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.

Honouring our wartime heroes in perpetuity

November 8th, 2013

Next year marks the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War and the 75th anniversary of the Second. No region in Canada has a more distinguished record in these conflicts than southern Manitoba.

Tomb of the unknown soldier. Photo from Flickr, taken by mostlyshine

Among the many endowments at The Winnipeg Foundation are some created to honour those called to serve, some of whom lost their young lives, in times of war. As we pause to reflect and remember on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, here are a few of their stories:

Private Frank Roper Memorial Fund Westminster Regiment
Private Roper worked for the C.C. Craig Company in Winnipeg for many years prior to the Second Great War. He was single, “a gentle soul,” and the lone support of his mother. When he was called up to join the Canadian Army, his familiarity with the operation of motorcycles led to his transfer to the Westminster Regiment. Frank Roper was killed in Italy and is buried in the Assissi War Cemetery in Perugia, Italy. As there was no known next of kin it is presumed that his mother died just after his enlistment. Roper Island in northern Manitoba is named for him.

World War II Veteran leaves poppy on the tomb of the unknown soldier. Photo from Flickr, taken by Patrick Cardinal

Regimental Trust Funds of 226th Overseas Battalion
The 226th Overseas Battalion C.E.F. was formed during the First World War. All such battalions had canteen funds, the income from which would be paid out to deserving members of the battalion or their widows or next of kin who may be in need. By 1955, there had been no claims made to the Trust in several years, and so, the trustees decided to turn the Trust over to The Winnipeg Foundation. The Foundation administered any claims on the Trust until 1958, at which point all remaining monies became general funds of The Winnipeg Foundation supporting our community forever.

John and Marion Abra Fund
Dr. John (Jack) Abra was called to active duty with the Canadian Army Dental Corps at the beginning of the Second World War, having enlisted in the Active Militia three years before. By completion of his six years of wartime service (two in Canada and four in England and Europe) he had risen to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He recorded his memories of that period in a document titled “One Man’s War,” which is held by The University of Manitoba’s archives.

For information about endowment funds at The Winnipeg Foundation, please contact Cathy Auld at 204-944-9474 or

Not turning a blind eye

August 7th, 2013

At the Battle of Copenhagen in the 1800′s, the famous British seaman, Horatio Nelson, could see flag signals coming from the fleet’s commanding officer suggesting that he withdraw his ship from the naval engagement. Not believing that to be the best strategy, Nelson raised his telescope to his blind eye in order to intentionally avoid seeing the instruction. That is the origin of the familiar saying “turning a blind eye”.

It can be perfectly natural to intentionally not see things that are offensive to our world view. Sometimes we simply prefer to ignore reality.

A case in point is Winnipeg’s designation as the child poverty capital of Canada. It is not easy for proud Manitobans to think about these disadvantaged kids. In large part, I suspect that frustration is at the root of this reaction. Anyone might logically ask, with all the investment by government in education and social programs, how is it that we continue to leave so many people behind? This is a complex question and there are many different answers. But in the end, the reality remains.

Much of The Winnipeg Foundation’s work is focused on issues of social justice and the need to address inequities in our society. We believe that many of the underlying causes can only be addressed by changes in public policy. But there is an important role for philanthropy. Using the capacity that the Foundation has received from countless generous donors, we can help to fill gaps in service by augmenting the resources of community agencies working on the front lines.

One of the obvious areas demanding attention is food security. The Winnipeg Foundation has long established relationships with important organizations like Winnipeg Harvest, Child Nutrition Council of Manitoba and Siloam Mission – all of which provide significant food support albeit from different approaches. These and other critical agencies along with their committed volunteers are not turning a blind eye! On the contrary, their dedicated efforts make a difference every day.

