When Canada Gives was founded in 2005/6, the goal was to facilitate and expand charitable grants by donors making major gifts to the not-for-profit sector; maximizing the giving experience of donors while adding value to the not-for-profit sector was our top priority.
The goal was to position our fledging charity as the premier administrator of family foundations, using an easier, more flexible structure—a donor advised fund. I also wanted to apply the financial industry’s standards and best practices in a non-profit setting, so these large charitable gifts would be managed as well as personal investments.
The plan was to help philanthropists and their families make a difference to the causes that matter most to them and achieve a lasting legacy of charitable giving. We made it our mission to help them understand the not-for-profit sector, understand how to maximize the impact of their gifts and to accompany them on their journey to becoming “great at doing good.”
We set an early, and now seemingly modest goal, of serving 100 families across Canada and reaching $20 million in charitable assets while encouraging the highest levels of annual gifting (granting) in the donor advised fund sector.
A major milestone
I’m extremely excited to report that we did, in fact, achieve our proudest milestone last year—Canada Gives donors, through their donor advised funds gave (granted) $20 million to charities in 2020, and still have more than $200 million in charitable assets in these Foundation accounts.
Not only that, but we managed it during an extraordinary period of upheaval across our sector, when uncertainty gripped donors and charities alike, and many of the latter struggled to survive the worst of an economic downturn accented by successive waves of physical-distancing restrictions.
The good news doesn’t end there: we topped another goal, as well. We now have 180 families, from all across Canada, working with Canada Gives
To put those achievements in perspective, Canada Gives Foundation account holders disbursed a total of $6.44 million to charities in 2019. That’s still a spectacular sum, but our growth as an organization last year and donors’ unwavering generosity in the face of the grinding pandemic took our performance as an organization to new heights.
So, what changed?
It’s important to note that this surge in giving is part of a longer-term trend. Canadians may be donating less to charities on a per capita basis, but those who are deeply philanthropic have become more dedicated and strategic than ever in the way they give back. That’s why so many are embracing Canada Gives Foundation accounts instead of making one-off donations or opting for a private foundation structure, the latter of which can be very costly and onerous to manage. Our Foundation accounts offer philanthropists a vehicle to give back with less complexity while also being highly flexible. The latter feature is very important in crises such as COVID-19, because it allows Foundation account holders to quickly pivot and redirect donations as needed.
And fund charities they did. From the onset of the pandemic, our Client Services team was (pleasantly) inundated with requests for guidance from philanthropists who wanted to map out the best ways to aid fund-starved charities. That desire to be strategic in their giving has only ramped up since last March. We frankly can’t wait to begin work on our next Annual Impact Report, when we’ll tell even more stories of our donor clients’ generosity.
Of course, achieving our ‘$20 million in 2020’ granting goal would have been impossible without the hard work and dedication of our team. Their commitment to client service excellence provides the support our philanthropists need to be successful in their giving endeavours. By enhancing the giving experience, they encourage donors to continue their great work.
What happens when you achieve such a lofty goal? You set another one. I like the sound of $30 million to charities in 2030—or, hopefully, even sooner.
Denise Castonguay, Founder and CEO