Philanthropy 2020

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Philanthropy NOVEMBER 2020


Non - profits • Foundations • cultural organizations

A guide to British Columbia’s philanthropic OPPORTunity Philantrophy_2020_32R.indd 1


Even in crisis, major donors are stepping up WCPD’s peter Nicholson on giving amid the pandemic

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Investing in perpetuity How good intentions grow legs: the power of endowment what we do


hen he established Vancouver Foundation, Whitford VanDusen was already adept at orchestrating charitable giving on a large scale. But he wanted more than to pass money from one hand to another. He wanted to stretch, grow, and deploy every dollar as widely as he could. What model might multiply the charitable impact of donors? Could he serve as more than a gobetween for the good (often ebbing and flowing) intentions of donors? A financially savvy lumber magnate, VanDusen had already been contemplating the idea of a permanent endowment. But when Alice MacKay, a retired Whitford secretary, made a $1,000 VanDusen bequest, the concept was cemented. MacKay had specified that her bequest be invested intact and that the income be used to support women in poverty. This is how the endowment model at Vancouver Foundation was struck: two unlikely visionaries who shared the same goal of sustained giving to the community. In 1944, interest rates hovered at around three percent, leaving the Foundation

Alice MacKay (holding book)

with $30 for charitable action in MacKay’s name. VanDusen contemplated $30 from MacKay’s $1,000. What if that $1,000 were $101,000? And what if that $101,000 continued to grow? VanDusen saw the potential of a base of funding that grows impact by growing itself. He added his own $10,000 to the pot, and challenged a circle of influential peers to do the same. By 1948, Vancouver Foundation held $101,000 in trust. The idea resonated with the community and an ever-increasing number of donors began establishing their legacies at Vancouver Foundation. By 1960, holdings of almost $3 million generated $219,000 in income, which was granted to dozens of charities involved in all aspects of our community. By 1989, Vancouver Foundation’s total assets of $230 million funded 408 charitable efforts. Today, Vancouver

Foundation’s holdings have topped $1.2 billion. More importantly, it distributes upwards of $50 million per year to thousands of charities across the province. This is investing in perpetuity: using financial savvy to give charities the gift of steady income to support their missions. In many cases, the amount of income a fund has generated and shared throughout the community has far surpassed the original capital of the fund itself – The Arthritis Society BC & Yukon Division, which established its first of four funds in 1951 with an initial contribution of $4,000, has received over $2.5 million in distributed income – far exceeding the fund’s current capital value. When charities have a steady stream of income, they can focus on what they do best: a constant and heartfelt contemplation of the people they serve and the ways they can best offer help. Thanks to MacKay’s particular bequest – and VanDusen’s being so inspired by it – generations of caring people have been given the license to envision and build a better community.

Contact Donor Services at 604.688.2204 or

Start Your Own Donor Advised Fund A Donor Advised Fund is the most popular way to give at Vancouver Foundation. Similar to a private foundation, a Donor Advised Fund enables individuals and families to establish a charitable endowment fund, receive a donation tax receipt and then recommend grants over time. A named fund can be created with a gift of $10,000 (or $1,000 to start-up), and will be customized to meet your charitable objectives. Grants can be made to any registered Canadian charity and, on a year-to-year basis, you can choose how to offer your support.

Need More Information? Contact Donor Services at 604.688.2204 or

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Even in crisis, major donors are stepping up WCPD’S PETER NICHOLSON ON GIVING AMID THE PANDEMIC

President: Alvin Brouwer Editor-in-chief, business in Vancouver; Vice-president, Glacier Media: Kirk LaPointe Editor: Hayley Woodin Design: Petra Kaksonen Production: Rob Benac Director, Sales and Marketing : Pia Huynh Sales Manager: Laura Torrance Advertising sales: Betty Jin, Blair Johnston, Corinne Tkachuk, Chris Wilson Administrator: Katherine Butler Giving Guide is published by BIV Magazines, a division of BIV Media Group, 303 Fifth Avenue West, Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1J6, 604‑688‑2398, fax 604‑688‑1963,


features 4

from a distance Virtual events have kept non-profits running


the rise of corporate giving Female-led businesses give back

12 pandemic philanthropy Donors breathe life into ventillator project

Copyright 2020 Business in Vancouver Magazines. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or incorporated into any information retrieval system without permission of BIV Magazines. The publishers are not responsible in whole or in part for any errors or omissions in this publication. ISSN 1205-5662 Publications Mail Agreement No.: 40069240. Registration No.: 8876. Return undeliverable Canadian addresses to Circulation Department: 303 Fifth Avenue West, Vancouver, B.C. V5Y 1J6 Email: Cover photo: NataBene/Getty Images

20 coping with covid How charities, non-profits are pivoting 26 major donors step up Even in times of dizzying change


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Virtual events and emergency funds have kept the lights on for many nonprofits. But as we enter 2021, what does the future hold?

By Jeff Todd

Imagine for a moment that half of the money you relied on for an entire year was earned in just 10 minutes. Now imagine if those funds were dependent on a gala in the fall, and a packed ballroom of 650 people. And then, a pandemic hits, where suddenly, people are no longer allowed to gather in groups indoors, let alone large crowds. In the year 2020, it’s no longer difficult to imagine. For Big Sisters, a life-saving non-profit that pairs the most vulnerable girls in the Lower Mainland with mentors, its very existence was under threat. “Everything was at stake,” says Molly Loudon says, director of philanthropy at Big Sisters. While they had an emergency fund, dipping into that was a last resort. “We start from zero every year. We have to fundraise every dollar, and we do not have government funding,” she continues. “So the future of the organization was on the line.” It’s a familiar story for the nearly 30,000 charities and non-profits all across the province. Polished shoes and high heels have been replaced by sandals and running shoes. Those suits and gowns hang in the closet with dry cleaning tags unbroken. When the world went into lockdown last March, we lamented the isolation, and the loss of our favourite restaurants, shops and social outings. But behind that, often unnoticed, has been the threat to not only how charities and non-profits operate, but the way in which they raise money for essential programming. In short: at a time when social services are needed most, how do you keep donations flowing without the gala and golf tournament? How do you keep donors engaged from behind a computer screen? It was a reality Big Sisters had to grapple with immediately. After all, the organization already had a major, annual event coming up in late April – GrapeJuice. This wine tasting and wine auction event, traditionally held at a luxury car dealership, brought together 150 movers and shakers in the city, and generated $100,000 for the organization. “So when the pandemic arrived, we knew we couldn’t go ahead,” Loudon remembers. “We emailed our sponsors and told them: ‘Please hold. And we completely understand if the sponsorship won’t work for you this year.’” The response, she says, was “overwhelming.” Every sponsor stayed on board, but asked – ‘What’s next?’ That was the

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$100,000 question. At this point, according to Loudon, few, if any, virtual events had happened yet in the city. A big aspect of planning, she says, is knowing the audience. For GrapeJuice, networking and wine were important components of its identity and success. So they set about putting together packages of wine and charcuterie for every guest and had them delivered to homes ahead of a one-hour Zoom broadcast with sommeliers. To ensure a smooth broadcast, large portions of the event were pre-recorded. Live elements were sprinkled in to give the viewer a more dynamic feel. Although the networking was lost, Big Sisters discovered some unexpected benefits. For example, the online wine auction generated more donations than in the past, partly because people were not mingling. Guests would be sitting at home, on their phones, focused on grabbing that wine they really wanted. Antonia Kalmacoff, manager of strategic initiatives and planned giving, explains that Big Sisters used a telethon model for pledges. Hosts would announce donations live, encouraging others to jump on board. “It was basically putting a number on the screen: ‘It costs this to support a big and little sister match for a year,’” she explained. “It was a familiar concept for a lot of people.” Along with the wine and charcuterie, marketing collateral was also sent to the guests. In the end, the event exceeded expectations, raising $101,000 for Big Sisters, and providing a virtual “dress rehearsal” for their big gala to come. A huge component to success, Kalmacoff adds, was simply going back to basics – getting on the phone and speaking to your donors; asking them how they are feeling, and what they need. As it turns out, not every fundraising event needs to be virtual. For example, Big Sisters’ annual Spring Lunch, which typically brings together 400 people – mostly women – on a beautiful Friday afternoon, didn’t require kits being mailed to homes, or even a computer. Big Sisters quickly learned that these die-hard supporters only cared about one thing. “They wanted to know the number,” Kalmacoff says. “They were ready to give. They just wanted to know the goal. So the audience dictated what we did.” Spring Lunch became a ticket-in-lieu campaign, where Big Sisters’ loyal donor base simply donated the cost of admission.

