Read about the Canada Council's new funding model here

In December, the Canada Council published their newly redesigned  funding model, with which they hope: more strategically support the creation and wide dissemination of excellent Canadian artworks, to more directly and efficiently support Canadian artists, and to more flexibly and effectively support the development of a diversity of high performing arts organizations.

A year ago, the council announced its plan to move away from its pre-existing model, one which was based around artistic discipline, and streamline its funding structure with a goal to more effectively serve grantees and the arts community. The new model is composed of six new programs:

  • Creating, Knowing, and Sharing: The Arts and Cultures of First Nations, Inuit and Métis Peoples
  • Explore and Create
  • Engage and Sustain
  • Supporting Artistic Practice
  • Arts Across Canada
  • Arts Abroad

You can access information about the six new programs, their objectives, candidate and entrance activity requirements, the maximum grant allowance, application deadlines and assessment criteria  here: and you can email the Canada Council at or call them at 613-566-4414, ext. 5060 if you have questions.

Canada Council developing new funding model

Staff Post
By Anna Mathew

The Canada Council for the Arts has just announced that it is "moving towards the implementation of a new suite of national, non-disciplinary programs", which will reduce the number of funding programs significantly. The Council indicates a number of motivations behind the changes, including increased flexibility and a lessened administrative burden on artists, arts administrators, and Council staff. The Council is working towards a 2017 implementation schedule, with specific plan announcements to be made in summer 2015. 

Read more about the Council's announcement on their website

Update: Read about the New Funding Model

Top 12 Tips for Setting Prices

Artists and arts organizations need to set prices for tangible goods (e.g. works of art, CDs, publications) and for services (e.g. admissions, registration fees). The considerations for goods vs. services are rather different – as are the circumstances of individuals and organizations.

These tips are offered from a very generic point of view. I have tried to make them applicable in a wide variety of situations. This may make them a challenge to apply specifically! I hope the examples will help to clarify how you might use these ideas to support your personal decision-making.

  1. There’s no recipe. Take heart if you feel uncertain about how you are going about setting your prices. My research turned up no ‘correct’ method, in the art world, the not-for-profit world as a whole, or in commercial business. There are, however, some useful guidelines.
  2. Take your time. Think of this as an iterative or recurring process. You’re going to draft a price list, sleep on it, run it past colleagues and friends, and revise it again before making a final decision.
  3. Three approaches. Here are three approaches that you might find useful. You can choose the one that works best for you, or you can consider all three, and decide after playing with the options

    A. Cost-based: Figure out your costs, and charge more than that.
    Price = your cost + mark-up
    – e.g. If I’m selling admissions to a concert, I could add up all of the costs, subtract grants and donations, and divide the net cost by my estimate of how many people will attend. Thus, if I expect to spend $12,500 and I have $7,500 in grants and donations, I need to raise $5,000 from ticket sales. If I anticipate that 200 people will attend, I need to charge each person $25. That gives me my break-even price. If I wanted to make a profit, I could then tack on a mark-up of so many dollars.

    Price = a multiple of your cost
    – e.g. Book publishers need to pay for editorial expenses, writer royalties, book production and promotion, as well as their own administration. They often base their book prices on the printing cost, by charging 5 or 6 times cost. So, if a certain book cost $8 to print, the publisher would look at a price between $40 and $48. Experience has shown that a multiple of 5 or 6 generally covers all of their expenses.

    B. Market-based: Charge what everyone else charges
    ‘Everyone else’ should include comparable artists/arts organizations as well as the other options your buyers might consider; for instance:

    – A performing arts organization might compare its prices to what its peers are charging – as well as to the cost of a movie ticket, the cover charge for a band, and other ‘night out’ options

    – A visual artist might look at what their buyers are considering. For instance, if the art in question is usually purchased for its decorative value, buyers may be deciding between buying a picture and another decorative object (e.g. fine craft, furniture, area carpet)

    C. Value-based: What’s it worth to you?
    This is how hotels and airlines do it – not to mention gas stations and ticket scalpers. Today’s rate on a hotel room or an airfare depends on how far in advance you’re booking, plus demand, plus any other factors that affect its desirability. The price a scalper can get before the game is vastly different from what he’ll accept half an hour after the puck drops!

