Becoming a philanthropist is one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable. Being able to support one or more charities, steer a donation to achieve specific results and then watch that gift change lives is an experience that delivers an indescribable sense of fulfillment. It goes without saying that the energy that philanthropists direct into creating that kind of change is truly inspiring. They’re universally driven by a passion for doing good and making the world a better place—and it shows in everything they do. But they’re also often stumped by a challenging question: How to choose a charity to support.
Indeed, directing a gift that makes an impact takes thought and planning. While anyone can write a cheque to a charity, organized philanthropists make a concerted effort to give to causes that ignite their passions. For some of our clients, that could mean working with Canada Gives to build a school in the developing world. For others it’s giving to causes dedicated to improving animal rights or supporting music programs for disabled children. No matter their interest, committed philanthropists spend time deciding which causes they want to support before distributing a single dollar of the generous gifts in their Canada Gives Foundation account. They view philanthropy as an important responsibility, not merely a benevolent pastime.
Vetting charities takes a strategic approach
One of the areas where we provide assistance to our clients is in selecting and vetting charities, ensuring those organizations are “qualified donees” under Canada Revenue Agency guidelines and therefore able to issue donation tax receipts or accept gifts from charitable foundations. Many not-for-profit organizations do not have a charitable registration number, and are not considered qualified donees. The good news: there are roughly 86,000 registered charities in Canada, so philanthropists have ample choice when setting a strategy to guide their giving.
But choosing charities that both align with their values and advance their philanthropic ambitions is a detailed process that involves in-depth due diligence.
One of the first steps in selecting one (or more) charities to support is to define your own values as a philanthropist. That requires asking a lot of questions. What do you believe in and where do your interests lie? What do you want your legacy to be? How will donating this gift impact your family in a positive way, and if the goal is to make it multi-generational, how will it be managed? Will other family members have a role in choosing the charities and managing disbursements? These are all critical considerations.
How do you want to make a lasting impact?
Next, narrow down a few categories of charitable organizations that you wish to support—although the number can be greater if you prefer to sprinkle a single gift in as many areas as possible. Having a targeted list of categories, including the ideal size of the charities you wish to fund, will help you focus your philanthropic efforts and enhance the impact of your giving. Once you have a sense of how you plan to steer your gifts, our team can help you narrow a short list of prospective grant recipients. We’ll also vet the organizations to ensure their mission statement aligns with that of your foundation.
Importantly, we’ll help you select charitable organizations, large or small, that are financially sound. We do it by determining whether the charities on your short list have the necessary financial infrastructure and governance framework to effectively manage and direct a substantial gift. This is especially important when supporting grassroots organizations whose administrative frameworks can sometimes be a concern.
Some of our additional criteria for determining whether a charity is reputable include:
- Whether it has a defined reporting structure with measurable goals
- Whether it uses quantifiable metrics to report key performance indicators
- Whether the organization is financially transparent
Effective philanthropy without the hassle
From there we’ll help you—and potentially your family—develop a strategy to engage with your preferred charities and manage your gift to ensure a long-term funding base that delivers the desired annual impact. In addition, you can have your own trusted portfolio manager handle the investments in your Canada Gives Foundation Account. Our goal is to make giving back as easy and flexible as possible, so you can focus on enjoying the experience of philanthropy.
In other words, your job is to focus on becoming great at doing good. Ours is to handle the rest.
Denise Castonguay, Executive Director and CEO