Canadian giving, Part 4

By Todd Cohen

Canada is enjoying a surge in family and private foundations.

Roughly 8,500 foundations are registered with the Canada Revenue Agency, representing 10.5 percent of all registered charities, compared with 66,400 foundations in the United States, or 6.6 percent of registered charities, says Hilary Pearson, executive director of Montreal-based Philanthropic Foundations Canada.

Of those foundations, more than 2,300 are “active,” or open to grant proposals from charities, up from 1,072 in 1998, she says.

And roughly 85 percent of active foundations are family foundations, most of which have assets of $5 million or less.

“A lot of foundations are being created, a lot are active and a lot are family foundations,” Pearson says.

The association has 82 members that manage $4.5 billion in combined assets, or roughly half of all family-foundation assets in Canada.

Because family foundations typically lack staff and philanthropic expertise, and have counted on lawyers, accountants and other professional advisers to get started and operate, she says, charities have a lot of work to do securing their support.

Giving “tends to be ad hoc,” she says. “It’s based on who you know.”

So charities should be “very pro-active” in getting to know experts in their fields of interest because foundations looking for guidance often contact people with expertise in causes they care about, she says.

The number of community foundations also has grown, mainly through giving by families and individuals, says Megan Campbell, director of philanthropic partnerships at Ottowa-based Community Foundations of Canada.

Membership in the organization has grown to 153 foundations with more than $2 billion in assets from 28 foundations with $500 million in assets in 1992.

According to research by Investor Economics, a consulting firm in Toronto, discretionary assets of all households in Canada grew to $1.7 trillion in 2003 from $770 billion in 1992, she says.

And with the expected intergenerational transfer of wealth, she says, discretionary assets are expected to total $3.4 trillion by 2012.

To help them tap that wealth, Community Foundations of Canada in recent years has worked with its members to develop tools and resources to help them engage professional advisers with access to wealthy individuals, Campbell says.

It also has developed donor-engagement programs to help its members work directly with donors in developing philanthropic strategies.

The tools for professional advisers are available to community foundations, advisers and other charities on the organization’s website at

And 34 members of the organization have enrolled in the marketing alliance with BMO Financial Group, an alliance that Campbell says provides bank clients with community foundations’ expertise in philanthropy and local issues, and provided community foundations with client referrals they otherwise might not get.

Other stories in the series:

Part 1: Canada gears for $1 trillion transfer. 
Part 2: Philanthropy booming in Canada.
Part 3: Nonprofits in Canada aim to engage donors. 
Part 5: Financial-services firms in Canada target philanthropy.
Part 6: Nonprofits in Canada shifting focus to donors.

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