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Keith Thomson featured in Tides Canada

We are excited to announce that Keith Thomson, author of What Was Your Great Grandmother’s Name? 50 Thoughts On How Canadian Philanthropy Can Transform You, Your Family And Your Community, has written an article, “The Thoughtful Gift – Your George Bailey Moment” which is featured in Tides Canada. The article is a guide to thoughtfully planning your philanthropic gift giving: considering the type of gift you want to give as well as which charitable organization you want to receive this gift. He outlines several strategies that you can use to support your causes and encourages everyone to look for the following when considering a charitable organization:

  1. Innovation: Does the organization have creativity in programming and fresh approaches to old problems?

  2. Effectiveness: How effective is the organization’s delivery against objectives? Does it participate in high-quality external evaluations?

  3. Impact: Outcomes over inputs – Is the organization donor driven or self-perpetuating?

  4. Efficiency and value for money: Does the organization have administrative overheads that are reasonable?

  5. Transparency and accountability: Does the organization have an extremely high level of reporting?

  6. Sustainability: Is the organization sustainable, with an enduring impact and relevant problem solving?

  7. Strategic and financial management: What is the organization’s consistency of funding? Does it have a well-developed self-evaluation process in place?

  8. Peer review: How is the organization viewed by other charities, and what awards and recognition has it received?

Keith’s passion for philanthropy was sparked by his great-grandmother. He often asks the question, “How would you feel if your great-grandchildren knew nothing of your life, not even your first name?” Keith’s great-grandmother made an everlasting impact on his life, and he wants you to be able to do the same for your great-grandchildren. The impact that you can have on your family, your community, and the world for years to come is something worth thinking about.


Here is the full article featured in Tides Canada:

The Thoughtful Gift – Your George Bailey Moment

By: Keith Thomson

Remember Frank Capra’s 1946 classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life”? Through the intervention of his guardian angel, George Bailey, played by Jimmy Stewart, is shown all the lives he has touched and the contributions he has made to his community. In much the same way I believe you could be reading this article because you too wish to make a positive difference in the world today. The question often is … “How do I do this in order to maximize my impact?”

For most of us our first experiences with charity tend to be rather reactive. What I mean by this is we engage in “cheque book philanthropy” in which we make a donation based on the person asking, usually a friend or co-worker, because we see an urgent need or have a heartfelt connection to the causes we care deeply about. There is nothing wrong with this approach. However, you may wish to consider alternatives that would allow you to become much more strategic with your giving.

By taking the time to step back and proactively plan your giving, you have the opportunity to multiply exponentially your positive impact. What charities are you closest to and which of these have the potential to solve society’s greatest challenges? The answer to the first question is probably a lot easier than the second! Recently I came across a list published by The Global Journal which set out eight traits to look for in a great philanthropic organization. I have been in and around the charitable sector for over 20 years and have yet to come across a better methodology.

  1. Innovation: Creativity in programming and fresh approaches to old problems.

  2. Effectiveness: Delivery against objectives, with high quality external evaluations.

  3. Impact: Outcomes over inputs – is the organization donor driven, versus self perpetuating?

  4. Efficiency and value for money: Administrative overheads are reasonable, keeping in mind what Oscar Wilde once said, “A cynic is a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing”.

  5. Transparency and accountability: An extremely high level of reporting.

  6. Sustainability: Enduring impact and relevant problem solving.

  7. Strategic and financial management: Consistency of funding including a well-developed self-evaluation process in place.

  8. Peer review: How is the organization perceived by other charities, and what awards and recognition have been received?

By applying the above eight metrics and utilizing them as a check list you can’t but help find a quality organization.

Once you have narrowed down the causes you wish to support, you will find yourself in the enviable position of being able to take advantage of the many incentives our government has passed into law, incentives one could argue, that are among the most generous for promoting charitable financial activity in the world today. By planning your giving wisely you can take advantage of those opportunities to reduce the taxes you pay today, leave more for your family and friends, and increase the amount directed to those causes most meaningful to you while, at the same time, eliminating The Canada Revenue as one of your beneficiaries.

There are numerous strategies that you and your family can take advantage of to achieve the above. These include, but are not limited to, 1) a straightforward gift in your Will, 2) donations of appreciated securities (thereby eliminating the capital gains tax associated with the securities), 3) the creative use of insurance (often eliminating the tax on your estate) and 4) Donor Advised Funds (akin to having your own private foundation with very little of the hassle).

When “It’s a Wonderful Life” was released in the mid 1940s perhaps surprisingly it was considered a box office flop. However, today the movie has come to be regarded as a classic and is a staple of Christmas television around the world. In much the same way, the good we do today is not always recognized as such, and it’s impact sometimes takes decades to realize. Seek out a professional with the ability and skills in the philanthropic sector to assist you in becoming much more strategic with your giving so that you can leave a positive legacy for years to come.

Keith Thomson is a Certified Financial Planner and author of the recently published book “What Was Your Great Grandmother’s Name? 50 Thoughts On How Canadian Philanthropy Can Transform You, Your Family And Your Community”.