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On a typical year, Big Sisters hosted their marquee Luminary Award Soiree, bringing together hundreds of supporters. Up to half of the non-profits’ annual operating revenue is earned that evening • Big Sisters

With two successful events under their belts, it was now time for the gala – the Luminary Award Soiree. The stakes were high. Even before COVID-19 became a reality, the organizers had selected six award recipients for the event to celebrate their 60th anniversary. 2019 had been a record for Big Sisters, netting $930,000, or close to 50% of their operating revenue. Those crucial 10 minutes where they ask the crowd for major gifts and pledges, were make-or-break for the organization. A ticket-in-lieu campaign wouldn’t do. As Loudon describes, they went for “the whole shebang.” Similar to GrapeJuice, Big Sisters conceived elaborate packages, dubbed “Gala In A Box,” which included the full experience: a three-course meal, bubbles, candles, flowers, masks, napkins and hand sanitizers. These additional items actually allowed for new brand activations for supporters, Kalmacoff adds, by having logos on the napkins, for example. The timing of the event was also important. Organizers decided to move it from a Saturday in November to a Wednesday in September.

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“This I think helped people still feel comfortable meeting outside in small groups, so they were able to host small parties to watch,” Loudon explains. “Also, we didn’t take up a weekend night.” While unforeseen at the time, having six award recipients helped them get over the top. Big Sisters relied on the networks and reputations of these women to drive ticket sales. Another focus was keeping the programming tight. Loudon and Kalmacoff decided to create just one hour of programming, mostly pre-recorded. And then there was the donations – when you host a virtual event, leave nothing to chance. Big Sisters pushed to have most of their commitments lined up in advance. All told, the Luminary Award Soiree managed to raise more than $1 million. “We were really blown away by the generosity of the community,” Kalmacoff says. “The virtual gala was by far the most successful to date. It will have a tremendous impact on the vulnerable youth we serve across the Lower Mainland.” In the teeth of a pandemic, Big Sisters was saved. But uncertainty remains. For Big Sisters, and

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hundreds of other non-profits, will the virtual fundraising push be sustainable? Will we soon be suffering from Zoom fatigue? “We are about to go into budgeting for next year, and I have absolutely no idea what 2021 looks like,” Loudon admits. “It has been some interesting pivoting and resilience across the team, but 2021 is almost scarier for me.” It’s an uncertainty very much on the mind of Alison Brewin, executive director at The Vantage Point. The not-for-profit institution serves thousands of charitable organizations and individuals every year, providing educational programs, consulting support and strategic planning. In May, together with the Vancouver Foundation, the City of Vancouver and the Victoria Foundation, Vantage Point conducted a survey and report – called No Immunity – to gain an understanding of the charitable and non-profit landscape amid COVID-19. The results were sobering, to say the least. The survey found that 74% had experienced reduced revenue from fundraising. Meanwhile, 52% reported an increased demand for services. And astonishingly, up to 23% of non-profits were facing imminent closure this year. While Big Sisters managed to pivot successfully, that’s not the story for all non-profits in Vancouver. Brewin says most organizations across the province do not necessarily rely on or have access to galas and golf tournaments. Smaller organizations are grappling with technology, and fundamental questions like how to move their services online. Volunteers are scrambling to teach seniors, for example, how to use an iPad and access services on the Internet. Like Loudon, Brewin worries about what the future holds. “The upsurge in funding because of COVID-19 … there are a lot of great stories out there of funding being flexible, and donors stepping up even more than before,” Brewin explains. “But of course, that is an instantaneous response. Whether that is sustainable or not obviously is the big question for everybody.” Funding, of course, is always a huge question. But what about the programming itself? In addition to a rising demand for services, the report also noted that 68% of non-profit employees struggled to work from home, and 95% reported higher levels of stress. Vulnerable groups, whether it be Big Sisters, or perhaps domestic violence organizations, are struggling with the very nature of their services, where one-on-one interaction is so important to what they do. Can these services be delivered effectively online? Can some services be done in person, with the right guidelines? However, the real issue is much broader, Brewin points out. She believes we have all grown accustomed to a lifestyle where non-profit organizations are around every corner. “We all touch non-profits and charities all the time,” said adds. “I think sometimes we forget that. We rely on the education field, the health field, the sports field. The family drop-ins, for example. … I fear someday those parents will be knocking on the door and discovering they are closed. Or the festivals and events we are accustomed to no longer exist. I think as we see non-profits shut their doors, people will be quite surprised.” Meanwhile, the non-profit sector remains one the largest economic drivers for British Columbia, and really all of Canada, employing millions of people in a variety of different jobs. With so much at stake, the Vancouver Foundation sprang

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The Bloom Group, a non-profit that works with the urgent needs of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, was one of the recipients of the Vancouver Foundation’s $20 million relief fund • Vancouver Foundation

into action. “Our biggest concern was the realization that organizations that depend on events and external funding would see their revenues disappear,” says Kevin McCort, CEO of the Vancouver Foundation. “And the demand for their services will go up. It was really a perfect storm.” The foundation immediately launched an Emergency Community Support Fund, disbursing close to $20 million to 600 charities throughout British Columbia. They moved with speed: by the middle of March, funds were already being distributed, thanks to discretionary funds within the organization. Large portions also came from donor-advised fund holders. And then the public responded, along with corporations and the government, to get that figure up to around $20 million. It was a giant parachute for charities and non-profits in free fall, led by an enthusiastic group of volunteers that reviewed and vetted hundreds of applications for funding. McCort explains that the Vancouver Foundation never viewed itself as an emergency response organization. While they had “dipped our toe in the water” in 2017, encouraging donors to help with forest fire relief, and again in 2018 when the opioid crisis was declared a national disaster, this pandemic took things to a whole new level. “Our message was – if you love a charity and you know they

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need money, send a cheque directly,” he says. “But if you are concerned but don’t know which one is the most needy, or if you don’t know who you want to fund, send us the money and we will handle it for you. A lot of donors were quite happy to delegate the decision making.” It was a new “niche in the donor universe” for the foundation, a space McCort says they will occupy more in the future. But generally, he shares the anxieties of Big Sisters, Vantage Point and indeed all other charities and non-profits. McCort insists other foundations and endowed organizations need to step up going into 2021, and beyond. “Part of the reason foundations exist is to save money for a rainy day. Well, it’s raining now,” he says. “Sometimes, the reaction is to spend less and preserve capital. But I think it is important to get the balance right. Now is the time to be counter-cyclical. Now is the time to disburse more than normal, even if your first instinct is to be more conservative. People will remember what you did, or didn’t do, during this pandemic.” McCort adds that it has not been all negative amid COVID-19. The crisis has also revealed high engagement numbers across the Vancouver Foundation among both their employees and volunteer base. At Big Sisters, it forced them to get on the phones and really engage with donors even more in their quest to find the secret sauce of

