By Patricia Treble - Sunday, April 28, 2013 - 0 Comments
That everything Kate, duchess of Cambridge, wears is an instant retail hit has been such a long-proved commercial reality that it’s got its own moniker, the “Kate effect.”
Now the fairy dust that rubs off on everything Kate touches is doing more than just boost corporate profits. It’s benefitting charities as well.Organizations lucky to have her as a patron report big increases in interest.
By macleans.ca - Monday, March 4, 2013 at 7:00 AM - 0 Comments
“The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth.” So wrote Andrew Carnegie, the richest man in the world, in 1889. Carnegie’s solution to the problem of his age—what many today would call income inequality—was to give away his millions as wisely as he could.
Carnegie’s spirit of philanthropy is alive and well these days in the Giving Pledge, a commitment among the very wealthy to give away at least half their fortunes before they die. The pledge began as a private agreement between Microsoft founder Bill Gates and legendary investor Warren Buffett; since 2010, they’ve encouraged other U.S. billionaires to act likewise. And in good news for rich and poor alike, their commitment is now spreading around the world.
Last week, it was announced the Giving Pledge was “going global” with the inclusion of new philanthropists, including Richard Branson, founder of Britain’s Virgin Group, Patrice Motsepe of South Africa, India’s Azim Premji and Vladimir Potanin of Russia. There are now 105 pledgers ranging in age from 28 to 97.
Of course, the Giving Pledge has always had a strong Canadian flavour, despite claims it only breached America’s borders last week. Montreal-born Internet entrepreneur Jeff Skoll was one of the first signatories in 2010. Canadian business titans Charles and Edgar Bronfman both joined Buffett and Gates last year. Elon Musk, the South African PayPal founder who attended Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont., also signed in 2012.
Regardless of how one defines global, however, the recent expansion of the Giving Pledge is clearly a great benefit to all. Beyond the obvious advantage of making more money available to worthy causes, it also presents the opportunity to raise the quality of charitable work everywhere.
The average non-billionaire donor typically bases his or her charitable decisions on familiarity with certain causes and/or the emotional sway of pitches over the phone or at the doorstep. But is this really the best way to give?
One of the key motivators behind the Giving Pledge is a desire to harness the rigour and drive that has allowed pledgers to achieve great success in the private sector and apply this to the charitable sector. Such an approach shares much in common with the provocative new book, With Charity for All: Why Charities Are Failing and a Better Way to Give, by former National Public Radio CEO Ken Stern, who claims most emotion-driven charity is either wasted or used in inefficient ways.
Stern argues charities ought to act more like the private sector, putting greater emphasis on head-office oversight and a scrupulous focus on outcomes. Donors should act similarly, demanding provable, long-term results for their dollars. It’s a whole new way of looking at good works. The author suggests, for example, that the popular preoccupation with extremely low administration costs is entirely misplaced. The mark of a truly effective charity is the ability to self-scrutinize and innovate.
Stern offers up an example from the early years of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation when it decided, largely based on guesswork, that smaller-sized high schools would improve student outcomes. Grants of $1 billion were handed out to build small schools or restructure existing schools into smaller units. But five years and 1,500 schools later, a comprehensive review revealed that all this money had done very little for student results. Math scores actually suffered.
“From the ashes [of the small-schools scheme], the foundation developed new requirements that all Gates projects and grantees be subject to rigorous and veriﬁable measurement,” Stern writes. “The Gates Foundation now maintains a department whose sole function is to measure and analyze results.” In other words, the Gates Foundation substantially increased the size of its administrative overhead to ensure its efforts were cost-effective and productive.
What sets billionaires of Giving Pledge apart from the rest of us, besides their money, is the ability to ensure the charitable works they support yield high-quality, efficient outcomes. So now, when the Gates Foundation advocates low-cost bed netting to fight malaria in Africa, or new ways to fund health care, there’s plenty of evidence supporting these decisions. This sort of thoroughness is the reason Buffett is giving the bulk of his fortune directly to the Gates Foundation. And as the Giving Pledge gains traction around the world, it seems reasonable to assume a more results-based focus will filter out across the charitable world. We can hope.
Just as investors have long paid close attention to how Buffett invests his money, donors today ought to mimic how he gives it away as well.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, November 9, 2012 at 9:33 AM - 0 Comments
Diane Finley is moving forward with the Harper government’s plans for “social finance.”
Ottawa is making a bold push to have business play a bigger role in funding government social programs – asking Canada’s corporate and charities sector to submit ideas that could ultimately form part of the 2013 budget.
