The philanthropic journey can be a long and winding one. Bob Clark’s started on a simple car ride that sparked an ongoing love of animals and a commitment to their protection through his advocacy for animal rights.
But that wasn’t quite the case in his early days. Back then, Clark was a devout meat eater with a limited understanding of the animal rights movement—which is focused on introducing enhanced legal rights and protection for animals with the goal of recognizing them as sentient beings, rather than as mere possessions. Then it all changed.
“In my late twenties, I was watching transport trucks going down the 401 to Toronto with animals on board, terrified and freezing to death, and it struck me that I couldn’t participate in that kind of cruelty any more,” he recalls.
Indeed, seeing trucks laden with farm animals en route to the slaughterhouse was a life-altering experience. From that point on, Clark devoted his life to the philanthropic support of organizations that fight for animal rights, a passion he shares with wife Judy. The couple became completely vegan about nine years ago.
They soon found community in their philanthropic pursuits. About 15 years ago, for example, they attended a PETA fundraising event in Toronto and were awestruck by the shared sense of purpose among fellow animal rights activists and advocates. “For the first time in my life, I felt I was surrounded by a group of people who understood exactly how I was feeling,” Clark recalls. “People were kind, supportive and understanding.”
To date, the Clarks have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to animal-rights charities through their family foundation, which is a donor advised fund administered by Canada Gives. Their generosity is rivalled only by their deep commitment to the cause, which includes direct involvement with many of the organizations they support. That list currently includes PETA, Animal Justice, Animals in Science Policy Institute and the Canadian Centre for Alternatives to Animal Methods, located at the University of Windsor. The organizations are dedicated to invoking sweeping change on the animal rights front, such as legislative amendments to policies concerning the use of animals for experimentation.
“We’re working with a smaller number of charities to date, because we feel that being directly involved in the process delivers greater results,” he explains. “We can also better understand for what purposes our donations are being used”.
The Clarks’ end goal is to eliminate the use of animals in four major categories; namely, animals used for food, animals used for clothing, captive animals used for entertainment and animals used for experimentation. The pair is heavily involved in efforts to develop or promote non-animal methods to test and research products, especially for biomedical research. Clark notes that hands-on support and funding are particularly important because less than 1 per cent of charitable donations in Canada go to animal-related charities or advocacy groups. “We’d all like to see this substantially increase.”
Theirs is a prime example of the passionate work being carried out by so many Canada Gives donor clients. It’s also a wonderful story of a couple giving back and finding new meaning in their lives as a result.
“Working hand in hand with those in the organizations we support who are so intelligent, knowledgeable, dedicated and hard working has been a great experience for us. I worked on a strategy development process with Animal Justice and now I’m engaged with a group of people whose goal it is to eliminate the use of animals in science. I have a business background and experience in management and strategy, so our donees are open to my providing input. That feels good because, as we age, opportunities to share our knowledge and experience become fewer. We feel valued and it’s very motivational. It’s been a more rewarding experience than we thought it would be.”
To assist the Clarks, Canada Gives’ client services team has provided NFP sector research to help identify appropriate charities. The team also manages the grant application process and helps the Clarks vet the legitimacy and reporting practices of various charities soliciting their financial support. They also worked with Bob and Judy to develop an end-of-project report to better quantify the results of the donees’ work. The reporting process helps the Clarks document lessons learned that can be passed along to other charities or donors. They have generously allowed Canada Gives to share this report and their experience with other foundation clients.
“Our personal financial advisor also manages the money we’ve put into our Canada Gives Foundation account, and they’ve been very open to that,” Clark adds.
“They’ve been really supportive along the way and made everything really simple. Canada Gives does all of the administration so I don’t have to worry about it. Using our family foundation also helps us to leverage Canadian tax law to our benefit when we donate Canadian equities. The unrealized capital gains would have created a tax event for us, but by donating these gains to our Foundation at Canada Gives instead, the tax liability is eliminated. It’s a win/win situation for us, Canada Gives, and most importantly, the animals.”
The Clarks’ next step: finding exciting new ways to create an even greater lasting impact across the animal-rights movement. With their passion and perseverance, there’s no doubt they’ll be successful in realizing their philanthropic goals.
The Canada Gives Team