Blog

DECEMBER 2016

Merry Christmas featuring Buster the Boxter

Clearly, I realize this video is a TV advert for the British retailer, John Lewis

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Cleverly, it utilizes the song, “One Day I’ll Fly Away”, performed by the Vaults. (The original song was performed by Randy Crawford  and very much amplifies the commercial’s impact.) Creatively, it is a slick piece of marketing that is directly targeted to tug on our heart strings.

Taking into account all the above, I challenge you to watch this two minute Christmas advert without getting into the holiday spirit … even a little bit.

Hopefully, as you wind down 2016 and spend more time with family and friends you are also reflecting on who and what bring meaning into your life. It is with this thought, and the positive attitude of Buster the Boxer, that I wish you and your family all the best for the season and a very happy New Year.

Merry Christmas!

NOVEMBER 2016

Girls are fierce!

As I have written many times there are very few things more effective in successfully getting your message across than a great “story” accompanied by a strong visual. This two minute video created by the Canadian Women’s Foundation hits all the right notes. My friend, Beth Malcolm, who is Director of the Girls’ Fund at the Canadian Women’s Foundation, shared with me that this was filmed at Yonge/Dundas Square in Toronto with real girls being asked the questions. They didn’t realize their words were going to be advertised on the Jumbotron so their reactions were 100% authentic.

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OCTOBER 2016

Moments in time part II

Last year I wrote about an incredible experience I shared with my daughter – together we watched the sun comes up on Cape Spear, Newfoundland, the most easterly point of Canada. Last month I thought why not continue our daddy/daughter bonding time and drive to the southernmost tip of mainland Canada, Point Pelee National Park. Interestingly, 27 U.S. states lie north of this location as well as the city of Rome!

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Kiera and I hang’n out at Point Pelee, the southernmost tip of mainland Canada. (Middle Island is actually the Southernmost point in Canada.)

The point I’m trying to make (yes, there actually is one!) is exactly what I wrote last year, i.e., personal resources (time and money) directed towards experiences as against “stuff” are the keys to both short and long term happiness. This is one of the reasons we feel so good when we are engaged in acts of giving through its many different levels – not just money, but also time, friendship and, most important … love.

SEPTEMBER 2016

Which charity

With the over 86,000 registered charities in Canada, I am often asked “Which one should I support?” It’s an excellent question but, like many great questions, there is no easy answer. I touched on the subject this past March in my blog, “Doing Good Better”. However, I recently read an excellent article by Seth Godin. Godin has been referred to as the godfather of modern marketing, his blog being one of the most trafficked on the web. I hope you find his answer to the question, “Which Charity?” as interesting as I did.

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Which charity?

By Seth Godin

Organized non-profits provide reach, leverage and consistency that can’t be matched by the millenia-old model of individuals helping those they encounter in the community. It’s one of the extraordinary success stories of the industrial age that they’ve been able to have such a worldwide impact with relatively few resources. As our choices continue to increase (yes, there’s now a long tail of philanthropy), it gets ever more important that we make conscious choices about what to support and how.

Here are a few questions with no right answers, questions that might help you think about where you want to allocate your charitable support…

Are you more drawn to emergencies that need your help right now, or to organizations that work toward long-term solutions to avoid the emergencies of the future?

Would you prefer to support a proven, scaled, substantial organization, or does the smaller, less well-known organization appeal to you?

How much personal impact and leverage do you seek?

Are you a browser, jumping from issue to issue, or are you more excited about a long arc of a relationship?

Is this donation anonymous? If it’s not, who will you choose to tell? Does their reaction matter?

How much of your donation activity is the result of opportunities and outreach from the organization, and how much from unprompted giving? (Hint: organizations do a lot of outreach because it works on their donors, not because it’s fun. You will get more of what you respond to.)

What story do you tell yourself about you and your giving?

Are you focused on published numbers of organizational efficiency (how much goes into fundraising and admin)? Or does it make more sense to focus on the organization’s impact as it goes about its mission? How will you decide to measure that impact, or does it not matter to you?

[Worth a second to note that every question I just asked could be asked about just about any marketed product you buy on a regular basis, whether it’s coffee, cars or a consulting firm.]

There are no perfect charities, just as there are no perfect cars. But the imperfection of cars doesn’t keep us from buying one–we pick the model (and the story that goes with it) that best serves our needs.

What an extraordinary opportunity to support something that matters to you.

Posted by Seth Godin on December 19, 2013

JULY 2016

This is where your legacy begins

My long-time friend, Anne Brayley, recently reminded me that we’ve both been involved with the Toronto Foundation for over 25 years! Back when I was in my late twenties, I clearly remember attending a presentation facilitated by The Right Honourable John Turner (who was then the chair of the Toronto Foundation), and being profoundly affected by the history, impact, and potential of the community foundation movement in North America.

As I reflect upon my ‘philanthropic journey’ I can say without any doubt that the catalyst for my passion for the charitable sector was my experience with the Toronto Foundation, first as a committee volunteer (with Anne), then as a board member and now as a fund holder.