In an interview with The Globe and Mail on Thursday, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley said interest in the emerging field of social finance is “very high,” pointing to multimillion-dollar investments from the Royal Bank. “We need to make sure that we’re not only not getting in the way, but we’re helping them advance their efforts to improve the outcomes in things like homelessness and literacy and other community challenges,” Ms. Finley said.
The prepared text of Ms. Finley’s speech is here. The plan is reminiscent of David Cameron’s Big Society, which has been met with mixed reviews. The Star looks at some of the criticisms of Ms. Finley’s plan. The NDP was unimpressed during QP yesterday.
By Aaron Wherry - Saturday, March 31, 2012 at 11:21 PM - 0 Comments
In tonight’s weirdly anticipated charity boxing match, Justin Trudeau defeated Patrick Brazeau by technical knockout in the third round.
Mr. Brazeau came out fast and landed several shots to Mr. Trudeau’s head in the early going, but Mr. Trudeau took over in the second round, out-boxing a seemingly tired Mr. Brazeau. Mr. Brazeau took a standing eight count in the second round and then again in the third round as Mr. Trudeau controlled the fight with a steady jab. The referee stepped in a third time, waving the fight off, with Mr. Trudeau landing a flurry of blows and blood dripping from Mr. Brazeau’s nose.
By Aaron Wherry - Friday, March 30, 2012 at 9:30 AM - 0 Comments
The Chronicle-Herald looks at the proposed rules for foreign charities.
The Conservative government is threatening to decertify foreign charities that do not act “in the national interest of Canada.” Under rules announced Thursday in the 2012 budget, foreign groups can apply for registered charity status if they meet one of two criteria. The first is providing disaster relief or urgent humanitarian aid. The second is if they work in the national interest of Canada. The national revenue minister, working with the finance minister, will have the power to decide who meets the criteria.
Embassy reviews the cuts to foreign aid, immigration and defence.
Within the suite of departments and agencies that contribute to foreign aid, CIDA would take the largest hit: $152.7 million by 2012-13. That amounts to about 4.5 per cent of CIDA’s total budget for that year. That number would ramp up to $319.2 million by 2014-15. To put that into context, that ongoing $319.2 million decline is just under the $320 million CIDA currently spends on basic education programs and for water and sanitation, according to figures from the Canadian Council for International Co-operation.
By Ken MacQueen - Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 11:10 AM - 0 Comments
Why faith may explain why Abbotsford, B.C., is Canada’s most generous city
When the management team of Vancouver’s Canuck Place children’s hospice met a few years back to consider a fundraising campaign to build a facility to meet the growing needs of the Fraser Valley, they were advised it was folly to consider a multi-million-dollar capital project in the teeth of a recession, says Filomena Nalewajek, CEO of Canuck Place.
She admits the board wavered before pressing ahead last year after making one key decision: they would locate the hospice in Abbotsford. “We did our homework and recognized we were going into a community that was different,” she says. “We just didn’t know how different.” A year later, the campaign is already “a stone’s throw” from hitting its $13-million target, says Nalewajek. “It is because of that community. It is unbelievable. It is unprecedented, especially in this economic climate.”
For nine years in a row, the tax filers of Abbotsford-Mission have given the largest per-capita charitable donations in Canada, Statistics Canada reported in December. Overall, Canadians gave $8.3 billion in 2010 to charities, based on income tax returns. The median Canadian donation was $260 per person, meaning half of donors gave more and half gave less. In Abbotsford and neighbouring Mission, however, the median donation was $610, which is impressive considering the median income is a modest $46,490. Calgary was next highest among metropolitan areas with a median donation of $380—but with a median annual income some $20,000 higher.
Ask observers why the Abbotsford area is so uncommonly generous, and invariably they note it is the heart of the Bible belt of B.C. There are about 90 churches in Abbotsford alone, including some of the largest in the country. As well, the community benefits from its vibrant, long-established Sikh, Muslim and Jewish communities. “There’s a faith base and there’s multiculturalism, people coming from abroad and knowing what it’s like to not have a lot to start off with,” says Hugh Franklin, a supervisor at the Abbotsford Food Bank and Christmas Bureau.
However, Dave Murray, the food bank director, questions how much of the donations go to church overheads and salaries. As well, Abbotsford attracts like-minded organizations, including a couple of Bible colleges, the provincial headquarters for the Mennonite Central Committee, which conducts relief and missionary work around the globe, and the national office of American fundamentalist preacher Charles R. Swindoll, among others, he notes. Still, he says there’s no denying faith-based institutions instill a culture of giving, though this year he frets that donations to the food bank are lagging by 20 per cent. “Eighty per cent of our budget comes in December-January, so it’s pretty stressful.”