Good news!

In the latest World Economic Outlook released by the International Monetary Fund, Canada’s economy is expected to grow by at least 2.1 percent this year and 2.2 percent in 2013. According to CBC News, these statistics place Canada’s economy ahead of many other advanced economies.   The Bank of Canada is even more optimistic with a current estimate of 2.4 percent growth for 2012 and 2013.

According to Michael Babad from The Globe and Mail,Canada’s economic success has cemented its status as a safe-haven in an economically troubled world.  Foreign investors have invested more than $26-billion in the Canadian Government which suggests that investors are comfortable withCanada’s long term outlook.  The Canadian economy isn’t quite perfect and there are some regional skews in the success of specific markets however,Canada’s overall long-term financial forecast is looking good.

The financial success of Canada can be attributed to a number of different markets and the philanthropic sector has been a major contributor.  In thought number six of Keith Thomson’s book, What Was Your Great Grandmother’s Name?: 50 Thoughts on How Canadian Philanthropy Can Transform You, Your Family and Your Community, He explains just how much the philanthropic sector means to the Canadian Economy.  In fact, philanthropy accounts for roughly 9% of the Canadian gross domestic product and involves more than 12% of the population. The Canadian philanthropic sector is second only to theNetherlands as a percentage of the economy.  

JULY 2012

The best kept secrets

Olympic triathlon champion Simon Whitfield has agreed to carry Canada’s flag at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.  Some say that this honour is too much of a distraction, and others even call it a jinx.  Simon Whitfield claims carrying the Canadian flag is his secret weapon.

“It’s a good luck charm,” he said after accepting the flag, “It’s so last century to think that it’s a jinx.”

Whitfield will have a good chance at winning the gold in the Olympic Triathlon this summer.  Hopefully the Canadian colours will bring him a little extra luck. 

Canadian philanthropists have another secret weapon.  As mentioned in thought #15 of Keith Thomson’s book, What Was Your Great Grandmother’s Name?: 50 Thoughts on How Canadian Philanthropy Can Transform You, Your Family and Your Community, the best kept secret for those who are looking for a flexible way to donate are organizations called Community Foundations and their Donor Advised Funds (DAF’s).

The Community Foundation concept has spread to over 1,400 cities around the world. A DAF can be set up for a relatively small amount of money.  After setting up this fund, you can choose to grant a percentage of your contributions to the charities of your choice.  You can also leave the granting decision up to the professionals at the Foundation.  Either way your contributions will benefit society for generations to come. As an example, please visit The Toronto Community Foundation’s website ( to see this concept in action.

2012 Olympian, Simon Whitfield will proudly represent Canada as its flag bearer this summer during the Opening Ceremonies. A similar degree of satisfaction can be garnered by knowing that your Donor Advised Fund at the Community Foundation can give you the opportunity to support any number of causes now and in the future. 

JULY 2012

Working towards the same goals

Hundreds of First Nations chiefs have gathered in downtown Toronto for the Assembly of First Nations annual general meeting. There are 8 candidates fighting for the title of national chief and each are pushing hard through the last leg of their campaign in hopes of securing a few more votes before the election is held on Wednesday.

Once elected, the national chief will be held accountable to the more than 700,000 status Indian people in Canada. The national chief is arguably the most powerful Aboriginal in the nation and will have direct pipeline to the government & the national media outlets.  The elected national chief will also lead the AFN on its effort to become more accountable to constituents and move towards creating a platform where their concerns can be voiced and resolutions reached. 

Each candidate has their own approach to accomplishing their goals.  However, they all agree on the most pressing concerns including living conditions on reserves, child welfare issues, and the battle for control of resource development on Aboriginal lands.  Ultimately, each candidate wants to offer their time and expertise to work towards resolving these common concerns.

On Thought #23 of the book, What Was Your Great Grandmother’s Name?: 50 Thoughts on How Canadian Philanthropy Can Transform You, Your Family and Your Community, Keith Thomson explains the benefits of working on the board of a philanthropic organization.  Like the AFN election candidates, the leaders of a philanthropic organization have a common purpose:  to give back to their cause. 

Thought #23 heralds those who work with charitable organizations as “successful people who want to give back… and wish to make a difference.” These people join together to create lasting relationships while creating a positive impact on the causes they care about. 

For more information on how Canadian Philanthropy can transform you, your family and your community order a copy of the book at or contact Keith Thomson for information about his speaking events.

JUNE 2012

Solve an unaddressed problem

Hockey is Canada’s national pastime. Many Canadians are said to be born with ice skates on their feet, and generations have dreamed of playing in the NHL.

Of course, only a small percentage has reached that dream, and an even smaller number has gone on to stardom and immortality. Their names are legendary – Bobby Orr, Wayne Gretzky, Phil Esposito, Bobby Hull, Gordie Howe, Maurice Richard, Mario Lemieux. And they all have something in common – they blazed their own paths, they took the game to where it had not been before, they figured out something no one had done before them.