Thank you

fundraising in a virtual world. More importantly, it has accelerated an already hot topic for them – diversification. “We know we need to diversify away from an event-heavy revenue stream,” Loudon admits. For Vantage Point, Brewins says the pandemic transformed how they deliver their programming. Instead of travelling throughout the province, they deliver much of their programming virtually, with even higher participation levels online Brewins is also seeing a trend towards merging and collaboration between charities and non-profits. Stark economic realities are forcing smaller non-profits to fold their services into larger organizations, pooling resources, which in many cases might be a good thing, she explains. And generally, people are just talking more and collaborating for survival. “I have been in the sector in this province since the mid-90s, and I have never seen this degree of collaboration,” she says. “People are reaching out and talking to each other and finding ways to work. Because we often have our heads down and we’re go, go, go. Our structures create competitiveness, which is challenging sometimes. But I feel like there are some positive things to come out of this.” Perhaps, ironically, a pandemic that drove everyone apart physically, could actually bring us all closer together. ç

Congratulations to the 2020 Giving Hearts Awards nominees. The best way to support a community is to be a part of it, especially in challenging times. Thank you for your generous commitment to philanthropy. ® / ™ Trademark(s) of Royal Bank of Canada. VPS107757

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Ryley Humphry is the co-owner of Naked Snacks, which was founded by her husband Neil Thomson in 2017 • ROB KRUYT

The rise of

corporate GIVING

How a number of female-led businesses give back

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Hayley Woodin


ong line-ups outside of food banks and stories of families driving hours to secure food became early symbols of the economic and social devastation caused by COVID-19.

In many ways, the pandemic exacerbated existing social inequities and issues: there were nearly one million children and youth already waiting to take part in the Breakfast Club of Canada’s meal program before the coronavirus came to Canada. “They do not have access to a healthy meal,” explains Benjamin Neumer, a Vancouver-based senior advisor for corporate partnerships and major gifts with the Breakfast Club of Canada. Some 270,000 students are fed by the organization’s schoolbased program every day, from coast to coast to coast. It had to adapt quickly to schools shutting down in March and April due to COVID-19, and did so by injecting cash and in-kind donations into communities to feed thousands of families. “We picked up many new partners through this. It was a little bit paradoxical because you would think with COVID there would be more constraints,” says Neumer. “We received thousands and thousands of dollars from the corporate community.” Breakfast Club of Canada is heavily reliant on corporate giving, as are many charities and non-profits in Canada. On average, Americans donate more than 14 times as much as businesses, while Canadians donate slightly more than three times as frequently as companies, according Imagine Canada. Some 91% of the Breakfast Club of Canada’s funding comes from businesses. “It’s actually astounding how many kids go to school on an empty stomach,” says Ryley Humphry, vice-president of sales and co-owner of Naked Snacks, which financially supports Breakfast Club of Canada. For every box of snacks the company ships, Naked Snacks contributes the financial equivalent of a snack to a child in need through its partner. When BIV Magazine spoke with Humphry in August, the company – which was founded by her husband Neil Thomson in 2017 – had donated more than 4,600 snacks in 2020 alone. “We’re still a very small business. But giving back is incredibly important to us,” says Humphry, who works as a full-time fundraiser for the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. “It’s a really cool part of my role at Naked Snacks, where I then get to contribute to the strategy for philanthropy and community partnerships and giving back.” Pre-pandemic, Canadian corporate philanthropy was on the rise. Imagine Canada reported last November that more than four times as many Canadian companies were planning to increase their community investment budgets as those who

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planned to decrease them. Many leading companies were also encouraging their employees to donate their time and money to various causes. “Gone are the days when businesses are making one charity partnership and that’s it for the next five-to-10 years,” says Lori Muñoz Malcolm, community strategist and founder of HeartPress, a “broker of good” that helps businesses connect with non-profits, and vice versa. Not only is corporate philanthropy evolving – consumers expect more from the businesses they frequent. “I think we’re seeing that even more during COVID, where customers are looking for their company to be stepping up.” The list of B.C. businesses that redirected resources to manufacture personal protective equipment or hand sanitizers, and to help people in need, is long. The Pie Hole, founded by Jenell Parsons, donated a pie to a seniors’ home in the Lower Mainland for every pie purchased. Taste of the Okanagan Specialty Foods Ltd. is donating part proceeds from the sale of a special wine jelly to Mamas for Mamas, a poverty relief agency. Some companies are even being established to help meet community needs. Mobile bartending business Lipstick Liqueur, which is getting up and running during the pandemic, intends to contribute part of its revenues directly to families fighting breast cancer. “I was in high school, my mom got diagnosed with breast cancer. And what I remember distinctly is how difficult the financial strain was on her,” says Sabrina Haloulakos, the founder and CEO of Lipstick Liqueur, who has a career in investment banking. “I kind of like to follow the dollar when I donate,” she says. “How cool would it be to give directly to somebody and – it may not be thousands of dollars – but at least they know the community’s supporting them.” ç

We’re still a very small business. But giving back is incredibly important to us Ryley Humphry, Co-owner Naked Snacks

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On being kind, calm and safe in the inner city COVID-19 has caused devastation, but also unprecedented collaboration

Jennifer Johnstone

I have never been more inspired by the power of philanthropy to mobilize resources, foster connections and provide opportunities to invest in our shared love of humanity than I have during these extraordinary times. The urgency for us all to come together and support our neighbours in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, with its dire health and economic impacts across our world, is crystal clear. For more than 100 years, Central City Foundation has been bringing British Columbians together to help our neighbours in need improve their lives. By working closely with a wide array of excellent and effective community groups, we have learned the value and seen the lasting impact of community-led initiatives. Here in our inner city these past few months, we have seen some of the devastating consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the lives of our most vulnerable neighbours, including the hundreds of people forced out onto city streets when the rest of us were asked to stay home and stay safe. The lives of people in our community who are marginalized by poverty and systemic racism, who have struggled for generations with the resulting trauma, all while facing the deadly consequences of the ongoing Opioid Crisis and widespread gender-based violence, have been made so much harder during this pandemic. However, we have also witnessed an unprecedented collaborative effort led by community organizations in the Downtown Eastside and across Metro Vancouver to provide critical support – from food, shelter, and basic health supplies to information and connection – to keep individuals and families safe in this pandemic. All of this would not be possible without the generosity of donors

and our philanthropic community. Dr. Bonnie Henry called on British Columbians to be kind, be calm, and be safe. We have readily embraced this call to action alongside our community partners. Kindness is about finding ways to help and lift-up others. We believe in the intrinsic value of all human beings, and that everyone has value, gifts to share and the capacity to contribute to our community and finding ways to help everyone is at the core of our work in community. We have seen many examples of kindness led by community these past months including the tremendous leadership shown by Potluck Café and Catering, who mobilized non-profits, social enterprises and local businesses to provide over 140,000 meals to those left hungry by the pandemic lockdown. One of the most devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and our necessary public health response was the dramatic increase in violence against women across the globe. Locally, with the closure of so many community spaces during the lockdown, there was an urgent need for safe spaces for women. While organizations such as the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre and WISH Drop-in Centre worked tirelessly to maximize their safe spaces, Atira Women’s Resource Society, with funding from Central City Foundation and other donors, was able to open Sister Square, an enclosed, heated tent staffed 24/7 that provides information, overdose prevention, food, hygiene, access to support services and more. We are working hard to ensure the community’s needs continue to be heard and that community-led solutions receive essential support and funding. If you want to join us in this effort, you can learn more or make a gift at ç Jennifer Johnstone is president and CEO of Central City Foundation.