Are members of organized religions inherently more generous? The short answer seems to be yes, but the devil is in the details. “Religious people do tend to give more than non-religious people,” says Michael Wilkinson, a sociologist specializing in religion at Trinity Western University in the Fraser Valley. This generosity is at the foundation of many faiths, he says. “It’s part of their value system. They’re motivated to give; they believe they’re doing something that’s important for the community. They believe they are involved in something bigger than themselves.”
When charities seek to learn what motivates donors, they often turn to Cygnus Applied Research, a Hamilton-based company that tracks donor intentions and charitable trends in the U.S. and Canada. Its annual survey of some 22,000 donors on both sides of the border confirms religious conviction has a major impact on philanthropy, says company president Penelope Burk. “It’s not just giving to one’s own faith,” she says. “Actively religious donors are more likely to give to, stay loyal to and give at a higher level to other causes.” Its survey of some 4,100 Canadians who regularly give to charity found the average donation in 2010 for those professing no religion was $2,345. Those who identified as “spiritual” gave an average $2,889. Those who called themselves “actively religious”—about one donor in five—gave an average $7,178.
Perhaps those numbers help explain why Quebecers—in what is considered Canada’s most secular province—give the least to charity. The median donation claimed by tax filers there was just $130.
Nationally, donations climbed by 6.5 per cent after a recessionary 2009, but Burk warns charities face a looming problem. Her surveys find the number of religious young people is falling, and with it the level of donations. The tiny minority of those under 35 who define themselves as religious gave over five times more generously than others their age, she says. As the influence of religion wanes among younger people (even in Abbotsford the average age of donors was 52), she wonders what is needed to instill a higher level of philanthropy: “I don’t know what the answer to that question is.”
By Colby Cosh - Saturday, August 13, 2011 at 4:15 AM - 33 Comments
Economists have a sort of half-joke, inspired by Yale’s Joel Waldfogel, about the “deadweight loss of Christmas”. Every year we humans race around, spending, collectively, billions of dollars trying to find noncash items that other people in our lives will like. But we are less than perfect at intuiting the preferences of others, and it is the rare recipient who will value what he receives from everybody as much as he would what he could buy himself with the cash equivalent. The total worth of the gifts exchanged at Christmas thus inevitably ends up being smaller than the amount spent. Viewed this way—and it’s obviously not an unreasonable way—Christmas is a giant global potlatch, an orgy of value destruction.
The case for Christmas, of course, is as obvious and easy to make as the one for inefficiency/imbecility of Christmas. This 2001 Economist piece on Waldfogel’s idea offers several points in defence of the potlatch, making them in that charmingly autistic way economists are known for. Gift recipients aren’t perfectly conscious of their own potential preferences; some gifts may be items a person can’t obtain for himself at any price; and gifts—stop me if this sounds crazy—sometimes do have a sentimental value beyond the cash paid for the item itself.
But I couldn’t help thinking about Waldfogel’s Christmas when I encountered this engrossing local press item about a mislaid package of goods collected for fire-ravaged Slave Lake, Alberta:
A local man was surprised to find boxes of new clothes and donations that were slated for Slave Lake in the [Calgary] city landfill.
…Nielsen says there were dozens of sealed and neatly packed boxes in the trash.
Some of the items were brand new and still had the tags on them.
Nielsen says it was obvious someone had gone to a lot of work to try to help people who had lost everything.
“I opened the box and it was like a knife through my heart. I’ve seen lots of horror and this just shattered me. The box was full of children’s clothing. Someone had gone to a store, bought children’s clothing, and had the foresight to throw something in for the mother too,” said Nielsen.
One worries that Mr. Nielsen might have been slightly less horrified if the box had contained an actual child. The containers were labelled with the name of energy company Total E&P, whose employees had gathered clothing and toys for the victims of the fire. “Employees had held a month-long drive to collect donations for Slave Lake victims,” notes the CBC. “They carefully packed up the collection and addressed it to the Red Cross, and called their internal courier to take it away. The Red Cross, though, does not accept items for donation, only cash…”.
So while the packing was “careful”, the research…? Not so much. Someone located another Calgarian with good intentions, Melissa Gunning, who was gathering material to be sent to Slave Lake fire victims. Unfortunately, by that time, the brave people of Slave Lake were already becoming overburdened with donor goods.