Such is Thought #22 from Keith Thomson’s book, What Was Your Great Grandmother’s Name? 50 Thoughts on How Canadian Philanthropy Can Transform You, Your Family and Your Community. It’s succinct on what you should do: Solve an unaddressed problem. Be a pioneer. Fix an issue no one else has. “With technology available to us as never before, the possibilities are endless,” Thomson writes. “If this is the case, maybe giving back is your answer. Make a list of the unaddressed, unconquerable issues, then meet with your local philanthropic organizations.”

Think of the hockey greats: Richard earned the nickname the Rocket for his blistering speed and blinding shots; Orr revolutionized the defenseman’s position. Esposito learned to make scoring opportunities by camping out in front of the goal, leading the bumper stickers, “Jesus Saves; Espo Scores on the Rebound.” Gretzky became great by seeing things before they happened. Look at a list of his famous quotes here.

Even those who aren’t in the top echelon are known for blazing new paths. Jacques Plante was the first goalie ever to wear a face mask. Gerry Cheevers painted his with sutures, showing all the potential scars he would have had without it. Both are remembered fondly.

JUNE 2012

Giving back: Time, money and results

In the last 20 years, there has been a large shift in philanthropy habits amongst Canadian Baby Boomers. We boomers, aged 50 and older, are shaping giving habits for the future simply through our numbers. We now control three quarters of all the assets in this country.

Today, this age group is getting far more involved in how their donations are used, want to give time as well as money, and want to see results. The Financial Post has written about this trend in an article, Baby Boomers are changing perceptions about charity.

The article explains the shift was helped along by CRA rules changes, which eliminated the capital gains tax on gift of securities in the late 1990s, among other rules designed to encourage giving assets. And those changes have worked: contributions have jumped more than 127 percent since then. More people are giving while they are still alive, and aren’t practicing the “cheque book” philanthropy of the past.

Some businesses or wealthy individuals are even creating their own charitable foundations. They’re inspired by the actions of billionaires like Warren Buffet, Richard Branson and Bill and Melinda Gates, who through their foundations give time and money to causes they’re passionate about.

They’re among the set of philanthropists not just willing to give money, but who set specific goals for their foundations – like immunizing children in developing countries, or investing in micro loans for entrepreneurs in developing countries.

Keith writes about this trend in more detail in my book, What Was Your Great Grandmother’s Name? 50 Thoughts on How Canadian Philanthropy Can Transform You, Your Family and Your Community.

The takeaway from thought #5 Older and Wealthier, is “Affluent donors of today are demanding more accountability and involvement when they give. Suffice to say it will be critically important for the philanthropic sector to understand this shift. Those that do will be the major beneficiaries as these older and wealthier Canadians move from success towards a psychological need for significance.”

JUNE 2012

Do you know where you are going?

The Canadian government recently announced it is eliminating the penny coin. In doing so, it saw a problem and addressed it. It also foresaw potential difficulties and questions, and presented solutions to those issues.

In its actions, the government dealt with a dilemma not only faced by governments, but also by individuals, namely: “What is important in my life, both today and in the future?”

In his book, What Was Your Great Grandmother’s Name?: 50 Thoughts on How Canadian Philanthropy Can Transform You, Your Family and Your Community, author Keith Thomson addresses this issue. In Thought 26, he says, “If You Don’t Know Where You Are Going, You’ll End Up Someplace Else.” While Thomson ties this thought into his ideals of philanthropy, it can be used in many phases of life, by an almost unlimited number of entities.

People, of course, can use it. But so can organizations, businesses, even governments. Think about how the Canadian government worked on this issue. It saw a problem, and is dealing with it. It knows where it is going. It’s done it before, in 1987, when it introduced the dollar coin, which we now know as the loonie. Other governments, particularly the United States, have tried to do the same. But the U.S. government didn’t address all the issues, and it didn’t know where it was going. So, the U.S. experiment with a dollar coin has been a failure.

What did Canada do differently? It anticipated resistance to changing to a coin from the common and then-generally used paper money. So when it introduced the dollar and two-dollar coins, then it withdrew the dollar bill from circulation. It also introduced a dollar coin with the common loon, which was popular and well liked.

 The U.S. government introduced a dollar coin that had a little known woman on it, and it kept the popular dollar bill as an option. It didn’t know where it was going, so it ended up someplace else – in this case, back where it started.

In Thought 26 in his book, Mr. Thomson has another bit of advice the government followed: Arrange your life around certain priorities, and from these priorities come a specific set of goals, with timelines for accomplishing each of them.

So the Canadian government set its priorities, and issued a list of questions and answers on its actions. Most immediately, it says that the Royal Canadian Mint will stop producing the coins in the fall of 2012, but they will remain legal tender indefinitely.  The CBC has a list of those questions and answers on their site.

Among those questions are the obvious, such as why? A: It’s a cost saving measure. How will prices be affected? A. They will be rounded up or down. The government said it expects businesses will apply rounding in a fair and transparent manner.  

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