16th Annual Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) Greater Toronto Chapter’s Philanthropy Awards Luncheon
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Toronto, Thursday, December 2, 2010
Thank you for inviting me to speak on a topic of great importance to me, and to all Canadians.
I want to begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to each of today’s award winners, and by congratulating the Association of Fundraising Professionals on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. I am honoured to join in celebrating your remarkable efforts as volunteers, donors and fundraisers.
Each of you has answered the call to service.
I would also like to take a moment to acknowledge how difficult your work can be. All my life I have been involved in fundraising for various causes, and I know that asking others for donations of time, money and energy is never easy.
Since my installation as governor general, I have been inviting Canadians to join me in imagining our country as it could be. We strive for a smart and caring nation, where all Canadians can succeed, contribute, and develop their talents to their fullest potential. We want Canada to be a country that increases and applies the knowledge of its citizens to improve the condition of all—at home and around the world.
To achieve this vision, I have set out three pillars: supporting families and children; reinforcing learning and innovation; and encouraging philanthropy and volunteerism.
I believe that a renewed spirit of philanthropy and volunteerism—of giving—is essential to creating the smarter, more caring nation we seek.
As professional fundraisers, you know the generosity of Canadians. Canada’s non-profit and voluntary sector, on a per capita basis, is the second largest in the world, with charitable donations exceeding $10 billion annually. Approximately half of all Canadians volunteer, while 85 per cent of us help out informally within our communities.
Canadians are rightly renowned for their generosity. In his book, Terry, author Douglas Coupland remarks upon the thousands of names of everyday Canadians in the Terry Fox archives, and writes: “Collectively, those names testify to something divine—our nation, our home and our soul.”
Examples of philanthropy and volunteerism abound across this country, and the need is growing. Over the past few decades, the number of charities in Canada has increased significantly. Fundraising is more sophisticated, donors have higher expectations, and volunteers are in ever-greater demand.
How will we meet these needs?
New ideas and innovative thinking will be crucial to our efforts to mainstream the spirit of giving.
For example, we know that Canadians who give from an early age are more likely to continue giving throughout their lives. Recognizing this, the Province of Ontario now requires high school students to volunteer for at least 40 hours before graduation.
The changing demographics of Canada also present us with new opportunities for mobilization. Energetic and talented retirees, as well as new Canadians, are valuable sources of professional and international experience. Their contributions are essential to the nation we aim to build.
And, in what has been termed a new world of active citizenship, today’s volunteers and donors are broadening our idea of altruism. Can we shift our focus so that giving is understood as both a right and a responsibility, with reciprocal benefits for the donor, the recipient, and society as a whole?
In a democracy, everyone has something to give.
Each of you knows this, and early Canadians fully understood the extent of their dependence upon one another. The first governor of this land, Samuel de Champlain, said that his pioneering settlement at Port Royal would not have survived its first winter in 1605 were it not for the generous help of the local First Nations.
Later, the mostly rural inhabitants of our young country helped each other, as they built barns and communities in the hopes of a better life for their children.
From their shared struggle, Canadians created the public education system that is the foundation of our smart and caring society.
Ours is a common cause. As historian Harold Innis observed, “Most forward-looking people have their heads turned sideways.” Each of us has the right, as well as the obligation, to give and to help according to our means.
Some two decades ago, Mother Teresa came to Montreal. 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.
My children, aged 2 to 9 at the time, would criticize the entertainment I was providing at their birthday parties. They would ask me, “Why can’t you do a magic show like Dean MacFarlane instead of telling us ghost stories that no one believes?”
At that time, Andy MacFarlane was the Dean of Journalism at the University of Western Ontario, where I was the Dean of Law. Being quite competitive, I attended the next birthday party at the MacFarlane household, where Andy was dressed as a magician, with a long cape and flowing sleeves. He was performing a magic trick, turning water into wine. He took a glass of clear water, raised it in the air, and uttered that magic phrase, “Abracadabra!” He then swept the glass into his sleeves while whirling 360 degrees, surreptitiously adding a few drops of red vegetable dye into the glass, and emerged with a glass of a lovely rose-hued liquid.
At that moment, I realized that Mother Teresa was changing the culture of Calcutta, and indeed that of the world. It was the transformation of the water—not the addition to it—that was improving the lives of so many families.
Across Canada, volunteers and philanthropists are working toward this same goal, transforming their communities through kindness and generosity.
Writer and activist June Callwood said: “Great consideration for one another—that’s what’s going to save the world.”
We have gathered here today to pay tribute to your compassion and generosity. On behalf of all Canadians, I want to thank each award winner for your remarkable efforts, as well as the Toronto chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals for its exemplary leadership.
I would also like to take this opportunity to ask for your help and ideas as we renew the spirit of giving in Canada. In 2017, Canada will mark its 150th anniversary, and the contributions of fundraising professionals will be essential as we strive to create a smarter, more caring nation.
Let me end with a quote by George Bernard Shaw:
"Some people see things as they are and wonder why.
We dream of things that ought to be and ask why not.”