25th Anniversary of the Community Foundation of Ottawa
Ottawa, Monday, November 19, 2012
Thank you so much for your very warm welcome.
I’ve been eagerly looking forward to this evening’s celebration since I received your invitation. As patron of the Community Foundations of Canada, I’m overjoyed to celebrate with you the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Community Foundation of Ottawa and the achievements of a vital force for good in this city.
For 25 years, the women and men of the Community Foundation of Ottawa have been carrying out work that touches me deeply. Some of you might know that on the day of my installation as governor general I committed to bring Canadians of all backgrounds and ages together to create a smarter, more caring nation. To put it simply: keener minds, kinder hearts.
That’s a country in which everyone gives through philanthropy or volunteering, takes action to nurture children and fortify families, and is serious about reaching ever-higher levels of learning and innovation.
Some may argue that the best way to build a smart and caring nation is for kids to stay in school and for adults to live up to their responsibilities.
We must do more. I want us as Canadians to focus sharply, practically, intelligently on enabling our fellow citizens to reach their full potential and, by doing so, make it possible for them to enjoy productive, fulfilling lives that enrich our country.
Smart and caring may have different meanings, but they are tightly interwoven and mutually reinforcing characteristics. The hearts of the brightest need not be hard; the heads of the caring need not be soft. We must have keen minds and kind hearts—for the actions we take to help others must not only be inspired by compassion, but they must also grounded in intelligence.
I think you’ll agree with me that this close interweaving of smart and caring is the very mission and achievement of the Community Foundation of Ottawa. For 25 years, your organization has served as an intelligently compassionate resource for people and organizations to improve the quality of life of our city and its citizens in ways that are rigorously structured, deeply thoughtful and highly effective.
Helping our fellow citizens succeed, contribute and develop their talents to their truest potential is noble work. It’s also hard—hard to do and hard to be good at.
You succeed, and I salute you for that.
You refer to your rewarding, difficult work as connecting donors who care with causes that matter. A simple yet profound meaning flows effortlessly from that phrase. In making connections, you show donors the precise ways in which they can help most; you bring together likeminded donors and causes to boost the influence of their individual contributions; and you manage resources from groups so that these resources can have enduring effects—month after month, year after year.
For 25 years, you’ve done that. Amazingly, in the span of one generation, you’ve transformed your organization into one of the largest, most potent community foundations in Canada.
Three programs prove your success in making smart and caring a living, breathing force for good in our city.
The Community Foundation of Ottawa is a galvanizing influence behind our region’s School Breakfast Program.
Your organization helped create and spur the growth of iSisters Technology Mentoring.
And your organization carries out Vital Signs. This comprehensive annual report card on the health of our city gives us a clear indicator of where we’re succeeding, where we need to do more and therefore where we must concentrate and increase our efforts.
The video messages we’ll soon watch will give us all an even more vivid understanding of the work of the Community Foundation of Ottawa and its partners, and let us see some of the faces of the people who benefit from your smart and caring work.
To those who believe charitable organizations today can get by on a little luck and a lot of good intentions, I have a message of my own: Effective not-for-profits such as the Community Foundation of Ottawa can’t rely on management practices that are average.
Like the most stringently disciplined businesses, effective non-profits must be governed by rules, processes and a spirit of professionalism that enables them to administer resources wisely, cultivate partners assiduously and deliver results that are immediate and enduring.
Not only has your organization put such practices in place, but it’s also uncovering new methods to enhance how you govern your operations. You’ve refined your management policies to protect grant-making programs from market volatility.
You’ve adopted the highest principles of responsible investing. And you’ve made it possible for people to give in unconventional ways. I applaud you for taking these steps and urge you to continue looking for new ways to improve your operations because you inspire everyone else.
I want to take a minute to also congratulate your parent organization, the Community Foundations of Canada, for its hard work to help me bring my message of building a smarter, more caring nation right into communities across our country.
Through its Smart and Caring Communities movement, the Community Foundations of Canada has set out to achieve two goals.
First, have every community in our country served by a foundation in time to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Confederation in 2017.
And second, set up a network of Smart and Caring Community Funds at community foundations across Canada. These funds will give individual community foundations the flexibility to focus sharply on specific actions to make their hometowns smarter and more caring.
I’m thrilled to learn that 30 of these funds are up and running. In this way, the women and men of the Community Foundations of Canada have taken the message of smart and caring and truly brought it to life.
And I encourage them to continue working hard to help Canadians in every community in our country succeed, contribute and develop their talents to their fullest potential.
In that same spirit of doing more, I want to speak to three specific groups of people. To the benefactors and leaders of charitable organizations not only in the audience this evening but also beyond these walls, I urge you to contact the good people at the Community Foundation of Ottawa. Call them.
Meet with them. See how they’re helping our fellow citizens reach their full potential and, by doing so, enjoy productive, fulfilling lives that enrich our country.
To the women and men in our city who wish to start volunteering with the Foundation, make your interests known. The people there will match your interests and, even better, your skills with the vital work of the Foundation that is so dependent on volunteers.
To the men and women of the Community Foundation of Ottawa itself, I encourage you to continue reaching out to organizations throughout Canada and around the world. Share with them what you’ve learned to make smart and caring such a success in our city.
And be sure to bring home any new smart and caring ideas that our city can put into action for the benefits of our citizens. Make your smart and caring ingenious.
Use that ingenuity to build on your 25 years of success. Twenty-five years of generating hope among those whose hope is failing. Twenty-five years of touching lives for the better. Twenty-five years of smart and caring.
To the recipients of the Governor General’s Caring Canadian Award here with us, I want to congratulate you on receiving this award and for making your communities stronger and more caring places to live.
In that same spirit, I ask all you here tonight to continue helping our fellow citizens succeed, contribute and develop their talents to their fullest potential. Let’s do everything we can to make Canada the smarter, more caring country we know it can and must be.
Let me leave you with my favourite story:
Some two decades ago, Mother Teresa came to Montréal. One of our neighbours, moved by her work with the poor in Calcutta, asked Mother Teresa how she could help. She replied: “Just look around you. In your own neighbourhood there is a family who needs your care and love.”
Shortly afterward, I read a criticism of Mother Teresa’s work. Her shelter in Calcutta gave succour to perhaps 200 people in a city where millions lived in abject poverty. Her work was described as one small drop in an ocean.
A few weeks later, I realized the shortcomings of this criticism. It was looking at her work from the point of view of physics, rather than chemistry.