In May 2020, SKETCH, a not-for-profit that works with youth navigating marginalization and poverty through the arts, launched Project Home–a capital campaign to purchase its studios located in Artscape Youngplace in Toronto. Their $4 million campaign goal involved two revenue streams: fundraising and issuing community bonds to the public. Inspirit Foundation invested in these Home Bonds early in the campaign.
Learn more about Project Home from SKETCH’s Executive Director Rudy Ruttimann.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been the Executive Director of SKETCH for over 20 years now. I work with a talented staff of about 27 people. Some of them strategize and deliver SKETCH’s arts programs and opportunities, some of them are in communications and resource development. Our finance team keeps the bills paid and delivers the invoices. Young people who have developed their skills at SKETCH as participants have also joined the staff to design, coordinate and lead our programs.
You’re wrapping up Project Home in a few weeks. Why does SKETCH need a space that it owns?
We operate out of a 7500 square-foot multi-disciplinary studio space at Artscape Youngplace. Our admin hub is an additional 1300 square-foot space on the second floor. After we moved here in 2013, we spent a year building up the studios to suit our vision of a creative hub where young people could learn skills in music recording, textiles, visual arts, culinary arts, creative enterprise and more. In 2014, our programs began and our attendance numbers have been climbing steadily ever since.
Artscape awarded us a five-year grant to supplement our rent, which went a long way to ensuring we could keep our programs here in the heart of Queen West. Our location is so ideal as we’re close to where a lot of SKETCH artists call home, and so many of our community partners are nearby.
But we knew that once our subsidized rent term was over, we wouldn’t be able to stay at Artscape for much longer. By 2025, we would have had to stop our programs, uproot our studios, lose the investments we’ve made in the infrastructure, and relocate somewhere else. So we came to the conclusion that, given the opportunity, we needed to purchase our studios.
Project Home is a $4 million campaign. What made you think impact investing could play a major role?
It all came down to what’s the least expensive form of capital we could access. We have a very loyal donor base, but not many folks can donate, say, $500,000 to help with the purchase, and we definitely didn’t want to borrow it all from a bank.
We were introduced to Tapestry Community Capital who spoke with us about the idea of community bonds and it simply fit the equation. By offering community bonds to both our donors and the public, we found a way for people to invest in the youth community, be a part of social change, and find a safe, reliable way to make a return on their money. Once we could show our Board that our already tried-and-true revenue streams (studio rentals, admin and workshop fees) could pay the interest owed to investors, it was a go!
What was the response?
Frankly it was tremendous. We have investors now from the Yukon to Vancouver to Halifax! The Home Bonds gave us the opportunity to reach people we never would have through solely fundraising.
The bonds range from $500 to $5000. Some bondholders also took the option of donating the earned interest back to Sketch. Youth artists were among the many folks who purchased bonds.
How did Inspirit Foundation play a role?
Inspirit Foundation was really, what you could call, the campaign catalyst. I first connected with Jory Cohen, Inspirit’s Director of Finance and Impact Investment, to consider the bond purchase. He and his team did thorough due diligence on the SKETCH operating model, our business plan, and our finances. I believe that once they saw, not only our strong financial position, but the direct impact owning our legacy studios would have on local youth for decades to come, they chose to purchase $250,000 of Home Bonds!
Needless to say, Inspirit’s leadership prompted not only the public to invest, but other foundations, as well. In the end, we reached our $1.4 million goal in bonds sold by March 2021.
What’s next for SKETCH and Project Home?
Well, our campaign isn’t over yet. On June 22nd, we’re going to invite our donors and the public to help close the small gap left of our $1.52 million in fundraising. Folks can learn more and make an impact by visiting sketch.ca/projecthome/.
Photo Credits: SKETCH