The OAF Blog

2015 Federal Budget Measures Affecting Charities

May 04, 2015

A measure Canadian charities have long lobbied for was recognized in the 2015 Federal Budget announcement on April 21st. An exemption from capital gains tax will be available to certain disposition/sale of shares of private corporations and real estate. It will apply to dispositions made after 2016 and the tax exemption will apply to:

  • The cash received from the disposition of shares of a private corporation or real estate where the proceeds are donated to a qualified charitable donee within 30 days of the sale transaction and the shares or property are sold to a buyer who deals at arms length with both donor and qualified charitable donee

  • The amount of the capital gain to be exempt from tax will be based by reference to the proportion of the cash donated to the total proceeds of sale ( i.e. not all of the proceeds are donated to the charity )

This has long been sought for by Canada’s large charities, but can benefit all charities where a donor wants to provide financial support, but a significant portion of their personal wealth is held within a private business.

Limited partnerships
A more ‘technical’ measure will now provide that a registered charity will not be considered to be carrying on business where it acquires or holds an interest in a limited partnership. This expands investment opportunities for charities, where the investment is intended to be a passive investment, and the charity does not hold more than 20% of the interests in the limited partnership, and the charity deals at arms length with the general partner.

Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program
A new program – the Canada 150 Community Infrastructure Program will provide funds to support the expansion and improvement of existing community infrastructure, which may provide towns and cities will resources to include cultural projects as well as those supporting tourism, sport and recreation. To help celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary, $210 million will be funded over 4 years to support community events to recognize this milestone in Canada’s history. This funding has been much awaited by the arts sector and hopefully details arising from the budget will make clear how the funding can be put to work. Funds will be invested over 4 years, starting with $24 million (nationally) in 2015.

As always, the devil will be in the details of the budget measures and how this will be implemented. Happily there were no new measures adding compliance requirements to be imposed on charities.



Getting Capital Right

April 02, 2015

Getting Capital Right: Six myths and Realities for Grantmakers Part 1 and Part 2
Two recent blog posts from
Associated Grant Makers, written from the perspective of a grantor/funder have insights relevant for Board members and arts leaders.

The articles resonated as recently the Department of Canadian Heritage announced the 2015 matching grants under the Endowment Incentives Component. This year, organizations who contributed to their endowments will receive matching grants of $ 0.97 for every dollar raised and contributed. This is extremely positive for those participating, but a high match also indicates that many organizations are choosing not to raise capital or endowment money. Given we all recognize the power of matching, it is a puzzle that more arts organizations in Ontario and Canada are not taking advantage of the opportunity.

Stable source of cash
While capital held in an endowment is ‘committed’, it does create stability in the production of cash income every year – a stable, reliable source not tied to a grant application process. The articles observe that most nonprofit organizations exist on one to two months of working capital.  A healthy and well capitalized organization will have both investments (endowment) as well as access to cash – to pay the bills, innovate/experiment, weather economic cycles and invest/innovate in new programs.

The articles encourage organizations to think about capital by asking – will the funding align with your organizations’ strategy and financial plan?  A business plan that supports operational stability and a capital plan that sets out goals for longer term saving and investment are two key criteria. Liquidity is of course important, but don’t overlook the opportunity to build your endowment - particularly in an environment where an active government matching program, such as Cdn. Heritage is in place.

Income with no strings attached
Every organization can, and should save, and try to manage costs in line with revenue realities. Any surplus provides you with breathing room to manage programs and take risks. One of the comments of the article, which resonated, was the reference to funders making gifts ‘with no strings attached at all’. This is one of the benefits of endowment income – it arrives each year and the organization makes the choices on how it will best be deployed.

Capital and capitalization of your organization are long term issues – your needs will evolve and change over time. Access to capital ( or the income on it ), be it from an operating reserve, or donor gifts – which are matched is critical to your long term success.



Arts Advocacy - 2015

February 23, 2015

For some time, the Ontario Arts Foundation has been quietly advocating on behalf of arts organizations for a renewal of the Province of Ontario Arts Endowment Fund matching program. This innovative program, which ran from 1998 to 2008 saw the Government of Ontario invest $60 million in matching funds for endowment. It was a compelling success story of a public/private partnership. In summary, 273 arts organizations in 75 communities across Ontario created endowments with the Foundation. As private funds were raised by an arts organization, and contributed to an endowment, the Foundation matched those contributions dollar for dollar. Since inception, the $60 million investment has grown ( through private funds raised and market appreciation ) to over $140 million. Since 1998, a cumulative $55 million in income has been disbursed, which represents an over 90% return on the provincial investment. Very few initiatives can demonstrate a similar, sustained  long term return.

Long-term giving
With funding for the arts being either static or reduced, we believe matching programs are a powerful stimulus to focus private donors on long term endowment giving. The income from these endowment programs is unrestricted – the arts organization can deploy the annual income in any way that best meets the needs of the organization – annual operations, arts scholarship, arts education in the community.


AEF Objectives
The objectives of the Arts Endowment Fund program are to:

  • Increase self-generated revenue and be a stable source of long term income
  • Foster artistic excellence and engagement in the arts by people living in Ontario
  • Enhance an arts organizations’ ability to create employment and contribute to Ontario’s economy


Ontario Ministry of Finance - Budget Submission
In addition to regularly meeting with staff at the Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport to sustain awareness about the program’s success and promote it, we also recently made a Budget Submission to Ontario’s Ministry of Finance promoting inclusion of renewal in the 2015 budget. We recognize that the government is very focused on addressing Ontario’s fiscal situation, but firmly believe one of our role’s is to promote this source of funding for the arts at all levels of government.

You can read the submission here.


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