This wonderful two minute video, featuring Fran Deacon and her family, reminds us all of what I am convinced is one of the most important questions we can ask ourselves, “How do we wish to be remembered?”

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“Legacy was what it was all about.”

Fran Deacon on the founding of Toronto Foundation.

MAY 2016

Doing what you love

For those of us who have the privilege of working in the non profit world, doing what we love seems to be a matter of course. Unfortunately, based on hundreds of studies such as this recent survey published by the Canadian HR Reporter, the same can not be said in the for profit world.

 

Once again, for this month’s blog I draw on the wisdom of Hugh MacLeod  for his take on doing what you love. Personally, I believe the “secret sauce” is not only doing what you love, but also being really, really good at what you do and at the same time enjoying the recognition (income and/or otherwise) that results from your unique set of skills and passion.

Doing What You Love

—Hugh MacLeod

Something changed.

It used to be, money was the only metric you needed to pay attention to. If you made’x thousand’, you were happy. If you made ’10x thousand’, you were even happier.

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But then you find out that money can only buy you so much. Like Bill Gates says, “It’s the same hamburger“.

Stuff doesn’t make you happy. Making a difference makes you happy. Love and being loved makes you happy. Being invited to the dance that is humanity, that is what we’re here for.

APRIL 2016

Indian washing detergent… Really?

Even though it is produced primarily in a language you probably do not understand, I guarantee you will not regret the time it takes to watch this two minute video.

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If there are two recurring themes in these blogs they would have to be the benefits of adopting a philosophy of “gratitude” in one’s life and the power of “story” when it comes to ideas and causes worth sharing. This Indian commercial for a product as mundane as washing detergent, even spoken in a foreign language, certainly emphasizes the latter.

Then again, I don’t really think we’re really selling soap here. I believe this commercial/story is all about the most powerful emotion of all … love.

MARCH 2016

Doing good better

I just finished reading William MacAskill’s excellent book “Doing Good Better”. MacAskill is an Associate Professor in Philosophy at Oxford and, at 28 years old, probably the youngest tenured professor in the world. He is also the co-founder of the “effective altruism” movement as well as 80,000 Hours , which provides for research and advice on how you can best make a positive social impact through your profession. (80,000 hours refers to the amount of time that most of us spend in our chosen career.) If you are a young person wanting to make an exponential philanthropic impact, this is an absolute must go-to resource for you.

The following is a quick summary of MacAskill’s five key questions to ask yourself in order to think like an effective altruist.

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1) How many people benefit, and by how much?

2) Is this the most effective thing you can do?

3) Is this area neglected?

4) What would have happened otherwise if this area was neglected?

5) What are the chances of success, and how good would success be?

And the key questions to ask yourself in regard to which charity you should donate to?

1) How cost-effective is each program area a charity runs?

2) How robust is the evidence behind each program?

3) How well is each program implemented?

4) Does the charity actually need additional funds?

I couldn’t help but notice that there are no questions related to how much money is being spent on overhead. Unfortunately, this kind of question seems to be an obsession for certain types of publications. Take MoneySense for example, which recently published two articles MoneySense2016 Charity 100: Grades & MoneySense Canada’s Top-Rated Charity, both of which tend to focus on efficiency metrics instead of on the actual effectiveness of an organization.

In just 204 pages “Doing Good Better” is an incredibly concise and thoughtful summary of what we all can do to be more effective philanthropists.

FEBRUARY 2016

Why I love Ellen

I really appreciate Ellen DeGeneres’ show for a number of reasons. However, the number one reason is that she celebrates the very best qualities of humanity. And so it is with a recent show in which she profiled Sam, a 17 year old barista with autism. Equally important, DeGeneres featured Chris who is Sam’s manager at Starbucks located at Yonge and Finch in Toronto.

Ellen “discovered” Sam after a video was taken by a Starbucks customer which went viral with over 750,000 views (and climbing quickly) on Youtube.

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The concept of “Gratitude”, or being consciously thankful, is a reoccurring theme in my Philanthropy Matters Blog. On so many levels this video shows us why we could be thankful, for example, Chris hiring Sam in the first place. We could also have gratitude or be thankful for living in a country where an outstanding young man is given a choice to work with dignity. We could be grateful for having quality television programs that are both entertaining and inspiring such as the Ellen DeGeneres show. We could even be grateful for the three members of the Toronto Raptors who took the time to make a difference.

What is your gratitude today?

JANUARY 2016

All about gratitude

Whether you “live” in the for profit or nonprofit world I believe it’s all about the gratitude. Easy to say but hard to make a habit of doing. Once again I draw on the wisdom of Hugh McLeod to expand on the subject.

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Here’s a question: when in business, when should you *feel* successful? When do you start thinking of yourself *as* successful?

When you make a million dollars? When your company makes its first billion? When you get your corner office? When your payroll exceeds a hundred people? A thousand people?

How about… when you start feeling truly grateful to have the people around your office, in your life?

How about, instead of measuring success by numbers, you measure it by the amount of *gratitude* you have for being there?

Gratitude is not just a nice virtue they teach you at Sunday School. It’s a very powerful sign that you’re doing something right.

Think about it.