Bye bye Operation Fundraiser

The Manchester Pride website reports that Operation Fundraiser will be ‘will be hanging up its buckets’ this year.

Strangely, in this glowing report, there’s no mention of the past VAT that Operation Fundraiser had to pay last year to cover Pride 2004, 2005 and 2006, leaving one of the lowest amounts ever raised for good causes since Manchester’s Gay August Bank Holiday event first started back in 1990.

HM Customs and Excise decided that Manchester Pride hasn’t been a charity event since 2003 and asked for VAT to be paid. But don’t blame the taxman, blame the people who created this twisted and really rather devious situation.

Operation Fundraiser likes to add together several years of money for good causes. It makes things sound more impressive. £466,485 raised in four years, they say. But it’s not so ‘staggering’ when you consider that, back in 1999, Manchester City Council estimated that Mardi Gras (as it was then known) brought in more than £20 million for businesses that year.

Here (archived copy here) City Council marketing mouths water at a potential £22m for Manchester’s ‘economy’ from Europride in 2003. But strangely just a ‘realistic’ £30,000 for good causes is predicted from 300,000 visitors. That would be 10p from each visitor! In fact, it seems, Europride 2003 sold about 35,000 tickets as, indeed, Manchester Pride has done ever since.

So, in four years, businesses have made more than £80m from Pride, while good causes have received £466,485. Meanwhile the public has paid at least £1.5m for tickets for an event that was free for many years. The public has donated lots of money too.

We’re told that Pride wouldn’t happen if all the suckers who go, didn’t pay £10-£15 for a ticket. But, if ticket prices were set at 50p each, does anyone really believe that, with £20m of income at stake each year, the businesses and Manchester City Council wouldn’t magically find the finance to run Pride? Tickets cost £15 because people are foolish enough to pay it and because they’ve been conned into thinking that buying a ticket or going to a club night raises lots of money for good causes.

In 2003, Operation Fundraiser handed over £200,000 to cover Europride running costs. In 2004, 2005, 2006, it handed over 50% of ticket and collection money for costs. Then it took off its own costs, leaving somewhere between 30% and 35% to be distributed to good causes each year.

However, I estimate that, in 2006, between 16% and 24% of Operation Fundraiser income went to good causes in the end after costs and the VAT bill.

That means, in the case of a £22 Uni Challenge ticket, with £1 of that going to Operation Fundraiser. Only between 16p and 24p of the £22 ticket price reached good causes in the end. Does that make you feel good?

Mysteriously, I can’t find the 2006 total for good causes on either the Manchester Pride or Operation Fundraiser sites. But I can tell you it was about £70,000. Or about 0.35% of the business takings that year, assuming it was £20m, as in 1999.

The smaller, more gay and free-to-enter GayFest 2000 event raised £105,212 for good causes. GayFest 2001 raised £70,000 or £100,000 (needs confirmation). In 1994, the Village Charity gave out grants totalling more than £60,000.

Operation Fundraiser has been running since 2003 and has been a staggering failure. It has failed to increase the amount raised for good causes by much when compared to the years when the event was free. That’s before we even think about inflation. Meanwhile running costs and the charges to the public have increased by an incredible amount.

The gay community has been tricked into financing a tourist event that raises massive profits for businesses. An event that is dominated by the interests of bars and clubs and other commercial concerns and which caters almost exclusively to the most-lucrative age-range.

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