Kindness is about finding ways to help and lift-up others. We believe in the intrinsic value of all human beings Jennifer Johnstone President and CEO, Central City Foundation

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Impact is why charities matter BY david love

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic it was charities that often responded first to urgent community need. All charities play a crucial role in our society: often, they fill gaps left by the government and the market economy and now those gaps are more acute than ever, and that means charities are more important than ever. The role of charities of all shapes and sizes in our community is to help to make positive change for those they serve, and in order to do this they need funds. Fundraising is crucial to help make a difference in our communities, our country and around the world. “With a substantial drop in donations and insufficient reserve funds to fall back on, an increasing number of charities have had to make drastic cuts to their budgets, and some have even been forced to close their doors. The result is a reduction in services and supports for beneficiaries at a time when they are most needed,” says Sofia Janmohamed, MBA, CFRE, President AFP Greater Vancouver and Director, Leadership Giving, Canadian Cancer Society. When Vancouver, and the world, emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, the needs we know today will still exist and will likely be even more acute. Charities – the 86,000 organizations you know well and those that quietly and tirelessly make our communities better, will continue to play a crucial role in addressing those needs, and they will need funds to be able to do so. During these uncertain times, some former donors to local charities are now in need of that group’s services. I think for all of us, especially at these times, we’re all wondering, ‘what can I do?’. If you try to take it all on, it can be overwhelming. As pre-holiday appeals increase and you consider

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supporting a charity’s work, think about the tangible impact that the charity has on its beneficiaries. Look at the programs, services, research and on-the-ground benefits that affect real people, next door or around the world. Real impact is occurring in our communities as, together, we confront these extremely challenging times. We are faced with urgent needs due to the overdose and COVID-19 pandemics, plus ongoing efforts to achieve equality and always make our world, our community, better. It is our individual and collective responsibility to focus on what is most important: making a positive difference. Giving has been proven to have numerous positive effects. In a time of social distancing we are all looking for ways to feel connected to each other, and giving can offer that sense of connection. Giving a gift, of whatever size, to charity is a hugely positive and empowering action. David Love, CFRE, is past-president of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Greater Vancouver Chapter, and principal of LOVEfundraising.

Real impact is occurring in our communities as, together, we confront these extremely challenging times

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Donors breathe life into ventilator project

On Easter Weekend, noted philanthropists from across Canada helped make life-saving technology a reality in unique partnership with science, government and private sector By Jeff Todd

Dr. Art McDonald, who won the Nobel Prize for physics in 2015, brought together scientists across Canada, including TRIUMF in Vancouver, to help deliver a new, lost-cost ventilator • Queen’s University

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Dr. Art McDonald is unique in his appreciation for philanthropy. After all, he wasn’t born a Nobel Prize-winning physicist. Before reaching the pinnacle of his profession 2015, Dr. McDonald was the recipient of an endowed chair at Queen’s University, courtesy of philanthropists Gordon and Patricia Gray, giving him the opportunity to pursue cutting-edge research. Two years after it ended, he would accept the Nobel Prize. Years earlier, he benefited from the Killam Prize, given to Canada’s top scholars. Named after Dorothy Killam, she used her vast fortune to support education and research in her will. But on Easter Sunday this year, another act of philanthropy would be particularly unique, and leave the eminent scientist “flabbergasted.” It started with a phone call on the holiday weekend to Donald and Robert Sobey, owners of the second largest food retailer in Canada. Except this call wasn’t about food, or even particle astrophysics. It was about how philanthropists could help develop a new, low-cost ventilator to save lives amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “The generosity of the individuals who helped us and their immediate response … I was flabbergasted,” says Dr. McDonald, who currently serves as professor emeritus at Queen’s University and won the Nobel Prize for his research into the mysteries of dark matter. “I came away from those phone calls blessed by the response of those donors. It just made it possible for us to proceed. It was a race against time.” This race began just a month earlier, in the very teeth of the pandemic. Back in March, Dr. McDonald was contacted by Italian physicist and colleague Cristiano Galbiati, who was in lockdown in Milan, one of the virus’ epicenters at this time. He realized that elements of the technology they were developing in their particle experiments could potentially be applied to a new type of ventilator, one that can be produced quickly and at a lower cost. In fact, whereas a typical ventilator may contain 1,500 parts, the proposed prototype would include just 50 core parts. Up to 1,000 units could be manufactured in a month.

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TRIUMF in Vancouver is Canada’s major particle accelerator centre and a premier physics laboratory • Submitted

With the virus spreading rapidly all around the world, experts soon realized there would be a shortage of personal protective equipment and ventilators to treat patients. While it may not have been Dr. McDonald’s usual area of expertise, here was a chance to make a contribution to the crisis, he thought. But they needed help. Working with his Italian colleagues, Dr. McDonald rallied the troops. He connected with TRIUMF in Vancouver, Canada’s major particle accelerator centre and a premier physics laboratory. He also reached out to Canadian Nuclear Laboratories in Chalk River, Ontario, SNOLAB, an underground facility in Sudbury specializing in neutrino and dark matter physics, and academic colleagues in Canada associated with the McDonald Institute, which specializes in astroparticle physics. Suddenly, some of the best minds in the world were rallied in the fight against around COVID-19. “All of them immediately said: ‘Whatever you need. We will be very willing to help out with this situation,’” Dr. McDonald remembers. “When we got into it, it was quite clear people with a wide variety of skills were pleased to apply them to do something positive to try and help.” This international gathering of the minds, all volunteers, produced a functioning prototype at astonishing speed – in

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just 10 days. Manufacturing a full scale, manufacturable, reliable and safe product, however, was another matter. Dubbed the MVM Ventilator Project, Dr. McDonald and the international team set about finding companies that could actually manufacture the product, deciding on Vexos in Markham, Ontario, JMP Solutions in London, Ontario and Elemaster in Italy. In a true act of philanthropy, Dr. McDonald and his colleagues didn’t seek personal gain from the project. All of the research was deemed “open source,” effectively allowing any company in the world to use the design for the benefit of their communities. Certainly, Canada was paying attention. In early April, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Dr. McDonald and his team would be one of four suppliers that government could engage for ventilators, with the goal of boosting the country’s stockpile by more than 30,000 units. So with a working prototype in hand, and a possible order from the Canadian government, the MVM Ventilator Project was off and running. It was now a waiting game for the ventilators to receive full approval from Health Canada. There was just one problem. “With the demand for ventilators everywhere in the world,

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14  | biv magazine: philanthropy issue 2020 published by Business in VAncouver

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In a true act of philanthropy, Dr. McDonald and his colleagues didn’t seek personal gain from the project. All of the research was deemed “open source”, effectively allowing any company in the world to use the design for the benefit of their communities • MVM

many critical components were in short supply,” Dr. McDonald explains. “The companies supplying them were saying, ‘Fine, you can purchase them, but we want a full financial commitment.’ The government contract was 10,000 devices, but in April we needed to come up with the money to secure these components.” So on that Sunday morning on Easter Weekend, Donald and Rob Sobey gladly accepted the Nobel Laureates’ call. While both from the Maritimes, they were also Queen’s University graduates, where Dr. McDonald has been a professor since 1989. By the end of the conversation, the Donald Sobey Foundation had made a substantial donation to secure the critical parts, paving the way for one of the most unique and timely partnerships in recent memory. “I think the world is upside down,” Rob Sobey, a trustee of the Donald Sobey Foundation, told CTV News in April. “Everything is back to front. And here is a really great example of science working with business to come up with new collaborations to get things done. To save lives. This is nothing more than saving lives. I think everyone hopes these ventilators won’t be needed. But it is certainly better to have them and not need them, than the other way around.” Dr. McDonald’s next call was to Peter Nicholson Sr., the chairman of The Foundation WCPD. In addition to being a noted economist, advisor to multiple Canadian prime ministers and an Order of Canada recipient, Nicholson had also been Dr. McDonald’s college roommate at Dalhousie University, and the best man at his wedding. Nicholson immediately referred him to his son, Peter Nicholson Jr., president and founder of The Foundation WCPD. As someone who lives and breathes philanthropy, here was someone that could reach more donors. Since 2006, The Foundation WCPD, a boutique financial services firm, has worked with Canada’s largest philanthropists by using flow-through shares to help them give up to three times more than a standard donation, at no additional cost. The firm

