2019 was an interesting year, to say the least, on many fronts.

For LondonFuse, 2019 was a BIG year, full of many ups and many downs.

As a board committed to transparency, we want to share the journey that LondonFuse has been on for the past 365 days. So, instead of an annual report for 2019 that will be read by the board and maybe a couple of our volunteers at our Annual General Meeting, we wanted to share it through the medium that we know best – online via Londonfuse.ca!

We also know that LondonFuse has meant many things to many people. As we enter a new decade and a new era of LondonFuse, we would like to outline our vision for LondonFuse with you and some of our exciting new endeavours.

So, buckle in – it was a bumpy year.

Celebrating A Golden Decade

2019 marked LondonFuse’s 10th anniversary. Throughout the past decade, LondonFuse has morphed and adapted as the needs and resources changed, and 2019 was no exception. 

LondonFuse is and always has been a not-for-profit organization. Any funds granted to us or funds we raise go right back into the organization and into the community. We use the funds to highlight London’s organizations, business, and activities, to provide training opportunities and experiences to our volunteers, and to hold fun and engaging events. 

Fuse Contributors Angela and Thomas share what LondonFuse means to them. Video created by Sammy Roach for National Volunteers Week 2019.

While we’ve flirted with the idea of going for-profit and moving to a subscription model, the accessibility of our services, especially the skills-training aspect of LondonFuse, has been a cornerstone of our organization. It is one of the many reasons we continue to decide to stay not-for-profit and free to all, which means that we rely on grant funding. 

Moving To 100% Volunteer-Run

In the spring of 2019, we ended a significant grant period with our primary funder, Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF). With major changes to the funding schedule that meant we wouldn’t be able to apply for new OTF funds until fall 2019, we had some difficult decisions to make.

Our staff and space were funded through our OTF grant, and our ad revenue and fundraising efforts weren’t enough to keep them for an extended period. In the spring, we lost two wonderful staff members, and we became, yet again, 100% volunteer-run. We moved out of our charming space on Bathurst Street, and we said goodbye to ShortFuse, our monthly print publication, choosing to focus our limited resources on our online presence. 

New Beginnings

With these daunting changes and challenges, we took some time to regroup. A lot of the work we did during this time wasn’t the most exciting or sexy work, but it was vital to LondonFuse’s future. 

We focused on our content strategy and re-engaging and assessing the organization. Without full-time staff, our capacity changed. Thankfully, we gained two new skilled board members and will have a couple more joining us in 2020. 

We spent some time reviewing and strengthening the organization and the board’s strategic directions. We identified four central goals we would like to accomplish including, (1) building a sustainable organization, (2) increasing the reach and impact of LondonFuse’s content and events, (3) creating and cultivating community and partnerships, and (4) providing opportunities for growth and learning for our volunteers.

Fuse Contributors Kayla and Ed share what LondonFuse means to them. Video created by Sammy Roach for National Volunteers Week 2019.

We rewrote our mission, situating LondonFuse as a “treasure map for London, with a focus on documenting and spreading the word about London’s unique culture and arts scene” and renewed our vision for “a connected, collaborative, and creative community.”

LondonFuse switched to a local financial institution to maintain our commitment to supporting and being a community-focused organization. 

We found a new home for LondonFuse through a partnership with Innovation Works. We look forward to hosting open-to-all contributor meetings and events in the space in 2020. 

Keep On Keeping On

Throughout the year, we continued to create and publish content on LondonFuse.ca, publishing 97 pieces over the year. Since January 1, 2019, our website was visited over 165 thousand times, you read our stories over 35 thousand times, and we reached over 500 thousand people through our social media channels.

Our most-read articles tackled many of the tough issues London is facing, such as Emily Stewart’s “Chronic Homelessness A Way Of Life For Many Londoners” and Gerard Creces’ satirical “How The Bus Killed Old North – A Cautionary Tale.”