  4. Know your limits!
    - Floor = your cost (If you sell below cost, you’re losing money!)
    – Ceiling = what the market will bear (You can’t charge more than what people are willing to pay.)
  5. Consider your environment and how that might affect the prices you can charge.
    - Geography: are you in a large city, a town, a rural community, a remote area?
    – Accessibility/distribution: how easy is it for people to come to you – or for you to get your work to major centres of population?
    – Economy: how’s the local economy doing, how much disposable income do people have?
    – Political framework: what taxes do you have to take into consideration, what public policies affect you (e.g. copyright, availability of government funding)?
    – Local arts community: are there many colleagues/competitors close by, or are you the only game in town?
  6. Consider how the characteristics/qualities of your art – whether it’s a canvas or an exhibition or production – should affect its price.
    - Artistic merit is definitely a factor in pricing – and one of the hardest to confront. It’s also a factor that’s likely to change over the course of your career. You need to consider the significance of your work in relation to other artists, and the market overall.

    – Popular appeal is also important. It’s easy to see that more people want to buy tickets to mega-musicals and Broadway-style shows than to a lot of other performing arts genres. You must consider the size of your market, and hence the volume of demand for your work. This could push the price up or down! A lower price might make you more attractive. On the other hand, aficionados may be less price-sensitive, and thus willing to pay more for something harder to come by.

    – Use price to send a message about quality and value, and where your work fits in the marketplace. Take coffee shops as an example: relative to your competitors, you need to determine if you’re more of a Starbucks or a Tim Horton’s!

  7. Uniqueness is not a factor in setting prices in the arts. You’re unique, just like everyone else. Every artwork is one-of-a-kind: the visual art collector, or the performing arts engager, is choosing amongst a number of unique offerings, each of which has its appeal.
  8. Don’t let the price be an emotional decision! Price your work dispassionately, without reference to your attachment to it.
    – Don’t assume that your personal favourites will fetch a higher price. Your investment of time, effort and angst in the creative process won’t necessarily speak to the buyer or audience. If an artwork is so significant for you that you can’t part with it at your normal price, perhaps it’s not the right time to offer it for sale.

    – By the same token, you may not love a certain piece, and therefore be tempted to underprice it – but don’t assume that others will share your feelings for it.

  9. Establish your base price according to your most typical art. It may be useful to think about how new cars are priced. Often, there’s a ‘base price’ plus the option to purchase ‘extras’ – or to get the car ‘fully loaded’ In the same way, a visual artist, a performer or an arts organization may be able to identify their price baseline, and what their extras might be, and establish a range of prices for different types of work. For instance:

    – An actor taking a lead role may be able to negotiate a better weekly rate than when he or she accepts a supporting part. A musician may be able to charge more for a soloist engagement than for a sideman gig. The difference is related to the perceived value of the service.

    – A visual artist may charge more for larger or more elaborate works. This might be either a cost-based or a value-based approach.

    – A theatre company may charge more per ticket for the musical it’s offering this year than for its one-hander. This would almost certainly be a cost-based approach related to the number of artists involved and the scope of the production values.

  10. Stick to your guns! It’s a good policy to keep your prices consistent no matter who the buyer is. This can be especially important for visual artists selling multiples or working with more than one dealer – and for performers hoping to build a client base of repeat customers.

    – If you’re an experienced artist with a track record, document your sales. When you can see how works have sold over time, it’s easier to be consistent about pricing your new pieces.

    – If you’re still building that record, you can achieve consistency by pricing your art like a realtor would price a home for sale: look at comparables in terms of medium and style, as well as in terms of fellow artists at a similar level of accomplishment

  11. Think carefully before you discount, to make sure the price cut will work for you strategically.

    A. Discounts may be standard in some circumstances, for instance:
    – A commercial gallery may offer a standard 10% discount to arts consultants purchasing on behalf of clients, or to regular customers who purchase a lot of art.
    – Performing arts organizations commonly offer discounts for group purchases, as well as to students and seniors, and for less popular nights.
    – NOTE! Where a range of prices is in effect, you need to be clear on which is The Price. Your regular price is the Saturday night, full price amount . Everything else is a discount.