Emergency workers in Edmonton soon told her to donate some of what was collected to local charities, which she tried to do. “We still had all this stuff left in storage. Nobody would come and pick it up and unfortunately we couldn’t get anybody else to drive it,” said Gunning.
This past weekend, swamped by the donations from the campaign, Gunning hired some help. A junk removal company was hired to go through the remaining storage bins and sort what was good to a local charity and take the rest to the dump.
Unfortunately, the “Just Junk” removal firm seems to have treated the entire load as, well, just junk. And since salvage is strictly forbidden at the Spyhill dump, the good work of Total’s employees has gone for naught. I am, of course, using the phrase “good work” to refer to work that has good intentions, not work that accomplishes anything good. Total E&P is a subsidiary of a publicly traded company; the employees have access to a share-ownership plan. Literally ten seconds’ research would have revealed that the Red Cross is happy to take gifts of stocks and mutual funds. But that kind of thing isn’t in the Christmas spirit, is it?
I fear Paul Nielsen, the appalled discoverer of the items in the landfill, unwittingly saw straight to the heart of the matter. Someone went to a clothing store, bought a bunch of cute outfits for somebody’s else’s children, and “had the foresight to throw something in for the mother”, without the much less impressive foresight required to ask “Hey, will the Red Cross actually take this crap?” This is a “someone” who probably thought herself very clever in finding a absolutely bulletproof excuse for a shopping excursion, perhaps even on company time. The value of her “aid” turned out to be significantly less than zero, but that was surely beside the point to begin with. If it weren’t, the incessant entreaties of professional charitable organizations everywhere—“Please stop showing up with bundles of blankets and cans, and just give us cash already”—would actually have had some effect by now. And we would have fewer grotesque comedies like this one from Okotoks.
I suspect the diversion of the Total donations to the landfill is an example of something that happens a lot more often than we dare imagine. There is a thin worldwide layer of iridium that marks the extinction of the dinosaurs. Perhaps future geologists delving down into the leavings of our time will find an equally pervasive stratum of useless goods, purchased on incoherent charitable impulse by the fabled “middle class” after pictures of calamity have been shown on television. Teddy bears, soccer balls, Playstations, soap-on-a-rope: will the Cuviers and Lyells of tomorrow be able to infer the meaning of it all?
It is about time, anyway, that some cynic observed that responding to a natural disaster is not like Christmas gift-giving. At Christmas, you’re guessing at a loved one’s potential preferences. In essence, you are playing a game. Analogous behaviour in the face of a disaster—guessing at what people need, when you could give cash immediately for experienced responders to spend on life-or-death logistical priorities—is crass and arrogant, literally the opposite of charitableness. But of course, the impersonal gift of a cheque in an envelope doesn’t give you the chance to show off to co-workers or other relevant audiences what a lovely and decent person you are.
By Mitchel Raphael - Thursday, January 13, 2011 at 1:20 PM - 0 Comments
Harper draws the line, The Conservatives’ secret weapon, She’s pregnant! Is an election due?
Harper draws the line
As the press gathered at 24 Sussex for Stephen Harper’s media Christmas party, there was buzz about whether the PM would perform as he did at the recent Conservative Christmas party (where he sang the Rolling Stones’ Jumpin’ Jack Flash and Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline). In one of the living rooms was a piano and a set of drums that had a red and white plastic popcorn box (available at Dollarama) attached to the side. When Capital Diary suggested Paparazzi by Lady Gaga might be an appropriate song, one bright PMO staffer jumped in with, “Yeah, in the meat dress,” referring to Lady Gaga’s infamous outfit at the MTV Video Music Awards. In the end, the PM just mingled. Laureen Harper noted there’s been pressure put on the PM to do more modern songs, but he’s resisted, preferring to keep it old school.
By macleans.ca - Monday, December 20, 2010 at 3:15 PM - 54 Comments
Canadians donated half as much as Americans in 2008, says study
Charities would receive an extra $8 billion a year if Canadian taxpayers donated as much as their American neighbours, according to a new report from the Fraser Institute. It found that Americans give about 1.38 per cent of their income to charities, while Canadians donate only half that, about 0.73 per cent. Manitoba is the most generous province, with its residents giving an average of 0.94 per cent of their incomes, while residents of Utah, the most generous American state, gave away a full 3.2 per cent of their annual wealth.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, December 9, 2010 at 11:36 AM - 5 Comments
Mark Zuckerberg joins group of tycoons pledging to give away their fortunes
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and 15 other wealthy entrepreneurs are signing away the majority of their fortunes as part of the “Giving Pledge,” a philanthropic effort created by Microsoft founder Bill Gates and investor Warren Buffett. The sixteen new members of the exclusive club include AOL co-founder Steve Chase, investor Carl Icahn and junk-bond genius Michael Milken, and bring the pledge’s membership to more than fifty. “I view this as a call to others who might in their thirties or forties use some of their creativity to get involved in philanthropy earlier in life,” says Milken. This comes at a time when the poor economy is driving down charitable donations, with philanthropic giving in the U.S. falling 3.6 per cent between 2008 and 2009.