One of The Winnipeg Foundation’s current initiatives is called Nourishing Potential. This relatively new endowment made its first grants in May 2011. Since then some $471,000 has been approved in funding for 71 grants aimed at providing healthy food for after school programs. In the course of doing this work, we are meeting others who are working on food security issues. Again, more people who are not turning a blind eye. As part of our communications related to Nourishing Potential, we are telling some of their stories. If you are interested in learning more, I invite you to read Stories of Food: Nourishing Winnipeg.

And of course, if you wish to help, please send this to your friends and consider making a gift to the Nourishing Potential Fund.

Is an informed city a caring and compassionate city?

April 8th, 2013

One of the striking characteristics of the charitable sector is that aggressive marketing is highly frowned upon. We are seeing a bit more advertising than once was the norm but overhead cost is always an issue. Donors want their gifts delivering service and if marketing becomes too bold or too frequent, a questioning call can soon be expected.

With this in mind, I want to acknowledge the generous support that the media continually gives to community events and organizations. Agencies right across our city have significant impact on the quality of life we all enjoy. It is important that their stories be told.

The Winnipeg Foundation has enjoyed a long relationship with the Winnipeg Free Press enabling our Foundation Feature “stories” to appear every second week for more than a decade. Just recently I was a guest on Barbara Bowes’ Saturday morning radio show on CJOB. In mid-March Global TV aired on its show, Focus Manitoba, an interesting story about the generosity of Manitobans featuring a group of donors that established a scholarship fund with the Foundation. This kind of marketing really augments and stretches our budget and like all charities which benefit similarly, we say a sincere “thank you”.

If you share our belief that a more informed city is likely to be more caring and compassionate, then you may want to follow the stories that appear on Community News Commons. We are encouraging citizens to report on what’s important to them. Most of us are pretty tired of hearing about fires and police activity. The city is filled with people who are making a difference. Read about them; help them; join them.

It’s clear that with the benefit of a supportive media and a public engagement strategy, we will be stronger as a community and more effective at facing whatever challenges may come our way.

Explaining granting and market returns in 2012

February 1st, 2013

Recently, we released our 2012 Annual Report and in it we had plenty of good news to share. Last year was a positive one for our Foundation, when the generosity of our community, combined with strong market returns, helped build our assets to more than $500 million (including those we manage on behalf of other Manitoba community foundations).

After so many years of recovery following the financial downturn of 2008, our investment returns were 12.2%. However, despite that strong showing, and new gifts totalling $26.1 million (the most we’ve received since 2004), last year also saw a slight decrease in our granting to $21.2 million (the second-highest in our history, but down from 2011’s $22.1 million).

In a year of such positive financial news for our Foundation, why did this happen?

Because The Winnipeg Foundation exists to serve our community in perpetuity, it’s important that our policies consider the long term. Our Spending Policy, which has been in place for many years, ensures the Foundation’s strong support of our community today and tomorrow by balancing current need for support with rebuilding capital. The amount we grant in a given year is determined by the average returns over the three previous years, mitigating any drastic market fluctuations and ensuring our community has a reliable source of support. So, despite our strong 2012, the average return over the past five years was only 3.28%.

Our Spending Policy contains a mechanism to address severe market downturns like the one experienced in 2008. It triggered a gradual decrease in the spending rate from our longstanding 5% to 4.0%. In 2013, we are at 4.2% and we expect to be at 4% in 2014. We expect to remain there for several years. Our projection model says that the spending rate will slowly increase, beginning in about 2018, but only long term market performance will dictate when or by how much.

It’s worth noting that despite the change in our spending rate, the dip in our granting has not been particularly severe. Thanks to the continued support and confidence of so many donors, combined with our policies aimed at stability and sustainability, we’ve been able to minimize the impact of the downturn on the charitable organizations that do so much in our community.

To access the Foundation’s Spending Policy, which also describes how we protect against inflation, click here. To read our 2012 Annual Report, click here.

Our staff is happy to answer any questions you may have about the Foundation’s Spending Policy and 2012 granting. Please feel free to contact us at 204.944.9474 or