    B. Discounts may be used to introduce negotiation , so you can close a sale, for instance:
    – You might want to offer an incentive to a good client to buy more
    – You might decide to make it possible for someone to buy the work who loves it but can’t afford the regular price.

    C. You might wish to use discounts to adjust to market conditions, for instance:
    – If tickets are selling poorly, performing arts organizations may consider putting out two-for-one coupons, or offering discounted tickets within the arts community.
    – A gallery in a tourist town might wish to consider special offers in the off-season.

    D. You might be tempted to price lower than your colleagues/competitors to gain an edge. Think seriously about whether this will really work in your favour. For instance:
    – Performing arts patrons definitely react to price points – but not necessarily to relatively small differences. Someone might decide that the current Broadway touring show is too pricey – but if they’ve decided to spend the money to see a local company, they’re more likely to make their choice based on the title, the artists, the reviews, etc., than on a couple of dollars’ difference in price.

    – If all practitioners of a certain discipline charge within the same range, they can create a “going rate” which sets buyer/audience expectations, and helps everyone plan their budgets.

  12. Don’t forget to raise your prices when it’s appropriate!
    - A useful rule of thumb for visual artists is to contemplate an increase when you’re selling at least 50% of last six months’ output.

    – Another benchmark would be to look at an increase when you’ve experienced six to twelve months of consistent success in your work. Once you’ve established steady demand, it’s time to re-examine your pricing.

This tip sheet was created by Heather Young of Young Associates for the workshop ‘How Much Am I Worth? How Much Do I Charge? – The Secrets of Pricing and Negotiating’ which was presented in March 2006 by the Cultural Careers Council of Ontario. Founded in 1993, Young Associates provides bookkeeping and financial management services in the charitable sector, focused on arts and culture. Young Associates also provides consulting services in the areas of data management, business planning and strategic planning. Heather Young published Finance for the Arts in Canada (2005), a textbook and self-study guide on accounting and financial management for not-for-profit arts organizations.


When it comes to my financial statements, what is “real”?

This question came from the Executive Director of a small organization – and she asked it repeatedly, with a great deal of very genuine concern! The issue, it seems – and this is a common concern for non-financial folks – was understanding the nature of accrual accounting.

“Real,” in her terms, meant that money had changed hands. Even in the days of electronic transfers, cash in the bank still feels indisputably legit and tangible! However, non-cash transactions can be just as “real” as those involving money. For example, they may record agreements or management estimates that provide the basis for measuring financial results.

Accounts receivable and grants receivable are amounts owed to you by clients/customers and funders. A state of obligation exists when you have delivered work, and the promised payment is due. This state of obligation felt real to the Executive Director, because she was well aware of the costs her organization had incurred, and the urgency of collecting the receivable amounts.

By the same token, accounts payable were not questioned: the state of obligation between the organization and its suppliers was evident, because the organization had received goods or services for which it hadn’t yet paid, and the invoices were sitting in the “bills to be paid” file.

Prepaid expenses and deferred revenues posed a challenge. In both of these cases, money actually has changed hands – but those transactions are not recorded on the income statement as expenses and revenues; rather, they are recorded on the balance sheet as assets and liabilities (respectively). Eventually, when the obligations are satisfied, these items will be recognized as expenses and revenues. Read on…

A prepaid expense item is an asset – something you own. It arises when you have paid for goods or services ahead of time. A classic example would be a rent deposit. Often, when a lease is signed, the lessee must pay “first and last.” Obviously, you receive the first month of your tenancy right away. However, you have paid up-front for the last month on your lease, and you won’t receive that service for a period of years. You own the right to receive it, because you have prepaid it… and the landlord is effectively in your debt for that month of occupancy.

When the last month rolls around, the landlord provides the month of occupancy. At that point, the organization no longer has an asset, because it has collected on the obligation. In the accounting records, the asset must be removed – and the rent expense can be officially recognized. Note that the last month’s rent eventually does appear as an expense, but not until it’s being used. In that last month, it’s a non-cash expense item; the cash changed hands back when the lease was signed.

