Guided giving

By Anne Brayley | February 1, 2012 | Last updated on February 1, 2012
5 min read

Clients are talking more about leaving enduring philanthropic legacies. Conversations around charity are usually triggered by the unlocking of significant financial assets. During estate planning; impending liquidity events such as selling a business; or tax planning around capital gains, are all moments where advisors can provide viable and well-researched options for directing philanthropic funds.

Donors want to be more involved in the strategic deployment of their charitable dollars. Participation ranges from active volunteering to simply staying informed about the scope and impact of various charitable activities.

Introducing clients to the concept of community foundations can be a good way to help them achieve their humanitarian goals. The community foundation model is unique because it allows clients to pursue charitable goals, and help make their community stronger at the same time.

Discussion around community foundation services tends to be holistic, and not focused on any individual charity. That’s a winwin for both advisors and clients. It positions advisors as looking out for their clients’ best interests, rather than promoting personal causes. And it helps establish donor-advised funds that can allow clients to achieve multiple goals.

Community foundations offer two significant advantages. First, they provide the services necessary for administering an individual donor-advised fund, freeing up clients to focus solely on directing their charitable dollars.

Second, given the active role community foundations play in building stronger communities, they provide access to in-depth information and research—compiled with due diligence—that can help increase the impact of giving.

Every foundation has a fundamental understanding of the issues in its community. The ability to connect issues with solutions is how the 178 community foundations across Canada effect positive change.

When donor-advised fund holders are brought into the equation, the positive impact multiplies. Fund holders can choose to direct grants toward special projects. Even a small grant can be leveraged with others to increase the impact of a particular initiative.

The community foundation can also help donors find specific charities of interest from the wide range of organizations—arts, environment, health, education, or social services—it supports through its own grant making. The foundation will already have done due diligence on a wide range of charities as part of its own research.

Vital Signs®, a report published annually, offers a consolidated snapshot of the quality of community life across many Canadian cities. Compiled from research conducted by individual organizations, the report identifies trends—both good and bad—across various communities.

Go to to hear from:

Cross-Canada roundup

Stories of charitable success from across the country


Community Foundation of Medicine Hat & Southeastern Alberta


The obesity rate in the city of Medicine Hat is nearly 50% higher than the national average


Take a leadership role in raising awareness and building resources

Medicine Hat residents are less physically active than the average Albertan, which is no doubt in part to blame for an obesity rate that is nearly 50% higher than the national average.

“We’ve been highlighting these issues in Vital Signs® since 2008, and so it was important to take a leadership role and do something about it,” says Mike Christie, executive director of the community foundation.

The organization, in partnership with CHAT TV, the local television station, created a series of infomercials to create awareness among as wide an audience as possible.

The Community Foundation also granted $10,000 to KidSport, a local charity that helps kids with the expenses incurred by their chosen sports, ensuring that a lack of means doesn’t keep them from participating in physical activities.


Greater Saint Jonn Community Foundation


Teen-pregnancy rates in Saint John are almost double the provincial average


Educate target populations via social media

Teen parents often face a lifetime of extraordinary challenges. In Saint John, NB, in 2009-10, 132 of 1,706 babies (7.7%) were born to teens—one-third of whom were under the age of 18.

Failing to complete high school, living in poverty, and single parenting are all potential results.

“It’s an issue that requires a multi-pronged approach,” says Greater Saint John Community Foundation’s executive director, Jane Barry.

Thanks in part to a $30,000 grant from the Community Foundation, the Greater Saint John Teen Pregnancy Committee is embarking on an extensive, multi-faceted social marketing campaign, with help from corporate partners Revolution Strategy and Hemmings House Pictures.

The initiative will be influenced by local youth and target those at greatest risk.


Community Foundation of Nova Scotia


Significant poverty identified in the seemingly affluent Town of Wolfville


Help residents access the Canada Learning Bond, an RESP fund for low-income families

When Wolfville’s Vital Signs® newsletter (2009) revealed significant poverty in the community, many were shocked. It prompted the Wolfville Community Fund (WCF) within the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia to support breakfast and after-school programs, and to partner with the Wolfville Inter-Church Council to help people access the Canada Learning Bond.

It’s a federal grant that contributes $500 to an RESP (and $100 each year after) for children living in low-income families. Parents don’t have to contribute. But they do need to obtain and file the right paperwork, which at nearly $30 per child can be cost prohibitive.

Helping parents save for education may be controversial if they’re struggling to put food on the table, but the WCF understood the need for both immediate and longer-term approaches.

