This year Canadian Thanksgiving and the Jewish High Holy Days are back-to-back;  Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is a time for celebration and reflection on the year that past and what lays ahead.  There are 10 days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when we are hopefully written in the Book of Life for another year.  This year, Thanksgiving falls smack in the middle adding another layer of self-reflection and connection with family and friends.

For me, this time of year is always a challenge.  I always find myself entering into a major metamorphosis starting early September and ending sometime around late November.  Perhaps it is the change of season, or perhaps it is culturally ingrained.  

This year is no exception.  I have been reflecting a lot on wealth, happiness and what success looks like; for me personally, and for my company, as well as for my clients.  Below are some thoughts in the context of my work as a philanthropy advisor and facilitator of legacy and succession plans within families.

Some of the most rewarding projects I get to work on, are the ones where donors want to bring in other players beyond the initial fundee.  There are different ways in which philanthropists can engage the broader community (either close ties, or ones that are several degrees removed):

  1. Challenge Grants
  2. Connecting Organizations
  3. Opening Doors
  4. Advocating on Issues

This year we are partnering with Goodpin, Ramp Communications and Kevin Hayes Digital Media Strategist to bring retail philanthropy to the forefront. 

Why is retail philanthropy so important?

Because it drives economic growth, spurs innovation and fosters accountability.

Guest Blogger: Josh Swallow is an undergrad student at Texas A&M. He is currently in his final year and exploring opportunities in the non-profit sector for his career.  This summer he spent time working at Dexterity, meeting with charities, donors and social entrpereneurs.

I think it is safe to say that technology has had a huge part in my life since the day that I was born. So many aspects of my life have been made “easier” because of it. For example, paying my bills at university is one of the simplest things in the world now (aside from having to let go of them sweet, sweet, dollar bills y’all) that takes a few minutes of my time whereas it used to be somewhat of an ordeal. This is a simple example but the same concept can be applied to charitable giving. So how has technology affected the charitable sector?

This past week I had the opportunity to work with a number of businesses, family foundations, corporate foundations and charities exploring the role that the Pro-Bono system works in Canada.  The summit was facilitated by the Taproot Foundation in partnership with the BMW Foundation and convened at Wasan Island in partnership with the Breuninger Foundation and the McConnell Foundation.

There are four key stakeholders in the pro-bono market: those who provide the pro-bono services, those who receive or benefit from those services and those who fund the activities either directly or indirectly.  At the intersection of these three stakeholders are the intermediaries (fourth stakeholder) – those firms or individuals who facilitate the connections between stakeholders.  These intermediaries can be virtual (platforms like Taproot Plus) or face-to-face like Endeavour.

What does chaos systems and theory have in common with family dynamics and family systems? 

It’s seems quite a bit.  According to research and family advisor, Gunther Weil “Family culture is constituted by energetic fields. These are generative controls - people’s values, beliefs and ideas are creating self-organizing “implicate order,” not hierarchical authority.  The strongest energy fields emanate from shared meaning – the shared values or values system which is the Strange Attractor creating and sustaining the family culture.” – The Quantum – Chaos Family Advisor World View

Guest Blogger – Josh Swallow: Josh is a summer intern and attends Texas A&M University where he is studying Business Management with a Certificate in Not-for-Profit Business. “I have always wanted to help people but never knew exactly where that would take me in life. When I started to learn more about the multitude of nonprofits around the world and how much good they were doing I knew that was the industry that I wanted to end up in!”

Nonprofit organizations in the U.S. are in a very interesting position when it comes to taxation. If the qualifications are met, an organization can gain tax-exempt status which allows said organization to be exempt from paying some federal income taxes. While this is a fantastic concept that is absolutely helpful to the nonprofits that it applies to, I can’t help but feel that the qualifications for gaining this status may be too lenient. Thus, in this post I am going to talk about some of the baffling organizations who have gained and reatined this status and why I find this is troubling.

For those of you who have been following this blog over the years you will know that I have had the privilege of living and working all over North America and afforded opportunities to travel internationally.  With this global perspective comes the ability to compare and contrast communities and societies; something that is not lost on me.  As I watch what is unfolding around the world over the past few weeks and, perhaps even the past six months, I am confounded at how human nature and tribalism seems to bring out the extremes of the best and worst in people.

Last year I began working TD Wealth - Private Giving Foundation, Jo-Anne Ryan on a series of workshops across Canada focusing on Women and Philanthropy.  We are going to be doing it again this coming year and would like your input.

Last week I presented at the Rising to New Heights, Rotary District 5360 Conference in Canmore.  Below is the transcript from this presentation:

A matching donation from the government is your tax dollars at work.  So when the government says they are matching your donation - you are, in essence, paying twice (sometimes three times) for that single donation and ultimately, single tax credit.

All the more reason why you should be asking questions to the recipient charity.  Here are some suggested questions:

In July 2008 I wrote a piece for the Calgary Herald on charities and overhead.  Then in June 2013 as a result of the Alberta Flood this issue came up again in response to the Canadian Red Cross and the lack of transparency.  Fast forward a few more years and once again a natural disaster, this time the Fort McMurray Fire has brought this issue to the forefront of donors’ minds.  So I thought I should break down the cost of doing “The Business of Philanthropy.”

Every time you make a donation to a charity there is a cost.  Who pays this cost depends on how the transaction is made, what organization it is going to, how that agency is structured and what the internal capacity of the organization is to handle the transaction.