The journey to becoming a philanthropist is an extraordinary experience, to say the least. It’s one that involves understanding the causes that you and your family wish to support, and the portion of your wealth that you plan to donate to fulfill your charitable giving goals—making the world a better place in the process. Perhaps most importantly, it’s about working to define your family’s collective values and how they may shape your philanthropy.
Our recent blog on determining what type of charitable gift is best touched on this topic, but it’s one that’s worth exploring in far greater detail. The reason: values define the very foundation of philanthropic work and its related strategic objectives. The impact you make will ultimately be defined by the causes and tools that are utilized to create impact either at home or by supporting a cause abroad.
That journey begins, as we noted earlier, with a discussion of ‘why.’ Why do we want to give back? What are the experiences that have shaped our lives—and possibly contributed to our wealth—that will now create a path for sharing some of the fruits of that labour? Which organizations closest to us are most in need of generosity, or can better meet the needs of their community stakeholders with a substantial gift?
One of the most important aspects of defining your values is taking ample time to work through this very personal process. This could take weeks or months, but almost always lasts more than days. You’ll not only want to reflect on your own beliefs and passions, but also the social issues that matter most to you and your loved ones. Think about the change that you hope to create. Who will it benefit? Why do they need help in the first place? How can you maximize the impact of your generosity? Do you need to build a team—or collaborate with an existing one, say, at a charitable organization—to achieve your goals? These are all key points to consider.
Beliefs and identity often shape many of those goals, not to mention your own sense of purpose and your genuine interest in a cause or community. So, too, does a deep desire to create better outcomes for those around you. Many of our Foundation families choose to compile their giving goals into a Foundation account mission statement. This sums up their ‘why’ in a neat rhetorical package.
Once you have a sense of what your values are, you can use that framework to build a giving strategy. A comprehensive strategy will add focus to your philanthropic endeavours, prompting you to make giving choices and helping you to establish a regular grant cadence—disbursements that can be made in the near-term or spread over many years, the latter providing your preferred charities with stable long-term operational funding (which is often their greatest need).
Many of our Foundation families choose the holidays to determine their grant requests, bundling philanthropic decision-making for the year and time spent with loved ones. Others set their plan during the summer months or another holiday such as Thanksgiving. The exact timing isn’t relevant, only that the planning happens and is deliberate.
This is important because you’ll be faced with seemingly endless charitable giving choices. There will be no shortage of social causes and issues to help tackle, countless school programs or playgrounds that need funding, or hospitals that require donations for upgrades or new capital projects. Approaching philanthropy without purpose or a vision for what you hope to achieve is a bit like walking into a supermarket hungry—you could potentially make decisions that you’ll later regret. Unless you have virtually unlimited financial resources, your grant decisions will need to be targeted, clear and should always be in alignment with your values.
So, how do you identify the potential recipients of your generosity, especially when the Canada Revenue Agency Charity Directorate includes more than 86,000 qualified donees that could potentially receive a grant from your Canada Gives Foundation account?
Canada Gives has built a charity research tool that our Foundation clients can access through their Donor Portal. You can search by charity or by cause, filtering by geographic location and size, to find the specific organizations that fit your funding interests. And we can assist you on your journey. Our Client Services team not only handles all Foundation-related administration and tax compliance on your behalf, they’re also ready to conduct research that will help identify the organizations whose mission aligns with your values. They’ll take the time to vet those charities, while also reporting on and evaluating the impact of their work.
Remember that your values are your guardrails. Use them to make the very best giving decisions for you and your family—then be prepared to update your giving strategy as your interests and philanthropic priorities evolve. It’s how you’ll make a meaningful impact and maximize the joy you get from helping others.
The Canada Gives Team
To learn more about Canada Gives, contact a member of our team.