Dear Members,

Sláinte- We all could all use a health toast during this cold and flu season and not just when we are toasting with a drink.

On January 13th, I flew to New York City to spend an entire day with the 501c3 Irish Cultural Centers across North America and Toronto. The New York Consul General began this outreach program three years ago. Initially when the day began I was in a room full of strangers with one thing in common – Irish Culture and programming. The Irish Consul General’s office is on the 17th floor of a building on Lexington Avenue in New York City. We were fortunate to be joined by a director of the Abbey Theatre and the Irish Arts Center in NYC that raised 60 million dollars.

I mention my visit because it was a brilliant networking opportunity for the United Irish Cultural Center in San Francisco to be a part of the Irish Centers of North America. 2019 was a year of major transformation. As I have mentioned before we went from a 501c7 members only social club that had seen a decline in membership, declining revenue in banquet, bar and restaurant facilities and accelerating operational costs that could not be offset by the original business structure that was started in 1975. Last year, we operated strictly as a 501c3 non profit. This new business structure allows donors and members a tax deduction when making a donation to the UICC. These two major changes are what got us through 2019. The 501c3 business structure has opened up greater access and support from foundations and the Irish Government to promote cultural programs for all. In 2019, we received $17,000 from the Irish Government Emigrant Support Programme and $10,000 from the Gellert Foundation. We will continue to apply for more grants. Once again, operationally, if we were to rely on our cultural events and event venue space rental we would not have made it.

As we enter into 2020 and celebrate our 45 Years on 45th Avenue, we must take time to honor our accomplishments while pondering our future. When speaking to representatives of other Irish Centers across the country, they too have had to take time for reflection and really think about long term plans and goals. Some of the thoughts that swirled in my head as I headed home on the plane were:

  • Do we have the member support?
  • Could we raise $60 million to do a major overhaul to our building?
  • Where is the Irish Center’s place in the Irish Community of San Francisco?
  • Who is our audience for cultural events?
  • Can we generate enough revenue through event venue rentals? Cultural programming?
  • How much money can we get in grants? Who will write the grant application?
  • What will the Center look like in 3 years? 5 years?
  • How many original members are still coming to the Center?
  • How many will come to the 45 Years on 45th Avenue?

My return flight from New York was 6 hours and 45 minutes. I had a lot of time to reflect and ask a lot of questions.

  • How many members paid their dues? Made a donation?
  • What else can we do to get people to the Center?
  • Are there artists out there that would like to come to the Center?
  • How do we get the artists that are coming to LA to come to SF?
  • IF we rebuild it, will they come?

I wish I had a crystal ball and could see what was coming for the Irish Center but I don’t.

Our priorities of the board this year are:

  • Cultural programming – bring in new cultural programming.
  • Membership – increase membership numbers and increase the number of members that pay dues. Continue to work on membership incentives.
  • Fundraise – This will always be crucial to our bottom line and trying to get ahead.
  • Event venue- promote our space. Make it an all functional space.

How can you help?

  • We need volunteers for Saint Patricks Week.
  • We need volunteers for “45 Years on 45th Avenue” Jubilee on April 25th.
  • We need volunteers for clean up days.
  • We need volunteers to do odd jobs around the Center.

Pay your $150 dues. IF we got 1000 members paying $150 we would have $150,000. IF we got 2000 members to pay we would have $300,000. Dues help offset operational costs, pay for cultural programming, maintenance and salaries.

If we don’t have a foundation of funds then we have to tighten our belts. That means less cultural events, cutting hours so that someone does not answer the phones or get back to you in a timely manner and deferring maintenance on our aging building.

Anne Cassidy Carew, President of the UICC