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combines two long-established tax policies: one to assist Canada’s resource sector to create jobs and produce raw materials, and another to give Canadians a tax break for donations to charity, or your standard tax receipt. What it adds up to is more than $150 million in charitable donations by its clients to charities all across Canada. “I immediately wanted to help,” says Nicholson Jr., whose company is headquartered in Ottawa. “I have been working with philanthropists for a long time, but this call was special. It was truly humbling to be asked and have the ability to help.” In addition to making a personal donation, Nicholson quickly set up meetings with other philanthropists over Easter Weekend. The Garrett Family Foundation, Josh Felker, Dan Robichaud, Patricia Saputo, Salvatore Guerrera, Nicola Tedeschi and four anonymous donors all contributed to the effort, as did the Lazaridis Family Foundation in answer to a personal contact from Dr. McDonald. The Foundation WCPD’s tax structure helped boost the donations for some of these donors. “Flow-through shares not only place a significant lever on your giving, but they also allow us clients to quickly laser those donations to a charity of their choice,” he explains. Speed, as Mr. McDonald says, was indeed the name of the game. With hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations now secured over a holiday weekend, his group could now guarantee the parts needed for the new, life-saving technology. He also noted that some of the donations, held at Queen’s University in the Dr. Art McDonald Ventilator Research Fund, have been used to purchase a human lung simulator to help test the effectiveness of the new technology. Once COVID-19 has passed, the equipment will be donated to the medical school, he says. Dr. McDonald also wishes to use some of the donations to assist patients internationally, in places such as South America and Africa, where countries are less equipped and unable to treat the population. Meanwhile, with Health Canada’s approval now secured, production has now begun on 10,000 low-cost, easy-to-manufacture ventilators – just in time. As Canada settles in for a long winter, and the “second wave” of COVID-19 sweeps the country and the world, Dr. McDonald says he is both amazed and thankful to the donors for their rapid response. He adds that the ability to go from idea, to final design, to approval within regulatory agencies in just six months is “almost unheard of,” and a testament to society’s ability to pull together in times of crisis. “I got the immediate impression of the big hearts who were making these quick decisions to support us,” Dr. McDonald says. “I think it is quite unique in terms of the instant response on the part of the donors, at a very critical time for us. Their decisions were clearly made with a humanitarian objective, and I think we have been able to deliver on that vision.” ç

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Giving Hearts

The Association of Fundraising Professionals Greater Vancouver Chapter is the professional association representing individuals and organizations that generate philanthropic support for a wide variety of charitable institutions in our community.

As part of National Philanthropy Day on November 15, we celebrate and recognize inspiring individuals and businesses that make a positive impact in the lives of others, their community and the world through their incredible contributions and spirit

of philanthropy. We are proud to present the 2020 Giving Hearts Awards Nominees. As we are not able to gather this month, we will recognize this 2020 roster at a celebration in 2021. To learn more visit:

2020 GIVING HEARTS AWARDS NOMINEES Outstanding Philanthropist Award • • • • •

The Chan Family The Greczmiel Family Dr. Rudy & Mrs. Patricia North Arnold & Anita Silber Dennis & Phyllis Washington Foundation

Outstanding Corporation Award • • • • • • • • • • • •

Outstanding Legacy Philanthropist Award in Partnership with CAGP Greater Vancouver Chapter • • •

The McCarthy Family Dr. John McNeill Dr. A.H. Somjee

Outstanding Small Business Award

The Capilano Group E.B. Horsman & Son Glotman Simpson Consulting Engineers Grosvenor Americas Neptune Terminals Nicola Wealth Odlum Brown Limited Otter Co-op Pacific Blue Cross RLC Park Services Southern Railway of British Columbia (SRY) White Spot

• • •

Glowbal Restaurant Group Integra Smart Wireless

Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser Award • • • •

Matt August Dr. Genieve Burley Vicki & Kerry Kunzli Mel Zajac

Outstanding Youth Philanthropist Award • • • •

Jason Guo Raisa Jose Sophia Ladha Casey Wright


Giving Hearts Awards Honour Roll Sponsors

Outstanding Legacy Philanthropist Award Co-Partner

Contributing Sponsors BCIT

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Harvey McKinnon Associates


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IMPACT OF COVID ON PHILANTHROPY The non-profit sector typically contributes $6.4 billion to B.C.’s gross domestic product and employs 86,000 people across the province. But 2020 has been a far-from-typical year. This month’s infographic highlights the impact COVID-19 has had on non-profit and charitable organizations, and includes data from a number of reports and surveys released during the pandemic.

B.C. non-profits


of B.C. non-profits are experiencing reduced revenue from fundraising

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have reduced staff hours


do not think they can stay open more than six months under current conditions


worry about retaining their facilities

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B.C. donors


of B.C. donors have given less since COVID-19


of donors have given more


have changed who they donate to

Charities in Canada


of Canadian charities have seen demand increase during the pandemic


have seen demand drop


is their average revenue decline since the onset of the pandemic

Sources: No Immunity: Impact of COVID-19 on BC Nonprofits, Vantage Point (May 2020); Philanthropy, Pandemic & Political Scandal: COVID-19 curtails donor giving; WE affair weakens trust in charities, Angus Reid Institute (September 2020); Charities & the COVID-19 Pandemic, Imagine Canada (May 2020).

SvetaZi/getty images

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Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon keeps families close when it matters most what we do


hen the unthinkable happens and a family is uprooted for their child’s critical medical treatment, there are many barriers they must overcome to stay together. Hotel stays are expensive, siblings need to be cared for, and staying in the hospital long term is unsustainable. That’s where Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon (RMH BC) comes in—providing accommodation, comfort, compassion, and a sense of community to these families in need. Families who depend on RMH BC often arrive in Vancouver on short notice, not knowing how long they will need to stay: weeks, months, or even years. At the House, families can stay together under

the same roof with their sick child. They can enjoy everyday family moments like a home-cooked meal, playing catch outside, and snuggling up for superhero movie night. Most importantly, they can focus on helping their child to heal. Staying at RMH BC also affects families long after their stay. A study by RBC found that families with a sick child experience a catastrophic financial burden which takes an estimated 10 – 12 years to recover from. By staying at RMH BC, they can save $3000 – $6000 per month, making them stronger once they return home.

how you can help RMH BC depends on generous community supporters like you to provide accommodation and support for families

when it matters most. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have stayed open as an essential service for families with seriously ill children when treatment can’t wait – and we are doing this without the support of our inperson fundraising events and volunteer programs. You can make a difference today by making a donation, joining our Housewarmers monthly giving club, or hosting a virtual fundraiser. We also offer many corporate engagement opportunities that can take place from a safe physical distance.

Find out more at: 604-736-2957

CHAMPIONS WANTED When the unthinkable happens and a family is uprooted for their child’s critical medical treatment, there are many barriers they must overcome to stay together. Hotel stays are expensive, siblings need to be cared for, and staying in the hospital long term is unsustainable. Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon depends on community supporters like you to keep families close when it matters most.

