MDAO Is Touched by Fire

The Icing on the Funding Fire

I’m miffed by the whitewash-y, good-natured reputation that the term ‘non-profit charity’ has.

Certainly, there are good registered non-profit charities that use most of their earnings to help people, but there are others that simply redistribute funds into fat paycheques for their staff members while utilizing a small fraction of their revenue to improve lives.

The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario seems to me to be one of the latter. The stats–& my remarkably (for me) non-hyperbolic editorial commentary–is in the webcartoon The Icing on the Funding Fire.

MDAO’s Touched by Fire show & sale is this evening in Toronto. It’s an awesome idea that helps artists with mood disorders show their work, as people like me battle with issues like depression, bipolar disorder & anxiety, all of which get in the way of interacting with the world. Artists keep 100% of any sales they make. Except…

…inside TBF is another show & sale. The showcasing artists were petitioned to voluntarily create an additional artwork for the show-within-a-show called Fire & Ice (a common description that romanticises bipolar disorder; for the record I support the positive spin). This artwork will have its revenue split 50/50 with MDAO.

Which wouldn’t be all that bad, but for the grossly disproportionate amount of revenue directed into administration salaries & expenses. As the petitioning letter states,

Because [Touched by Fire] is one of the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario’s largest programs, benefiting hundreds of artists throughout the year, it is enormously expensive.

Yeah? It’s “enormously expensive” despite the entry fee (covered by a donor this year) & 72% of last year’s revenue spent on administration? Something smells, my dear, big-hearted, non-profit charity.

For what it’s worth, I have a pain in the pit of my stomach as I write & publish this, as I did when I drew the strip; there is benefit to this program, & I truly hope someone’s heart is in the right place. Unfortunately, as you can see by the stats on display at the Canada Revenue Agency’s website (link in the ‘Details’ section below), there are people earning mad (no pun intended, but it works) dollars off of public & governmental sympathy for people like me.


  • Regarding the line in Panel 3 about the rich being reluctant to give their money, website The Charities File claims “Donors with annual household incomes less than $20,000 gave a greater percentage of their household income than others.”
  • Regarding the line in Panel 3 about five- & six-figure salaries, here’s the ‘quick view’ of The Mood Disorders Association of Ontario’s 2011 revenue & expenses piecharts, & a shortlist of Administration wages. The info in Panels 1 & 2 were also culled from that link.
  • The extra show & sale referred to in Panel 4 is the Fire & Ice sub-section of Touched By Fire; the artists participating in the main TBF showcase keep 100% of their art sales, after paying a submission fee (an unknown–but presumably low–percentage of MDAO’s ‘other sources’ revenue).
  • Disclosure: It was The Charities File that led me to the Canadian gov’t site, & then this led me to the search page where I found the info on the Mood Disorder Association of Ontario; it’s the only hit. From there, the column furthest to the right is the Report, which holds the yearly returns for the registered charity.

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