By Cathy Gulli - Tuesday, December 7, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 2 Comments
Newsmakers Violet and Allen Large hit the jackpot and gave most of it away
One Sunday morning in mid-July, while tucked inside their 147-year-old white farmhouse in Lower Truro, N.S., Allen Large asked his wife, Violet, “Did you check the tickets from last night?”
This exchange had become a ritual for the couple, who’ve been together for 46 years, and have played the lottery—twice a week, every week—for about as long. Violet hadn’t, so she dialled into the Lotto 6/49 hotline and listened. After a few seconds, she said out loud, “Well, we got $10,” because the first three numbers matched. After a few more seconds, the rest of the numbers matched too.
So Violet, 78, did the only thing she could think of next: she hung up. And she called back. Again and again. “Oh, I checked those numbers so many times,” Violet says. Then she called Allen from out of the kitchen, and handed him the phone receiver. Allen, 75, listened, he looked at his wife, and nodded: “Yeah, that’s the right numbers.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, November 12, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Emma Watson’s really big moment, the Dog Whisperer’s disappointing day, Pamela Anderson’s good deed’s too dirty
Cesar Millan, TV’s “Dog Whisperer,” was a hit with the crowd at sold-out Scotiabank Place in Ottawa last week, even though Ontario law deprived him of a key cast mate—Junior, the two-year-old American pit bull that recently took over from the dearly departed Daddy as Millan’s “right-hand man.” Millan, halfway through a tour of Canada, demonstrated training techniques on local dogs and expounded on his philosophy of calm assertiveness, but took time to criticize Ontario’s 2005 ban on pit bulls. “In the ’70s, the breed that people were afraid of was the Doberman,” he told the audience. “In the 2000s, it’s the pit bull. It’s not the breed, it’s the human behind the dog.”
Absolute powers of persuasion
Chinese authorities may not have much success persuading European governments to boycott the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony honouring jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo, but they’re having better luck at home. Author Yu Jie, a friend of Liu’s, said he and his wife have been stopped from leaving their Beijing home by security officers, for fear they plan to go to Oslo. Meanwhile, Guo Xianliang, an engineer from Yunnan province, disappeared while on a business trip in Guangzhou. He’d been detained for distributing flyers about Liu, according to fellow activist Ye Du. Police have also reportedly detained a young woman, Mou Yanxi, who tweeted her support for Liu. “If such behaviour goes on,” her friend Zhang Shijie tweeted last week, “it will eventually happen to all of us.”
By macleans.ca - Friday, October 29, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 0 Comments
Zimbabwe’s femme fatale, the Mel Gibson non-comeback, and one man’s war against rent that’s too damn high
A perfect wedding for one
Chen Wei-yih, a 30-year-old living in Taipei, waited for the right man. But he never came along, so in a triumphant gesture aimed in part at upending clichés about unmarried women, she rented a hall, bought a wedding dress and will marry herself on Nov. 6. The Facebook page for “Only&Only’s Wedding” has won her loads of new friends. And yes, there is a honeymoon: Chen will travel with her new, better half to Australia.
Still Wayne’s world
It would have been the biggest English divorce since Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. Shaken Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson told a press conference that his star attacker, Wayne Rooney, intended to move to a new professional soccer club instead of renewing his contract. Rooney had quarrelled with his boss over an ankle injury, and told Sky Sports he had concerns over “the continued ability of the club to attract the top players in the world.” The fight raised the possibility of Rooney defecting to a Man U rival—perhaps the most despised of all, Manchester City. But after two days of uncertainty, Rooney relented and signed a deal that will keep him in the famous red kit until June 2015.
He said it once. He’ll say it again.
