Business and the Arts Case Study #4

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Saskatchewan Book Awards

The Saskatchewan Book Awards were established in 1993 by the joint efforts of the Saskatchewan Writers Guild, Saskatchewan Publishers Group and Saskatchewan Library Association. In 1994, the Saskatchewan Book Awards Inc. (SBA) was officially incorporated.

The SBA’s mandate is to recognize and celebrate the achievements of Saskatchewan authors and publishers and help promote their books. Leading up to the awards, short list readings help promote nominated books. The awards gala, held toward the end of November, positions winning books for the Christmas market.

The SBA must find a sponsor for each award, to cover the cost of the two out-of-province author’s honorariums as jurors for each award, as well as the cash prize of $2000 to the winners, complimentary tickets for all short-listed nominees and, to a lesser extent, to partially offset the cost of advertising. To a large degree, SBA Board members have played an important role in identifying, and at times, approaching businesses and others for support.

Awards have been added or changed over the years according to demand, but Sask Power has been a founding awards sponsor (for Fiction) since the awards were established. About four years ago, Sask Power came on board to also sponsor the Reading Tour, where groups of short-listed authors travel throughout the province to do readings in rural communities.

The initial approach to Sask Power was made by the SBA Board member in charge of fundraising, Jean Proto. Jean’s husband Frank was well known in the business community and the couple knew a number of business people in the city. Jean approached Rose Marie Anderson at Sask Power, and although Jean and Rose Marie did not know each other in advance of the meeting, Jean was well aware of Sask Power’s interest in community relations. Rose Marie was enthused with the professionalism of the package presented to her by Jean and made it a point to let the SBA know how impressed she was. Throughout her term on the board, Jean delivered complimentary tickets to the awards gala in person whenever possible. When Jean left the SBA board, then Executive Director, Joyce Wells, took over maintaining the relationship with Sask Power and Rose Marie.

Sask Power reported to SBA they were very satisfied with the book awards gala. It attained their community relations goals, especially because the event was provincial in scope, thereby enhancing their profile on a provincial level. Once this relationship had been established Sask Power was confident a sponsorship for the Reading Tours would do the same.

SBA maintains their relationship with Sask Power and other sponsors by keeping them informed about developments throughout the year through an electronic column, and the information is sometimes used by the sponsors in their annual reports and staff newsletters. In addition to the electronic column, SBA keeps everyone in the loop by sending out flyers about their guest speakers, and distributing posters with information about the gala on one side and nominated books and juror information on the other side. All sponsors are provided with complimentary tickets to the gala, are acknowledged in newspaper advertising, and on bookmarks which are widely distributed after the event with the names of winners and sponsors. Many of the sponsors use these bookmarks in their partnerships with schools. Sask Power has used their sponsorship in their own advertisements about their support to communities and for literacy.

An added benefit to this relationship was the support Rose Marie gave to SBA to organize a news conference and reception to announce the short-list nominees. Rose Marie helped SBA create an invited guest list of notable people and it has become a very popular event. Sask Power provided the initial sponsorship for the conference/reception but other sponsors have come on board since. Sask Power’s impetus for support in this manner was to enhance the awards gala. One positive outcome was an approach to SBA by Sanderson Securities, a security company in Saskatoon which attended one conference/reception, and which was motivated to ask the SBA if they too could sponsor a book award.

SBA Board members are all enthusiastic readers and supporters of Saskatchewan authors. Board members don’t necessarily have a “high profile” provincially, although all are well known in their home communities and all are generally active in the arts. The board members use their personal connections to open doors to businesses whenever they can. Joyce has made some of her own connections as well. For instance, Joyce asked Access Communications (Cable Regina) several years ago if she could speak on an afternoon talk show about the book awards, an event which eventually resulted in Joyce’s request for Access Communications to cover the book awards, and now Cable Regina produces a one-hour special which is broadcast to all affiliate stations.

The SBA board and staff always keep their eyes open for sponsorship opportunities. When traveling in a courtesy car with another fellow from their car dealership, Joyce struck up a conversation with the man who told her he worked at Luther College and she told him that the SAB was interested in getting the University of Regina involved with the awards. The man gave Joyce his card, and asked her to give him a call. Joyce soon realized he was the president of Luther College. At their first meeting he asked Joyce what the SBA wanted, but he was clear on his own goals and suggested a sponsorship for scholarly writing.

The SBA feels their success is a direct result of “looking at the people you are approaching as real people”. SBA Board members have a critical function to play because they are in the public eye, and while Joyce could develop sponsors on her own she knows it would be difficult if the Board was not visible. It is important for board members to be fully supportive of the organization and its programs and to be seen as such publicly, and to open doors whenever they can.

This article shows that business support can be about demonstrating corporate commitment to a cause or enhancing corporate profile – two reasons for business support which were outlined in the SAA report “Business & the Arts: Service Relationship Indicators”. For a copy of this report, please contact the SAA at (306) 780-9820 or