Foundations and the Pandemic – We Can Still Breathe!

The Opera Endowment Fund has sustained the arts and provided stability in tumultuous times

In these two years of the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the important medical devices has been the ventilator. It’s a vital part of the fight against COVID.

In a similar way, Edmonton Opera has found its Opera Endowment Fund at Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) to be an important factor in the fight to keep the company alive and well. Our endowment fund is helping us to breathe as we continue to fight our way through these COVID times.

Breathing isn’t the only important factor in a company’s ability to stay alive, but it gives us more strength to work our way through COVID and into what will be, in many ways, a world changed forever — in life and in the arts.

Company of Edmonton Opera’s La Traviata, 2018 (Photo by Nanc Price)

In the 1980s, John and Barbara Poole, two of the great visionaries of our community, started something magical. Their magic powers matched their generous nature and allowed them to look into the future. There, they saw the success of endowment funds for non-profit professional arts organizations, like Edmonton Opera.

They knew these funds would provide the professional arts organizations greater stability, and allow confident planning and artistic flexibility — for decades and centuries into the future.

So, our magical visionaries co-founded ECF by establishing endowments. Their vision was expanded by a federal fund from Canada Culture (now Canadian Heritage), which matches donation dollars each year to help grow endowment funds of numerous professional arts organizations, including Edmonton Opera.

Edmonton Opera’s capital endowment fund gives a greater capacity to operate and realize its art by supporting long-term sustainability. Donations made to the endowment fund are designated as restricted capital to be held permanently and provide extra annual income for the Opera, long-term. This extra funding gives Edmonton Opera a springboard from which to launch world-class productions that would otherwise be beyond our reach.

Edmonton Opera’s The Marriage of Figaro, 2020 (Photos by Nanc Price)

Edmonton Opera’s endowment funds are held and invested by ECF. Income from ECF’s investments is distributed annually for working capital. Currently, ECF disburses four per cent of the capital each year to the Opera. The balance of the annual return on ECF’s investment is added to the capital itself as inflation protection and capital growth.

Edmonton Opera has a general endowment fund at ECF as well as a growing number of named funds all under one umbrella. Over the years, Edmonton Opera has welcomed more generous visionaries, led by Dianne and Irving Kipnes, Bill and Paulette Winter, and Jim and Sharon Brown. Edmonton Opera welcomes a growing number of family and memorial funds, as well as returning and new donors, who join us each year to show their belief in the future of Opera and add their support.

Thank you to all our donors over the last 30 years and to ECF for your saving help now, as we excitedly prepare for our return to sharing Opera with our friends, patrons, artists, chorus, workers and community … in our new world.

This story comes from the Winter 2021 edition of Legacy in Action. Browse the full magazine here.