He has no chance of becoming the next governor of New York, but this gubernatorial candidate’s stump speeches have won him Internet fame, a parody on Saturday Night Live and even a toy action figure based on his likeness. Jimmy McMillan heads a political party called The Rent is Too Damn High Party, and in appearances he hammers away at his party’s one and only platform plank: the rent is too damn high. “Our children can’t afford to live anywhere. There’s nowhere to go,” he said during one televised debate. “Once again, why? You said it, the rent is too damned high.” He even won over front-runner Andrew Cuomo, who during the debate admitted: “I’m with Jimmy: the rent is too damn high.”
By Jane Switzer - Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 3:40 PM - 0 Comments
Bill Gates and Warren Buffett plan to give away half of their fortunes
How could giving away at least $115 billion to charity win anything but universal, flattering praise, especially in a post-recession age where many charities are in desperate need? Here’s how.
America’s two richest men, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, plan to give away half of their fortunes (worth a combined US$90 billion), and last week announced they’ve convinced 38 other billionaires to do the same by signing what they’re calling the “Giving Pledge.” The list includes New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, media mogul Ted Turner, film director George Lucas and Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison.
By Chris Sorensen - Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 10:20 AM - 0 Comments
One firm’s pitch to help people use a tax shelter by buying and then donating old photos is raising eyebrows in the art world and words of caution from experts
It’s shortly after 6 p.m. and one of the banquet halls at the Old Mill Inn & Spa, a rustic building in the west end of Toronto, is beginning to fill with people. Tonight’s event is billed as “An evening with Rick Mercer,” but the comedian’s routine is a teaser for a sales pitch called the VIA (Vintage Iconic Archives) Project: a tax-shelter scheme that involves buying and donating old photographs to an unnamed Canadian university.
It’s a relatively new twist on an old ploy to reap financial advantages from the country’s generous tax incentives for charitable and cultural donations. There have been dozens of different approaches over the years, most of which attempt to generate a big tax receipt in exchange for a relatively small up-front investment. The schemes frequently test the boundaries of tax laws and have drawn the ire of the Canada Revenue Agency, leading to an avalanche of reassessments, tax penalties and lengthy court battles.
By macleans.ca - Thursday, May 6, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 177 Comments
Those who attend religious services are more charitable and more eager to volunteer
These are not the brightest days for organized religion. Pope Benedict XVI has come under sustained scrutiny for his role in the investigation of sex abuse scandals tarring the Catholic Church. The practices of fundamentalist Muslim women are being attacked by the Quebec government as uncivilized. And, more broadly, many traditional and long-standing congregations across the country must face the reality of their own worldly demise due to substantial declines in Sunday attendance.
Despite all this bad news, however, there remains much to celebrate about religion and its relationship with society at large. Not the least of which is that those who attend religious services are the most charitable in their donations and the most eager to volunteer. Without organized religion, the world would be a much poorer and less comfortable place for those less fortunate.
By Jonathon Gatehouse - Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 8:00 AM - 8 Comments
The Right to Play CEO on how the charity is dealing with its banishment from the Games
Johann Olav Koss is an Olympic speed skating legend: the winner of four golds, including three in front of his home crowd in Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994. But to Canadians he’s perhaps better known as the CEO of Right To Play (or the former husband of Belinda Stronach).
He spoke to Maclean’s about how the charity, which focuses on improving the lives of children through sport, and is usually a fixture in the athletes’ village, is coping with its banishment from the Vancouver 2010 Games.
Q: Right To Play was born out of the Olympics, yet you are not officially allowed to be here. Did you ever get an explanation of why?
A: No. I got a letter saying they didn’t want to renew the contract. All the rest is speculation, but it clearly started with sponsorship confusion. [GM is an official Olympic sponsor; Mitsubishi is one of Right To Play’s backers.]
By Andrew Potter - Friday, December 18, 2009 at 12:13 AM - 99 Comments
I received a phone call a few days ago as I was getting ready…
I received a phone call a few days ago as I was getting ready to go to work. Like a lot of calls I get this time of year, it was a woman calling from a charity. I can’t remember what it was – childhood leukemia maybe – but as she was in the midst of telling me about their poster child for this year’s campaign, I cut her off. I said look, you’re wasting your breath, I won’t be giving. “Not even a small donation?” she asked. Nope, I said, rushing to get off the phone. As I was hanging up, the cliche making me cringe even before I’d formed the sentence, I said “I have another charity I give to.”
Which is true enough. Actually I have two charities I donate to, in monthly installments charged automatically to my credit card. It isn’t a huge amount though, and I could easily afford to give more, either to the chosen two, or even to one of the charities that comes a-ringing at Christmas time.
