Community Building

April 22nd, 2014

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.

William Alloway

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.

Assiniboine Park's Nature Playground

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

More than $400,000 was raised by nearly 2,500 contributions during Foundation's 90-Hour Giving Challenge in 2011.

From a small acorn, a great oak tree grows

January 17th, 2014

I recently attended a special announcement to launch the new Winnipeg Police Service Endowment Fund. The idea championed by Chief Devon Clunis is intended to generate annual income to support community needs—particularly those involving challenged youth. And without question, the Police not only know our community needs well but they also know which projects are having the most impact. They work on the front line every day!

Back in 1988, I needed to prepare myself for a job interview to work at City Hall and my knowledge of Winnipeg at the time was pretty limited. I lived in the Hamilton/Toronto area all my life. While I had plenty of experience in city administration, I needed a quick primer on life in Winnipeg. One of the most important things I did to prepare for my interview was spend a Friday night shift on the road with the Duty Inspector. The experience reinforced what most of us know intuitively—our Police Officers know the city incredibly well.

Chief Clunis is planting a seed. It will take time for this new endowment to grow. The Chief has an ambitious target and it was certainly inspiring to see a coalition of 93 churches (One Heart Winnipeg) make the first generous gift of $20,000. In our experience, an endowment like this one has the potential to attract hundreds of gifts over time and the median donation is likely to be $100. That is to say that while there will hopefully be some large gifts, success is likely going to happen if the Chief can motivate a broad range of donors and ambassadors—the everyday philanthropists who make Winnipeg such a caring community. And of course, The Winnipeg Foundation’s matching program for this type of endowment will augment the donations that he is seeking from the general public.

The Mayor, Deputy Police Chief David Thorne, and David Keam from the Police Commission, were all on hand to endorse the initiative and with them, we wish Chief Clunis every success.