A deferred revenue item is a liability – something you owe. It arises when someone else has prepaid you for goods or services that you have not yet delivered. A classic example from the performing arts is a subscription. Many organizations run intensive campaigns during the spring and summer to sell subscription packages for the next fall/winter series of shows. At the point when the subscriber pays, they have a promise from the organization, but they won’t enjoy the concerts or plays for months down the road. The organization owes the subscriber those shows.

When the organization delivers its performances, it discharges its liability. In the accounting records, the liability must be removed – and the ticket sales revenue can be officially recognized. Thus, eventually those subscription packages do turn into revenue, but as a non-cash revenue item; the cash changed hands back when the subscriber made the purchase.

The depreciation of capital assets can also cause confusion. A capital asset is an item of significant value that an organization will own for a period longer than a year, and use in carrying out its operations. Depreciation (or amortization) is the process by which the cost of that asset is spread over the years of ownership. Please look to these further questions and answers that present the process in detail:

For our purposes here, the important thing to understand is that the asset (usually) must be paid for when it is bought. Each year’s depreciation is a non-cash expense item, representing that year’s estimated share of the cost.

One of the purposes of accounting is to measure the expenses and revenues associated with each year of operations, regardless of when money changes hands. As you can see, items may be paid for either before delivery or afterwards. The exchange of cash does not create the revenue or expense: rather, the usage of the goods or services in the course of operations. Balance sheet accounts are used to “park” or accrue items so that they can be properly recognized in the correct operating year. Non-cash revenues and expenses can be just as real as those paid “cash on the barrel head.”

I received a grant to help with my capital asset purchases. My bookkeeper says this is a liability. How does this make sense?

Your bookkeeper is correct. But, before you try to come to grips with the treatment of the capital grant, it will help if you review the depreciation of capital assets, explained in this FAQ.

Donations to a capital campaign (e.g. from individuals and businesses) are treated in the same way as grants (e.g. from foundations and governments).

Your funders and donors have provided money that is intended to benefit your organization over the life of the capital purchases. In the same way that the cost of a capital asset is spread over the years of ownership, the benefits of a capital grant must be spread over the same years, using the same technique.

A typical name for this item is “Deferred Contributions for Capital Assets,” and it appears with other deferred revenues in the liability section of the balance sheet.

You should discuss your organization’s capital policies with your accountant, to make sure they are appropriate to your particular situation.

How can I tell whether my accounting reports are correct?

This can be a perplexing question when you’re relying on the services of bookkeepers and accountants, but you don’t entirely understand what they do.

Here are a few ideas that may help:

Revenue and expense allocations are pretty much up to you, the manager. Do you want a single expense account for Salaries? That’s entirely correct. Would you prefer to have a separate expense account for each salaried position? That’s also correct. Do you want one account for Office Overhead? Not a problem. Would you prefer to have a series of accounts to distinguish amongst various supplies, phone, insurance, etc.? Also entirely acceptable.

Management (perhaps with input as appropriate from your Treasurer, Boardaccountantbookkeeper, staff) needs to decide what level of detail works best for your organization’s situation. Once you’ve established a set of revenue and expense accounts, it’s important to confirm on a regular basis that transactions are being allocated to the right place. Many accounting software packages provide detailed reports that allow you quite easily to scan the contents of these accounts for misplaced items.

Your cash resources – contained in your bank and investment accounts – are the lifeblood of your organization. It’s important to know how much money is readily available to your day to day operations. See our FAQ on how to tell for sure what’s in the bank.

Knowing who owes you money, how much, and since when, is very important. Most accounting software will produce a “customer aging” report that contains this information. (See the glossary for a definition.)

In the same way, you need to be able to review your list of payables, itemizing the suppliers to whom you owe money, how much and since when. On most software, a “vendor aging” report provides this detail.

Beyond that, if your bookkeeper is on their game, they will be able to provide an explanation of the contents of each account, and to pull out documentation from the files that substantiates the amounts. If your organization is audited, your chartered accountant will also be able to provide these explanations, as at your fiscal year-end. If these folks can’t provide a satisfying explanation, you need to challenge them! They should be able to help you understand your accounts, and justify that each balance is properly stated.