The amount I give is, roughly, about 0.75% of my before-tax income. Which is to say, Not Much. But in many ways, I’m a typical Canadian. According to the Fraser Institute’s latest study comparing generosity in Canada and the US, 24.0 percent of Canadians give to charity each year, and we give, on aggregate, 0.73 percent of our personal income.
The figures vary considerably by province. Manitobans are the biggest givers on both scores (27.3/1.02) followed by Saskatchewan (25.7/0.86) and Ontario (25.7/0.84). Quebecers (21.9/0.33) give the least.
Like most of what it publishes, the Fraser Institute is interested here in making Canada look bad compared to the US, so what analysis there is in the study consists mainly of pointing out how poor our showing is compared to Americans. And it’s true, we are bad givers compared to Americans, though there are a lot of complications, caveats and other factors at work in making cross-border comparisons (here’s a not-bad quick pass at some of the issues.)
But back to me. Continue…
By macleans.ca - Friday, November 20, 2009 at 9:00 AM - 1 Comment
A week in the life of Aerosmith and GM gives back
A week in the life of Aerosmith
Rock stars can be an indecisive bunch. Last week, rumours swirled that lead singer Steven Tyler had quit his band, Aerosmith, after more than 30 years together and countless hits, and Joe Perry, the band’s guitarist, said he and the rest of the group would be looking for a singer to replace Tyler. Happily, the boys managed to overcome their differences—Tyler and Perry appeared onstage together in New York City and Aerosmith is reportedly back together.
Best foot forward
The Canadian ski team revealed this week it has been using a top-secret high-tech gadget called “Stealth” in training for the Vancouver Games. The device allows the latest edition of the Crazy Canucks to track their every move down the slopes—and then evaluate where to ﬁnd more speed on course. Stealth was developed at the University of Calgary three years ago, but our skiers were sworn to secrecy so that other teams wouldn’t get their hands on it. Hey, all’s fair when it comes to the Olympics (except, ahem, certain illegal things). Too bad women ski jumpers won’t be finding their way downslope as well—the B.C. Court of Appeal rejected female jumpers’ claim of discrimination last week.
GM gives back
When the Canadian and Ontario governments handed General Motors Canada a $10.6-billion loan in June, many cynically suggested we’d never see the money again. They were wrong: on Monday, GM announced it would begin to pay back the loans earlier than expected—an initial $200 million will be returned to Canada in December, and the company expects to repay the rest ahead of the July 2015 maturity date. GM is also considering an IPO in 2010—which could actually make money for Canada and Ontario.
China isn’t so bad after all—that’s the message Barack Obama is trying to impress on his first visit to China as U.S. President. Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao met in Beijing on Tuesday to discuss climate change and economic policy; the two later released a joint statement to the press, the first time the leaders of the U.S. and China have done so in more than a decade. Obama also held a town hall-style meeting with Chinese university students (though some reports suggested Chinese authorities meticulously chose participants from the ranks of the Communist Youth League). The next step is engaging Beijing on its less-than-stellar human rights record, something Obama has thus far proven reluctant to do.
Ready to e-read
The Kindle is finally coming to Canada. After years of waiting patiently, Canadians will be able to get their hands on Amazon.com’s e-book reader, which has been a big hit in the United States. There is a catch—you’ll have to buy the device through the U.S. online Kindle store (for US$259) and pay extra for shipping and duties. But the good news is that the Kindle will be here in time for Christmas. Now, if only we could get the online TV service Hulu.com and the Google Voice phone service, we’d be a truly high-tech nation.
We’re giving less
After giving a record $8.6 billion to charities in 2007, Canadians scaled back their generosity in 2008. Job losses and a global recession contributed to a five per cent drop in charitable donations—to $8.2 billion—according to figures released this week by Statistics Canada. Despite the tough times, however, relative generosity hasn’t changed much across the country. As was the case in 2007, Prince Edward Island and Alberta are still the most big-hearted provinces, with median annual donations of $370 and $360 respectively. And Quebec is still the stingiest, with a median annual donation of $130.
He’s back! In a new book, La souveraineté du Québec hier, aujourd’hui et demain (Quebec Sovereignty Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow), former Quebec premier and separatist movement champion Jacques Parizeau argues that Quebecers would be better able to fight the global recession on their own—that is, without the rest of Canada—and suggests that a third referendum will occur in the not-too-distant future. With separatism at an all-time low in Quebec, we wish Parizeau would fade away. He brought us to the brink once before—and that’s once too often.
