By pooling our gifts, we accomplish together what no one of us could do alone.
Just recently, I was asked to speak to the University Women’s Club annual luncheon on the topic of working together to build a stronger community. As I prepared my remarks, I kept reflecting on just how groundbreaking the idea of creating a community foundation really is. The Winnipeg Foundation is Canada’s first community foundation. As of December 31st, 2013, just over $327 million has been distributed to the community during our history. Our 93rd birthday is April 26, 2014 and as we look forward to The Foundation’s 100th anniversary in just seven years, it seems quite likely that by then total community support will reach beyond half a billion dollars.
In thinking about our history, it is pretty clear that William Alloway could see the potential impact of pooling resources in a community foundation. His founding gift of $100,000 was a lot of money in 1921. One cannot help but wonder how disappointed he must have been when no one else joined in after the legislation was passed. William and Elizabeth Alloway had personal knowledge of Winnipeg that reached back 51 years–when people came by canoe not the railroad. To say the least, they were very prominent citizens and amongst the most wealthy. And yet, despite their leadership, the idea of pooling gifts for greater impact seemingly offered no appeal to others.
We know nothing about the woman who validated their idea three years later. What prompted her to slip $15 into a plain white envelope? Perhaps she was associated in some way with one of the community organizations that received an early grant from The Foundation. One way or another, however she became acquainted with the Alloway vision, her decision to make a gift had remarkable impact. With three gold coins which she called “the widow’s mite”, the idea of a “community” foundation was realized. Last year, The Winnipeg Foundation made grants to over 800 different charities. In reflecting on the scope of that activity, this generous but unknown woman is arguably one of our City’s greatest citizens.
In the course of my remarks at the University Women’s Club, I listed just a few of the grants that were recently approved. The recipients included The Broadway Neighbourhood Centre, Friends of Sherbrook Pool, Ducks Unlimited, The John Howard Society, St. Paul’s College, The Sunny Mountain Day Care Centre and Prairie Fire Press. While Foundation grants average $15,000 to $20,000, there are of course some very large contributions. In January we made the final payment on a $6 million contribution to the national Human Rights Museum and we are currently in the process of paying a $1 million commitment to help with the new Children’s area at Assiniboine Park. This continuing flow of dollars into the community is far beyond the capacity of any of us as individuals. It is only by pooling our gifts that so much can be accomplished.
In the tradition of Alloway and “the Widow’s Mite”, we encourage families to consider creating a named “Community Building Fund” to generate annual income for the benefit of charitable agencies. Starting an endowment as a family legacy is a very simple process involving an initial gift of $2,500. There are many options allowing donors to shape their fund according to their philanthropic aspirations. With 2,800 funds, The Winnipeg Foundation is in essence an embodiment of the generous spirit so evident in our city. Our vision is “a Winnipeg where community life flourishes”. By pooling our resources, we can accomplish together what no one of us could do alone. For Good. Forever.
Read Rick Frost’s remarks to The University Women’s Club, Working Together To Build a Stronger Community