Give today or get involved:

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Dealing with the Pandemic – one organizations response what we do


OVID-19 has caused countless individuals and family’s sleepless nights as they worry about losing loved ones, losing their jobs, making rent or mortgage payments, putting food on the table and clothes on their children’s backs. The pandemic has created a ‘new normal’ but there is nothing normal about this. Across the province many are struggling and the term ‘vulnerable population’ has taken on a whole new meaning. At one location, “the food lines have never been so long, shelter space has never been needed more, and compassion and humanity are needed at an all-time high.” This is from Mike Leland, spokesperson for The Salvation Army in British Columbia. Despite the challenges, the pandemic has brought, The Salvation Army has been able to respond. “We are still here and still

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serving,” says Leland. “Our frontline staff are working around the clock to serve the most vulnerable individuals and families within our communities – we’re providing food, shelter and safety to those who need it most … and we’ll be here until this thing is over.” “In locations across BC we are literally seeing double and triple the number of families and individuals. In these unprecedented times, we are seeing a new definition of ‘vulnerable’ and it is happening everywhere.” While The Salvation Army is doing work on the frontlines, Leland stresses that they can’t do this alone … and they do not do this alone. The outpouring of support from individuals, government, community partners and the corporate community has come in the form of advice, supplies, volunteers and of course generous cash

donations. “More than ever, we have seen a coming together of a community to support one another and it is inspiring,” says Leland. But as BC approaches the winter months and the holiday season, The Salvation Army is worried. People living on the streets, people living with mental health and addiction, families living at or below the poverty line, they are all extremely vulnerable and with the pandemic they are all in an especially vulnerable spot. “In the next months, we’ll need one another more than ever,” Leland says. But he is also optimistic about what can happen. “We have come together in ways I’ve rarely seen, and I believe this will continue … we have faith in our province – we have faith in people.”

For more information on how you can support your community, visit

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Coping with COVID

How charities and non-profits are navigating the pandemic Hayley Woodin


t the end of 2019, Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon (RMH BC) completed a feasibility study with BC Children’s Hospital.

The organization, which operates a 73-bedroom house in Shaughnessy that supports and houses sick children and their families, was looking at how it could grow to support more families. “We were planning a great year of growth and opportunity, then COVID hit and so that certainly changed our direction,” explains RMH BC CEO Richard Pass. The organization now finds itself in a position where it still needs to grow to help address demand, but also needs to get through the year. COVID and changes around fundraising have made all of the above “quite challenging.” “Seriously ill children – as it turns out – don’t care there’s a pandemic. They still need treatment, and they still need help and support, and the family still needs a place to stay,” says Pass. The RMH BC house sits near BC Children’s, and supports about 2,000 families in B.C. and Yukon every year. About a third of the organization’s funding comes from signature events hosted by RMH BC or from third-party events – functions that have ranged from exotic car rallies to lemonade stands.

“Those events aren’t happening this year. Our events aren’t able to happen as well,” says Pass, who anticipates restrictions on gatherings and event cancellations will lead to a deficit of approximately $1.2 million this year. “It really has been a challenge to look at different ways to try to raise funds.” An early impact survey on how the pandemic has affected the province’s non-profit sector found that 74% of 1,119 respondents were already experiencing reduced revenue from fundraising back in April. Another 59% reported reduced revenue from earned income, according to No Immunity, a report prepared by Vantage Point in partnership with Vancouver Foundation and Victoria Foundation. “The overall message, I think, is that donations are down. They’re down across the corporate sector, and they’re down across individuals and their ability to give. And that’s really the big impact on us as an organization, to continue to provide the care that we provide,” says Margaret McNeil, CEO of Canuck Place Children’s Hospice. While some donors have been able to give more, others have had to withdraw their support.

Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon supports approximately 2,000 families every single year • submitted

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22  | biv magazine: philanthropy issue 2020 published by Business in VAncouver

Ronald McDonald House BC and Yukon has had to pause a number of its volunteer-driven programs due to COVID-19 health and safety guidelines and restrictions • submitted

Seriously ill children – as it turns out – don’t care there’s a pandemic Richard Pass CEO Ronald McDonald House British Columbia and Yukon

Philantrophy_2020_32R.indd 22

“The other thing that we have found is that some organizations that traditionally support us have shifted their donations to organizations – because there’s many needy charities out there – that provide services like food security and housing security, really meeting those basic needs for people,” McNeil says. But a pandemic also doesn’t change the fact that families with children who are facing life-threatening illnesses are vulnerable and need support. Canuck Place serves more than 818 children and families every year and adapted to the pandemic by dramatically increasing the amount of virtual care the organization provides, including online counselling and online bereavement groups. “To be able to reach out to them in different ways – it was a big part of our change in how we deliver our operations,” McNeil says. This fall, YWCA Metro Vancouver hosted its largest signature event virtually. It wasn’t

as successful a fundraiser as past in-person iterations. “We do an ask in the room with one or two of the women who have been using our programs, and our revenue from that was significantly lower,” explains Brenda Ulmer, vice-president of fund development and special events. “I would say the reason being is because we weren’t gathering in person, we didn’t have the people we didn’t know in the room…. So we didn’t attract new individuals to become new donors.” Like Canuck Place, YWCA Metro Vancouver had to shift some of its programs online to continue to help meet the needs of women and girls in the region. It has also had to cut back. Pre-pandemic, the organization benefitted financially from the fact that it runs two social enterprises – YWCA Hotel Vancouver on Beatty Street and a health and fitness centre on Hornby Street. Revenue from both would

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The overall size of the revenue shift is staggering, with charities reporting that, on average, revenues have declined by almost a third Imagine Canada

At this time, only guest families and essential staff are permitted in RMH BC’s 73-bedroom house • submitted

typically grant the YWCA Metro Vancouver some financial flexibility, and allow it to address immediate needs fairly immediately. Both ventures continue to operate after brief closures, but are seeing “significantly decreased interest and uptake,” says Ulmer. “We’ve completely lost those,” she says. “That revenue impact is very large for us, and so we have all had to cut back.” According to Imagine Canada, the number of Canadian charities reporting revenue declines is more than double the number that reported decreases over the entire course of the 2008-09 recession. “The overall size of the revenue shift is staggering, with charities reporting that, on average, revenues have declined by almost a third – even accounting for charities with stable or increasing revenues,” the organization notes in its latest sector monitor report. In May, 30% of charities expected revenue to remain the same over the following six months, while 45% expected revenue to worsen. While not everyone is in a position to make a financial donation to a charitable organization, CanadaHelps – which supports the country’s 86,000 charities – has published a number of creative ways for Canadians to give to charities during the coronavirus crisis. As we head into the giving season, Canadians

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can donate clothing or used goods, can purchase products from companies that donate a portion of their sales proceeds to a non-profit or can donate time and special skills to an organization in need. Raising awareness of charities’ and non-profits’ services and efforts can also help those organizations in their pivots to digital programming and online fundraising. ç

Nearly a quarter of RMH BC families come from Vancouver Island • Submitted

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Inspiring creativity… for good what we do


THROUGH ARTS EDUCATION Support the Arts Umbrella Bursary Fund

Leave A Gift For B.C.’s Fish, Wildlife & Future Generations

rts Umbrella is where young artists ages 2-22 cultivate their creativity in Art & Design, Dance, and Theatre, Music & Film. As a non-profit centre for arts education, we believe that art is powerful. Powerful enough to change childrens’ lives in incredible ways. When young people connect with the arts, they gain self-confidence, develop self-discipline, and discover creative expression—qualities they carry with them for life. Arts Umbrella has four locations in Vancouver and Surrey, as well as donorfunded programs at schools, community centres, neighbourhood houses, and healthcare facilities across Metro Vancouver. We reach more than 24,000 students every year, with nearly 81% participating at little to no cost. We know that creativity is limitless. But for many families, finances can limit access to high-quality arts programming. Distributed based on financial need, the Arts Umbrella Bursary Fund helps young artists experience the freedom of creativity by providing financial support to families for our tuition-based programming.

Learn more about how you can support Arts Umbrella at or contact our development team at

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B.C. has the highest number of species at risk in all of Canada what we do


.C. Wildlife Federation (BCWF) is B.C.’s largest and oldest grassroots conservation organization, with approximately 43,000 members, aims to protect, enhance, and promote the wise use of our environment on behalf of all British Columbians. As a volunteer-led conservation organization, the BCWF strives to ensure the sound long-term management of B.C.’s fish, wildlife, and outdoor recreational resources in the best interest of present and future generations. A legacy gift to the BCWF allows you to contribute to a sustainable future through conservation and rehabilitation of B.C.’s precious fish and wildlife habitats and ecosystems.