Don’t trust Iran
“Boring”—that’s how an Iranian official described the International Atomic Energy Agency’s new report, which chastised Iran for being uncommunicative about its nuclear ambitions. After Barack Obama revealed in September knowledge of a second hidden nuclear plant, the Iranians went into defence mode, claiming the site was simply a “backup” if the larger, previously acknowledged, site were to go down. Call us crazy, but we don’t trust the Iranians when it comes to their nuclear ambitions—why all of the secrecy and posturing if this is really about providing power to the country?
For the second year in a row, Afghanistan and Iraq are at the top of Transparency International’s annual survey of the world’s most corrupt countries (Somalia rounds out the top three). This is sobering news for those who support the West’s efforts to end the rule of terrorists and tyrants. There is no doubt of the widespread corruption in both Afghanistan and Iraq—the former’s recent election embarrassment was a major failure on the road to democracy. Still, we cannot lose our resolve to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda, who want to install sharia law, strip women of all rights and wage a holy war against our freedoms. This survey should only strengthen our commitment.
FACE OF THE WEEK
By Ken MacQueen and Cathy Gulli - Monday, December 22, 2008 at 6:00 PM - 15 Comments
Lean times, some find, are connecting them to the real meaning of the holidays
You’d have to go back in Audrey and Owen Freeman’s lives to the Christmas of 1964 to find a time such as this—when bleak circumstances should doom the spirit of the season to wander lost in a fog of loneliness, dislocation and worry. It was their second Christmas together. They lived with their infant daughter in a bare apartment in Toronto—a city so foreign to Audrey that when she moved there from the outport of Carmanville, Nfld., she says: “If I had been going to the moon at the time, I wouldn’t have been more scared.” Owen was laid off just before Christmas. There wasn’t a spare cent once the rent was paid. They were too proud to tell their parents so they resigned themselves to a Christmas without presents, turkey or tree. “We were young and in love, I suppose,” says Audrey, “so we were willing to put up with most anything.”
Two days before Christmas, a trunk was delivered to their apartment, unannounced. Audrey’s parents had stuffed it with decorations and gifts; with candy, fruitcake and nuts; with a tiny red velvet dress and a stocking full of the things little girls love. There was a letter inside, too, and a cheque for $100, because there was no room in the trunk for a tree and dinner with all the trimmings. And so a Christmas that seemed destined to be marked with tears was instead celebrated with weepiness of the happy sort. Tears became a Freeman holiday tradition as three more children, then spouses, and then eight grandchildren joined the fold, all settling into communities near the Freeman’s home in Ajax, Ont. “If anybody walked into our place Christmas morning,” says Audrey, “they’d think we were all very sad.”
By Susan Mohammad - Monday, November 17, 2008 at 12:00 AM - 2 Comments
When business gives to charity, it’s about more than generosity
Thirteen years ago, the phone ringing in David Cooper’s office gave him a bad feeling. Every month, he had to turn down $1 million worth of used office furniture from businesses wanting him to take it off their hands. What a waste, he thought. But the owner of Cooper’s Office Furniture didn’t have enough space in his 50,000-sq.-foot store to accept it. Realizing there was a vast amount of used and unwanted furniture out there, Cooper started diverting some of the free items to charities since it was cheaper than paying for storage. Word of his donations grew in the community surrounding his downtown Toronto shop, and so did the number of calls begging him to take other free items like computers and clothing. Cooper founded the not-for-profit organization Supporting Today’s Underprivileged For the Future (STUFF) Canada in 1995, which brokers the exchange of surplus items between businesses and non-profit organizations in and around Toronto, at no cost.
STUFF Canada is one of the various ways in which Canadian businesses invest in their communities, as described in a new report released this week by Imagine Canada, a national charitable organization that researches and promotes the non-profit sector. The report systematically tracks the contributions of Canadian businesses to charitable and non-profit organizations, and describes the efforts of 93 companies giving back to their communities. It’s the first report in Canada to take an in-depth look at business community involvement, after a two-year survey of over 1,500 businesses to compare philanthropic initiatives of some of Canada’s largest corporations (with revenues of over $25 million per year) and other members of the broader business community.
The aim is to provide insight for the non-profit sector and companies looking to assess their contributions as more corporations realize the business benefits of having good community investment programs. “One of the interesting things was that there was a sense [for businesses] of ‘it’s the right thing to do,’ and there are other reasons to help as well. It can help their business, and for some of the larger organizations, we saw that community investment is becoming an important thing for them to recruit and retain employees,” says Georgina Steinsky-Schwartz, CEO of Imagine Canada.