“How many children walk past Acadia University, never giving a second thought to the fact that a higher education is possible for them too?” asks Dick Groot, WCF Chair.

Arts and culture

Hamilton Community Foundation


Charities have difficulty finding financing for expanding services and facilities


Invest $5 million in charitable projects, instead of the stock market

There’s much talk these days about community investment, and Hamilton Community Foundation is putting its money where its mouth is.

The Foundation has launched the Community Investment Fund, putting aside $5 million from its unrestricted fund to invest in local charitable projects—instead of the stock market. This includes $2 million available as loans to the non-profit sector, through a partnership with the Community Forward Fund, an innovative loan and investment fund that provides loans to non-profits and charities.

The first loan was issued this summer to the Hamilton Artists Inc., a long-standing artist-run centre that supports and reflects the diverse environment of the community. It means the group can complete a building project that will contribute significantly to downtown revitalization and a burgeoning arts scene.

“It’s a stunning transformation at one of Hamilton’s most visible corners,” says Terry Cooke, HCF’s president and CEO. “They will be able to complete their project on time while awaiting the promised financing that has been delayed.”

If you’re looking for ideas on how to help clients invest in their communities, get in touch with a Community Foundation near you. For a full list visit

For resources specifically tailored to advisors, visit the professional advisors eResource.

To find out more about how Canadian communities are faring, visit Canada’s Vital Signs®

Join the conversation about what it takes to build vital communities or connect on Twitter at @CFCvitalsigns.


Toronto Community Foundation


A low sense of belonging and safety remain key issues for the city


Engage neighbourhood residents, young and old, to improve the sense of belonging and safety in their communities.

Recipe for Community is a neighbourhood revitalization initiative that builds on residents’ ideas. It’s a partnership between Toronto Community Foundation and the City of Toronto, with support from community and corporate sponsors.

“We’re working to build the city we all want—one neighbourhood at a time. Thanks to our Vital Toronto Fund donors, we can make strategic community investments,” says Rahul Bhardwaj, the community foundation’s president and CEO.

After a successful pilot in Alexandra Park, the program expanded to St. James Town, a downtown area home to more than 17,000 people in one city block.

The program was initiated in response to Toronto’s Vital Signs® 2010 newsletter, which showed Toronto’s young adults lacked a sense of belonging to their community. While three out of four youth aged 12 to 19 (76.7%) felt they belong, only one out of every two young adults aged 20 to 34 (52.9%) felt the same.

Initiatives include a refurbished outdoor basketball court; a bicycle repair and maintenance program; a carpentry, painting and maintenance program offering basic skills; and practical experience and information about additional education and training opportunities in the trades.

Plans are underway for the next neighbourhood in need of a Recipe for Community.


Foundation of Greater Montreal


Montreal has a 32% high-school dropout rate


Support a successful program that pays university students to work with at-risk youth

It goes without saying that kids generally look up to older kids, and a Quebec program that targets underperforming high schools—with support from the Foundation of Greater Montreal—clearly illustrates that.

Youth Fusion is an award-winning charity that establishes innovative partnerships between high schools and universities, in an effort to counter high-school dropout rates.

Montreal’s Vital Signs® (2010) found 21% of adolescents over the age of 15 didn’t complete high school.

In 2010, FGM used a donor-advised fund to help refurbish musical equipment in two participating Youth Fusion schools, and the following year supported French, science and math programs for three participating schools.

Youth Fusion pays university students an hourly wage to work with high-risk kids after school on student-directed projects in fields ranging from music and environment to entrepreneurship and robotics.


Kitchener and Waterloo community foundation


Waterloo Region’s Vital Signs® identified learning and housing gaps


Make your gift count in areas of greatest need Brian Fisher feels strongly about putting his charitable dollars into initiatives that will have the greatest impact on his community.

He and his wife, Nancy, established The Brian Fisher Family Fund with The Kitchener and Waterloo Community Foundation, and they intend to build the fund over time.

When the Fishers looked at Vital Signs® and saw a need in the areas of learning and housing, they donated to projects led by Junior Achievement (the Success Skills program) and to Anselma House, which offers women crisis services.

As far back as 2004, Fisher—a retired partner and business and estate planning consultant with KPMG—turned to KWCF to honour the memory of his first wife, Christine, an avid golfer and supporter of the Golf Association of Ontario.

He met with Foundation representatives and set up the Christine Fisher Memorial Student Award Fund, which provides yearly awards to qualified female golfing students. This fund has been rolled into The Brian Fisher Family Fund.

Anne Brayley is Vice President, Philanthropic Services, at the Toronto Community Foundation.

Anne Brayley