Other popular articles highlighted some of London’s best-kept secrets as in Laura Thorne’s “10 Best Dessert Spots in London” and “Best Free Activities In London,” Minyi Huang’s “All Roads Lead To Dumplings At So Inviting,” and Nicki Borland’s “10 Tasty Picks For Londonlicious.” And you loved it when we took a look back at the London of the past, such as Nicki Borland’s “What Ever Happened To The Zellers Diner?

In 2019, we also highlighted London’s history and stories offline. LondonFuse partnered with the London Heritage Council, Edgar & Joe’s Café, and the City of London’s Culture Office to bring you Pour Over London. The initiative launched in February during Heritage Week 2019 and aimed to integrate local heritage into the everyday lives of Londoners via their cups of coffee. 

LondonFuse held four events throughout the year, including hosting our first ever Fuse Aid fundraiser in March. In June, we brunched it up with Radio Western at the second annual BrunchFest at London Brewing Co-op and in September, we organized our second Doors Open London Walking Tour with ACO London. And to cap it off, in October, we celebrated all kinds of art with Bad Art Fest III at the lovely Brown and Dickson Bookstore. 

Teamwork Makes The Dream Work

There are so many individuals and organizations that we would like to acknowledge for their support. LondonFuse wouldn’t be here if not for many of those listed below. So here comes our long, long list of thank yous. 

First and foremost, thank you to our contributors. You work hard, try new things, engage with your community, ask questions, find answers, grow, learn, and bring back amazing stories. YOU are what LondonFuse is all about! Thank you for donating your time and your skills to create content for Londoners. 

Fuse Volunteers Oshi and Nicki share what LondonFuse means to them. Video created by Sammy Roach for National Volunteers Week 2019.

Thank you to our board – you have worked so hard over the past year. Thank you for sticking with us in a stressful and challenging time. A special thank you to Katie Wilhelm, who served as our President from 2016-2019 and continues to provide support and advice in her role as Ex-Officio. 

Thank you to Nicki Borland and Gerard Creces, our former staff. We miss you. Special thanks to Nicki for continuing to chair a committee and volunteering your time during the transition. 

A big thank you to our community partners, including ACO London, Blu Monster Print, Brown & Dickson, CHRW Radio Western, the City of London, Femme Art Review, Forest City Gallery, Grip the Edge, Innovation Works, 2019 JUNO Host Committee, London Heritage Council, Pillar Nonprofit Network, web.isod.es, and our supporters, advertisers, and donors.

And finally, thank you London – LondonFuse couldn’t do what we do without the incredibly vibrant, supportive, and creative community in which we live.

If 2019 has taught us anything, it’s that no organization is an island, and it takes a village (enough clumsy mixed proverbs for you?)

To 2020 And Beyond

We’re so excited for what the next year – and the next decade – will bring for LondonFuse. 

This includes the introduction of an incredible new feature of our website that will help solidify our vision of LondonFuse as a treasure map for the Forest City. 

We’re going to launch a new content strategy and continue testing and assessing new tools and opportunities. Keep an eye out for our upcoming community consultations that we’ll use to help direct our content and programming. We want to know what you, our audience, want from LondonFuse! 

As always, we’re continuing to seek out new partnerships and funding opportunities. Our focus is on creating a sustainable LondonFuse. 

We’re relaunching our advertising and sponsored content offerings – so contact us if you’re looking for a way to share your organization’s story. 

Now that we have a new home that is accessible to all, we’ll be launching a big volunteer recruitment push – so contact us if you’d like to write or photograph or create videos!

Mostly, we want to let you know that LondonFuse is still here and continues to be committed to highlighting the local gems that make London, London. 

We’ll be sharing more details of our upcoming plans for 2020 at our Annual General Meeting on Tuesday, January 28, from 5:30-7:30 pm at Innovation Works. We hope you join us! Learn more and RSVP here.

Thank you for all your support over the past year. We’ll see you in 2020! 

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