Philanthropic Foundations of Canada Conference
Toronto, Monday, October 3, 2011
It is a pleasure to speak at this conference and to all of you, because we all share a similar vision: a strong Canada built with the help of generous people.
Canada is a nation of givers. In 2007, 84% of Canadians made some kind of monetary donation. This amounts to billions of dollars every year going towards such worthy causes as helping the underprivileged, funding research or building shelters, both in Canada and around the world.
But our philanthropic spirit is also grander than this. Philanthropy is a way of life brought about by our sense of responsibility to our country. It is both the act of giving and a love of humankind.
No matter how Canadians give, we are making a difference in the lives of others. And we see this all the time in our communities, people who give within their means, through philanthropic gestures, through volunteer work, and through helping relatives, neighbours, friends or even strangers.
And that is what I want to urge people to do—give what they can to a cause that is meaningful to them. And let us celebrate all those who contribute because they truly understand the philanthropic spirit of our country. After all, when people come together, extraordinary things happen.
That is why today, I would like to speak on how important collaboration is to philanthropy, and to our very society.
Throughout our history, we can see examples of how vital collaboration is—dating back to when Samuel de Champlain and his crew landed in Canada; they would not have survived that first year without the help of the Aboriginal population.
As time went on, further examples of how partnerships drove our country’s evolution became evident. Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine, a Francophone, and Robert Baldwin, an Anglophone, represented another great partnership that united Canada in the 1800s. It is no exaggeration to say that partnership is what made this country possible. Just as LaFontaine and Baldwin broke new ground in working together across linguistic and cultural barriers, we too can achieve remarkable things by working together.
And so it is no surprise that we find ourselves talking about collaboration as a great tool for organizations to expand their base and to succeed at tackling relevant social issues.
Partnerships—whether with other non-profits, individuals, businesses or government, both within our borders and beyond—give rise to new opportunities for giving that otherwise may not have existed.
Philanthropic and community foundations across Canada know this first-hand.
There are nearly 10 000 private and public foundations in Canada, each with its own unique goals and together granting over $3 billion each year to a variety of causes.
Many non-profits rely on philanthropic foundations to survive, a partnership first and foremost, one that benefits both organizations.
The receiving organization gains not only financial assistance, but also an endorsement from the foundation that signifies to the public that a particular project is both legitimate and effective.
For the foundation, it can justify its existence by showing that it performs a service to the community, identifying what needs to be done and ensuring that the non-profit is ready to tackle this challenge.
Increasingly, however, we need to look at how this money is being spent. We have to ensure that while funding for specific projects is met, the non-profit itself is sustainable enough to continue its work long term. Donors should know that their money is going to a good cause, but it is also important to know that the organization has a long-term vision for the community and for itself.
New partnerships are one way to build strength in an organization.
Let me tell you a story about collaborating to build a sustained organization from the ground up.
Back in 1997, the community of Carberry, Manitoba, recognized that some much-needed work had to be done in the community. Volunteers approached Midwest Foods Ltd. about a 40-acre piece of land and their idea to grow potatoes for a fundraiser. The company agreed and donated the plot of land, as well as the potato seed.
Through hard work, the volunteers managed to raise $40,000 that year. And thus, the Carberry and Area Community Foundation was born out of a potato patch. To date, it has contributed more than $497,000 in charitable donations to Carberry and the Rural Municipality of North and South Cypress, all because of the dedication of volunteers and philanthropists.
And it is really individuals who make the biggest difference. On average in Canada, 82–85% of donations are from individuals and family foundations; the remaining 15–18% comes from corporations and other granting foundations.
Between 1999 and 2000, for example, the Carberry foundation ran the “Founder’s Club” campaign, during which people would give a donation of $1,000 or more. Donations came from seniors who had spent their lives on the Carberry plains, young couples, corporations, a Hutterite Colony, and one was in honour of a former reeve. When the campaign had concluded, it had brought in $80,000.
But despite this success story, as a nation, we must to challenge ourselves to improve our philanthropy. The reality is that 10% of all donors give 62% of donations, and the participation rate is not increasing. The need is great and we can do better.
Some years ago in the U.S., Warrant Buffet, Bill Gates and David Rockefeller Jr. established the “Great Givers” initiative. The purpose was to have the very wealthy commit to giving away half their assets to worthy causes of their choosing during their lifetime.
I’d like us to consider this concept and how it might be applied in or modified for Canada. A recent study by the Deloitte Center for Financial Services predicted that the number of millionaires in Canada will rise by 32% by 2020, with assets upwards of $6 trillion. Whether or not that prediction holds true, it is certain that Canada is home to many who have the means to make a financial contribution towards our societal needs.
As interested and committed we are as a nation to serving, there are challenges to be overcome if we are to increase the participation
rate in both corporate and personal giving.
Leveraging through partnerships is key to extend the reach of
giving and the reach of service, which becomes increasingly important as social sector services are strained.
But how can we encourage more of all types of collaboration?
I cannot stress enough the importance of gatherings such as this one, where representatives from organizations from across Canada can come together, not only to discuss issues, but also to meet new people and to discover new prospective partnerships.
As president of the University of Waterloo, I explored a variety of options to grow the institution’s potential and was open to new ideas to help the community. And since becoming governor general, I have witnessed first-hand how one person’s idea, and one organization’s efforts to collaborate, have revitalized a community—in places such as Fogo Island, in Newfoundland and Labrador, and La Pocatière, Quebec.
Now, I urge you to explore your own potential collaborations.
Consider new ideas, be innovative in your thinking, and you will no doubt find solutions to the social issues of the day. But keep in mind that philanthropy, like volunteerism, is more of a marathon than a sprint. The idea is not necessarily to raise the most money, but to use that money more wisely and more efficiently. Many social problems will not be solved quickly; it is an ongoing process that requires patience and, most importantly, a plan of action.
And so, as you gather to plan and to discuss the future of philanthropy and of giving in Canada, I encourage you to think about the ideal country in which volunteerism and philanthropy can thrive. In 2017, our country will celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation. How can we use this milestone to set targets for ourselves to create a smarter, more caring nation?
Canadians must take an active role in their communities to ensure sustainability and to help those in need. Through philanthropy and volunteerism, we can help to build a strong Canada.
I hope that you take the opportunity at this conference to listen to one another and to find new ways to come together for the benefit of all those who rely on the kindness of others.