Contact us today to leave your legacy by calling 1-888-881-2293 or visiting

Donate Today. Leave Your Legacy. • •1-888-881-2293 •

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“We can and we will make this work” what we do


ordan, he has a rare neurological disorder called Lissencephaly (translated means smooth brain). This disorder causes a variety of issues which include, an overall global delay (speech, fine motor, cognitive function),Epilepsy,Cerebral Palsy,an inability to communicate in the traditional verbal ways, massive sleep issues,and the requirement for 24 hr 1:1 care for all of life’s most basic needs. Jordan’s first 3 months of life were spent in the hospital with a variety of surgeries. The Dr’s told his parents that he would not likely see his 2nd birthday, if he did the chances of him seeing his 5th were extremely low. Jordan’s parents were obviously devastated, confused, and scared. They loved taking expedition style trips to remote locations in their small boat. The doctor said “The best thing you can do for Jordan is strap him on your back and go on your adventures. Help him live all the life he can while he can.” Jordan’s parents have taken this approach to heart and have done their best to burst the natural bubble most parents would put around a terminal high-risk child. So far so good…Jordan turned 16 this year. Up until 18 months ago all of Jordan’s adventures were with his family. Then they met the team at Zajac Ranch who are committed to accommodate and provide the extra needs someone like Jordan has.

“For you kind souls whose generosity helps make Zajac Ranch possible, a sincere thank you. From the heart we want you to know you are giving more than just smiles, laughs and memories… you are actually creating an environment that pushes these kids and fosters the desire to live life to it’s fullest.” – Jim, father of camper Jordan

be a part of it! Visit

get involved 604.739.0444 | Zajac Foundation - BIV Giving Guide -Square 3.4375” wide by 4.6875” high

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Life-changing dogs for those in need


what we do

Contact us at or 1-877940-4504 or

Transform someone’s life with the gift of independence and support Your donation helps breed, raise and professionally train life-changing Guide Dogs for individuals who are blind/visually-impaired, Autism Service Dogs for children with profound autism, and PTSD Service Dogs for Veterans and First Responders living with Operational Stress Injuries.


2020 BIV ad .indd 1

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Darcy has more independence and freedom tethered to Bailey and no longer tries to run away.


hen you donate to BC & Alberta Guide Dogs, you help transform someone’s life with the gift of safety, independence and support. That is what a professionally-trained Guide Dog, Autism Service Dog, or PTSD Service Dog can do for someone who is blind/visually-impaired, a child with profound autism, or a Veteran or First Responder living with an Operational Stress Injury. Meet Darcy and his Autism Service Dog, Bailey. Before Bailey joined their family, Darcy had to be held on to at all times for fear that he would run onto streets or disappear into crowds. “Bailey has changed our lives for the better. Now when we go on outings, Darcy has more independence and freedom tethered to Bailey and no longer tries to run away,” says Darcy’s mother. The Guide and Service Dogs are provided, along with aftercare support, at no cost to families for the working life of the dog. With each certified dog costing $35,000, this means that BC & Alberta Guide Dogs relies on its volunteers and donations to provide these essential services. From one-time gifts to monthly and legacy giving, your donation to BC & Alberta Guide Dogs helps us place life-changing dogs for those in need.

2020-10-14 5:32 PM

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Peter Nicholson, president of The Foundation WCPD, closed a historic $33.3 million charity flow-through share offering this year with Skenna Resources, a mining company in British Columbia • WCPD

Even in crisis, major donors are stepping up Philanthropists will always be philanthropists, even in times of dizzying change By Peter Nicholson

To say we live in unprecedented times is a huge understatement. In so many ways, our day-to-day lives have fundamentally changed, from the way we do business, to how we socialize with others, and of course, to how we raise money for the charities that are important to us. On a typical year, I would attend dozens of fundraising events, whether it be galas, golf tournaments, breakfasts or endless cocktail parties. As a philanthropist, I would happily take out my foundation chequebook at the end – it’s how we’ve been raising money for hundreds of years.

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And my company, The Foundation WCPD, would always be a loyal sponsor at many of these events. But once the pandemic hit, the world changed. Thrust indoors, the non-profit sector could no longer rely on its “bread and butter,” which in many cases makes up more than half of their annual revenue. The impact for charities has been massive. How can these non-profits still hold fundraising events and engage supporters? But for me, I was more interested in another fundamental question – how will major donors react to this pandemic?

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Without the cockta i ls, d i n ners a nd performances, will the wealthiest among us still take out their foundation chequebooks? Like I said, these are unprecedented times. Nobody really knew the answer. At The Foundation WCPD, we work with Canada’s largest philanthropists. This tried-and-true method of giving is simple, by combining two tax policies that are older than the RRSP: one to assist Canada’s resource sector to create jobs and produce raw materials we need in society, and another to give Canadians a tax break for donations to charity, or your conventional tax receipt. Together, combining these two tax policies allows our clients, on average, to give up to three times more to charity, at no additional cost due to tax efficiency. The structure is so popular that traditionally, for nine years running, we’ve r un a large donor waiting list of individuals waiting for product. January and February seemed normal enough. With the December 31st tax year now over, some of our clients want to get ahead of the game and make their commitments early. But for the majority of donors, these are typically slower months. Until suddenly, in early March, we landed a massive opportunity – a $20 million offering from Skeena Resources, a Canadian mining company in British Columbia. In the best of times, placing $20 million in charity flow-through in a little over a month would be difficult. And yet here we are, the worst pandemic in a century, and we have to convince our clients to give their money to charity. We all remember those early days of COVID-19 and the intense uncertainty that followed. The streets became eerily quiet. Supermarkets shelves were left bare. Meanwhile, global stock markets were crashing. People are people: whether you have millions in the bank, or just a few dollars, those first months had a major impact on all of us. Put simply, it was scary. Our major donors were equally shaken. I remember making those initial calls to donors, who stated: “Do you know what is going on in the world? Do you not read the news? There is no way I know whether I am even giving to charity at all this year.” These were the responses my team and I received. Meanwhile, we were also hearing it from charities. What is going to happen? Can we count on WCPD to bring in major donors and create these large donations? Don’t forget – using this structure, our firm has generated donations north of $150 million for clients’ charities across Canada. WCPD, and the use of flow-through shares, have become a significant engine driving major donations across the country. So the pressure was on. I remember working harder than I ever have in 30 years in business. More phone calls, more emails. The whole team at WCPD put in a massive effort. We contacted more and more accounting, law firms a nd referral sources to help find donors. Don’t forget – for the last nine years, WCPD has

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had a waiting list of donors. In addition to the panic of the pandemic, there was another element at play. You see, the flow-through share structure depends on a three-legged stool. There are the donors buying shares, the mining companies issuing stock and the liquidity providers that purchase this stock from the donors. These liquidity providers understand the mining industry and assume the stock market risk for the donor. And traditionally, there has always been a shortage of liquidity providers. But the tide has been turning. The mining business had been in the worst bear market of all time, from 2011 to 2019. It took a pandemic to wake up the industry. People did not just depend on technology stocks, but real assets. And with the government printing money for relief packages to keep the country’s economy afloat, there has been a push to gold. For 5,000 years, gold has been money. And not much has changed. Suddenly, investors are searching for a gold position. Whereas in the past they may have a 1% gold position, now they are seeking to put 5%, even 10%, of their portfolio in gold. This has been a rocket fuel for liquidity providers. That three-legged stool is now even. Suddenly, there is no donor waiting list, and our job just got that much harder i n 2020. We need donors. The dam didn’t break right away, although two things shifted once March gave way to April. First, we approached our major donors with a very clear message – your charities need you. Indeed, with no events, and the needs of society only rising amid COVID-19, philanthropists had to be philanthropists. Where they chose to give also changed. Whereas in the past they might have more personal causes, donations tended to shift to more fundamental needs, such as food banks. The second thing that changed was the stock market. By April, society wasn’t quite as panicked. Stocks rebounded, and donors started to feel better. The world wasn’t coming to an end. And when the dam did break, it was overwhelming. We blew past that $20 million offering, so much so that Skeena tacked on another $13 million. At the end of the day, we ended up closing a $33.3 million raise in the teeth of a pandemic, the largest raise i n our company’s history. That meant not only millions for charities that needed it, but also the creation of well paid jobs for Canadians in the exploration sector. And the giving hasn’t slowed down since. With plenty of liquidity providers and mining companies issuing stock, it has been a constant race to bring more donors to the table. The experience taught me a couple things about philanthropy. I have always felt that getting like-minded people into a room together is important to charitable giving. When this pandemic is far behind us, we will return to the galas and golf tournaments. And we should. Giving is about relationships, and a cause that touches your heart. The best way to achieve that is by bringing people together to tell a story.

