable to call céilís, teach dance classes, or attend meetings on a regular basis. For this reason, with Sheila’s blessing, my position has changed to Acting Chair, formerly Vice Chair. It is uncertain when she will be able to return to her normal duties. Please keep our dear friend, Sheila, in your daily thoughts.
Acting Chair | Cathaoirleach Sealadach