Soaring: A Transformational Campaign
by David Macdonald, Chair, Soaring Campaign
May 10, 2019
In June 2005, nearly 14 years ago, I was sitting in a meeting of The National Ballet of Canada Board of Directors at the Walter Carsen Centre when it was announced that Karen Kain would be appointed as the company's next Artistic Director. All the members burst into applause. Karen was humbled but needn’t have been – her extraordinary career as a dancer, an arts advocate, a Canadian icon with a celebrated international reputation, a fundraiser, coach, role model and vital part of the National Ballet’s organization made her the ideal candidate for the job. We all recognized Karen’s incredible potential to shape the next era of excellence, not only for the company but for the art form as well.
Board Member Nancy Pencer was so moved by the announcement that she decided to make a gift in Karen’s honour immediately, and most of the other members followed suit. These donations were the first to support Karen and her goals for the company.
Karen soon outlined her vision for the National Ballet: to be one of the top five companies in the world. She wanted a company of the best dancers, repertoire created by top choreographers and opportunities to showcase all of this talent on the world stage. The National Ballet would again have an international influence in ballet.
The following year, in 2006, the federal government eliminated taxes on capital gains of stocks and securities donated to charities. Donald Johnson, a former board member and the Chair of the Bold Steps Campaign (that secured the necessary funding for the National Ballet's home at The Walter Carsen Centre), had been lobbying for this change for years. As a result of the change, Jerry and Joan Lozinski stepped forward with a $1 million gift, taking advantage of the tax benefits and supporting an arts organization they loved. Sandra and Jim Pitblado, and Kevin and Roger Garland soon joined them.
Finances are relatively easy to talk about – they are quantifiable. More difficult to quantify but eminently more powerful is the incredible passion that these and other donors have for the National Ballet. The art of ballet, and the National Ballet in particular, inspire us in different ways – be it the dancers, the athleticism, artistry, music, spectacle, emotions, or a combination of everything. What this passion and inspiration mean for the National Ballet is a donor community fully invested in seeing the company succeed.
We were inspired by Karen’s bold vision and the results we soon began to see when she put that vision into action during her first few seasons. Fuelled by her success, donors witnessed the impact of gifts: attracting, promoting and retaining dancers, bringing in international teachers, coaches and choreographers, creating exciting new works and taking the company on tour to share our accomplishments with the world.
We began formulating plans for a campaign that would harness the energy of the company and the interest of audiences and donors. Initially we focused our efforts on growing The Endowment Foundation to provide security for the National Ballet, not only in the present but for generations to come. But as the company went from success to success and its horizons broadened so too did the campaign. It blossomed into efforts to raise money for five strategic priorities: artistic excellence, new productions, touring, community engagement and The Endowment Foundation. To support these areas and fully realize Karen’s dreams, we talked about a goal of $40 million, then $60, perhaps $75. Could we stretch for $90 million? We settled on an even more ambitious number: $100 million, the largest fundraising campaign, by far, in the National Ballet’s history.
To date we have seen strong results from the campaign. We now have incredible new productions to engage audiences at home and distinguish us internationally and the company has been invited to perform in the world’s most prominent dance centres. A total of $42 million has been invested within The Endowment Foundation, helping enormously to provide a stable and secure income for the National Ballet to continue investing in creativity and excellence.
Through the superb work of the Soaring Campaign Cabinet, and especially the leadership of Honourary Co-Chairs Jim and Sandra Pitblado, along with the immense generosity of thousands of donors, we have raised an incredible $98 million toward the historic goal.
To help us reach the finish line before June 30, Jerry and Joan Lozinski have stepped forward once again with a pledge to match up to $1 million in new gifts. Their dedication, which initiated this campaign in the first place, will now help bring it to a close.
In the end, we will have inspired tremendous support for Karen and her vision. The National Ballet is truly soaring, propelled to the absolute forefront of dance, fuelled by the passion and pride of an extraordinary community of support.
Thank you to the many donors who have given to the Soaring Campaign so far. If you have yet to make a gift, please join us in this historic and transformational campaign.