By The Numbers


Advanced CRA tax rulings on this exact structure, with flowthrough shares ––––––––––––––––


The year CRA introduced flowthrough shares as a 100 per cent tax deduction – three years older than RRSPs ––––––––––––––––


Number of personal tax return filings since 2006, using a flow-through tax receipt and a charity tax receipt ––––––––––––––––


Amount of charitable giving facilitated by The Foundation (WCPD) ––––––––––––––––


Number of cheques issued by The Foundation (WCPD) to other charities, as directed by clients ––––––––––––––––


Years The Foundation (WCPD) has specialized in philanthropic tax planning

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28  | biv magazine: philanthropy issue 2020 published by Business in VAncouver

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That said, it is not necessarily the most efficient way to raise large sums of money. The best way to give, by far, is not cash donations or a chequebook, but flow-through shares with an immediate liquidity provider. It is using this lever in our long-established tax policy to encourage the wealthiest among us to give more than they ever have. With the loss of charitable events, leveraging major gifts has never been more important. And COVID-19 taught us that, now more than ever, we must innovate and find new ways to fund the programming and causes that are important to our communities. The second thing this pandemic has taught me, or perhaps what it has reaffirmed, is the strength of the human spirit. When I picked up the phone for the first time in March, even our long-time clients said “No.” And in early April, they changed and said “Yes.” People needed time to regroup and make sense of the world again. At the end of the day, we are all in this together. Our team here at The Foundation WCPD pulled together, along with accounting and law firms, the foundations and professional fundraisers, and of course, the philanthropists. When you ask other humans for help, they often do. It was a complete effort. In this Brave New World, we all must pull a bit more weight. Here at The Foundation WCPD, this is our biggest year of giving yet, because charities do need more. Whereas in the past we

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might be purchasing more tables at galas and sponsorships, now we are making more donations to food banks. We have also made donations in medical innovation. In this year’s magazine, you will read about Dr. Art McDonald, one of Canada’s Nobel Prize-winning physicists, who has developed a more efficient, low-cost ventilator for COVID-19 patients. Quick thinking donors, in collaboration with scientists and the government, made this medical innovation possible. And we have supported emergency relief funds in our city, including a major donation to the Jewish Federation of Ottawa Emergency Fund. This pandemic has been a time of dizzying change. We might not have a fancy ballroom or cocktail in our hand, but it has reaffirmed something very important: philanthropists will always be philanthropists. When pressed up against the wall, we are all capable of amazing things. ç For decades, Peter Nicholson has been a recognized leader in Canadian tax-assisted investments, with a specialized focus on philanthropic tax planning and tax reduction. Through his work with countless donors, foundations and institutions and boards, he has helped generate in excess of $150 million for client donations. To learn more about The Foundation (WCPD) and how it can assist your philanthropic goals, write Peter.

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| 29

Ask the 40

For our philanthropy issue, BIV Magazine asked past Forty under 40 winners to share how they give back.

My agency created a grant program called the Finch Media Creates grant where we support emerging BIPOC artists and creators Kylie McMullan, principal Finch Media

LBMG gives back a minimum of $100,000 annually in time and money to local organizations. I give away more money than I take home myself to charitable causes Laura Ballance, president Laura Ballance Media Group Inc.

Our company pivoted to 3D print and donate face shields for front line workers during the first two months of the pandemic

Annex Consulting Group is partnering with SFU, Surrey Schools and DIVERSEcity to provide low-income and refugee children with digital access during challenging times Stacey Cerniuk

Picking up groceries, prescriptions and dropping off meals and cookies for my clients, many who are seniors Janet Helm, realtor Keller Williams Elite Realty, Inc.

I volunteer with First Aid Ski Patrol providing ski patrol services to local ski hills Alex Read, CEO

Sara Hodson

Make Anything Work Holdings Inc.

President and CEO

Our organization has donated PPE to the healthcare systems across Canada

LIVE WELL Exercise Clinic

Ted Reid, president

Annex Group

Give the intangible: give kindness. It’s simple, costs nothing and can mean everything Miranda Lam

A life devoted to developing and commercializing technology that enables a cleaner planet Ben Sparrow, CEO

McCarthy Tétrault LLP

Saltworks Technologies

Rohit Chokhani

Support good people doing great things like Nolan Watson at Nations Cry and John Folka at the MS Society

I set up a young entrepreneur scholarship program for Grade 12 students at my local Richmond high school

LNG Studios

I try to give back to my industry through mentoring young and emerging artists Executive director

Greg Smith, president

Aaron Hefter, co-CEO

Vancouver Fringe Festival

Equinox Gold Corp.

Nutrabolics Inc.

We started a community event called Construction Cares in support of MPS II (Hunter’s Syndrome), which raised awareness and over $74,000 in just two years

I give each of my children 10 charity dollars that they must give away each month

We support the Union Gospel Mission, the Vancouver Food Bank and other charities. I also support the St. James Music Academy

John Bromley Founder and CEO Charitable Impact

Joe Geluch, president

Robert Tham, principal

Naikoon Contracting Ltd.

Corbel Commercial Inc.

Philantrophy_2020_32R.indd 29

Ian Tostenson

We are currently offering cloth masks to our members and community for a donation, with proceeds to the Peace Arch Hospital Foundation

President and CEO

Partner, litigation

Leon Ng, founder and CEO

I give back as founding member of the social enterprise HAVE Culinary in the Downtown Eastside. We train people with significant employment barriers and get them jobs in foodservice President and CEO British Columbia Restaurant and Foodservices Association

Paladin Technologies

I’m on a number of community boards and chair United Way Centraide Canada and the Vancouver Fireworks Festival. I joined Capilano University as its fourth chancellor, which is an honour I’m humbled by Yuri Fulmer, chairman Fulmer & Co.

My organization, South Vancouver Neighbourhood House, is responding to community needs on the frontlines Zahra Esmail Executive director South Vancouver Neighbourhood House and Marpole Neighbourhood House

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Variety BC’s requests for support continues to rise what we do


ince 1966, Variety - the Children’s Charity has been making a difference in the lives of children with special needs across the province. With the average individual grant being $2500, Variety is urgently seeking more funding in their five core areas: Medical Supplies, Mobility Equipment, Specialized Therapies, Mental Wellness Counselling and Educational Programs. Over the past two years, Variety BC has seen requests for support from families double but have been unable to keep up with the demand. “This is the first time in Variety’s history that we have encountered this situation,” said Cally Wesson, CEO, Variety BC. “Because we’re a last resort charity if we’re not able to help families, I really don’t know who will.”

For information on how you can support Variety by becoming a Corporate Partner, contact Meghan Bradner at 604.268.3883 or

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I give to my community and with Vancouver Foundation, my giving lasts forever. 75 years ago, a single gift started Vancouver Foundation and that gift is still making a difference in the community today. We can help you create a fund that gives forever. Get started at or call Kristin at 604.629.5186

To find your local community foundation visit

Van Foundation FP 46355.indd321 Philantrophy_2020_32R.indd

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