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December 2022 - Holiday Edition

In this holiday season, and as the year draws to a close, I'm inspired by you - the generous clients, colleagues, and collaborators whom I've enjoyed working with this year to share, deepen relationships, and help make the world better. We know that the season of giving is all year! Thank you for your trust. Happy holidays,


Is Your Foundation Ready?

Canada increases disbursement quota

As of January 1, 2023, foundations in Canada will be required to increase the amount they disburse each year from 3.5% to 5% of property over $1 million not used for charitable activities or administration, based on the average value of the assets during the prior 24 months. This change also impacts foundations that host donor advised funds.

While some foundations (and fund holders) consistently exceed this minimum, others fall short of meeting the 3.5% threshold and will need to be more proactive. All foundations should take the opportunity to consider the implications of the increase, in three key areas.

  1. Granting: What changes might be required to meet or exceed the new minimum? Is it possible to grant more deeply with current charitable partners, or expand to include some new ones? Do your current giving priorities need a refresh?
  2. Resourcing: What additional time and resources might be required to support more granting activity? Many foundations already wrestle with when and how to build the right administrative and professional supports.
  3. Investment strategy: Depending on the goals and horizon of the foundation, and considering current levels of inflation, a review of investment strategy, policy, risk profile, and asset mix is prudent.

More charitable funds being directed into communities across the country is great news!

Contact Watermark to explore how to get your foundation ready, and positioned to make an even greater impact.

What Do Sir Sean Connery and Rihanna have in Common? A Generous Commitment to the Caribbean

The Connery family recently announced the launch of The Bahamas-based Sean Connery Foundation, created by his estate and established to honour Sir Sean's extraordinary legacy. With a distinct focus on education and ocean conservation, the Sean Connery Foundation has begun making charitable investments in both Scotland and The Bahamas, the two counties he called home. Watermark congratulates the family for celebrating Sir Sean's love for The Bahamas and the generous spirit he demonstrated in life.

Congratulations to the Clara Lionel Foundation as it marks its 10th anniversary of giving and investing in the Caribbean and around the world. Established by Barbadian Robyn 'Rihanna' Fenty, the Clara Lionel Foundation (named after her grandparents) is an example of Caribbean philanthropic leadership having distributed over $100 million USD.

To learn more about Caribbean philanthropy, explore Sharilyn's recent report based on her conversations with some of the Caribbean's most generous givers:

A Portrait of Affluent Giving in the Caribbean: Experiences, barriers, and the future of philanthropy

Largest Gift in Canadian History Creates New Social Enterprise

At the age of 66, Miriam Bergen died unexpectedly this year but not before creating an extraordinary legacy for the city of Winnipeg, which now represents the largest philanthropic gift in Canada's history.

In her will, Bergen bequeathed 100% ownership of her holding company, Appleton Holdings Ltd., to the Winnipeg Foundation, which includes $500 million in residential and commercial real estate. The transition of ownership will take about a year, then, profits will fund the Foundation's unrestricted community fund, enabling the Foundation to respond to Winnipeg's most pressing challenges today and into the future.

Known for being a quiet philanthropist during her life, Miriam Bergen's gift has set a new threshold for giving in Canada and offers an extraordinary example of philanthropic estate planning to advance social good. What will your charitable legacy be? Contact Sharilyn for a confidential conversation.

The Impact of Large Unrestricted Gifts:

Lessons from MacKenzie Scott

Watermark understands that for philanthropists with significant capacity to give, determining how much to give to specific organizations - especially smaller organizations - can be challenging. Take note. In a detailed study of MacKenzie Scott's massive gifts to organizations across the globe (including Canada and the Caribbean) since 2020, the Center for Effective Philanthropy has found that her approach of giving large unrestricted gifts has led to extraordinary results.

The organizations she has invested in, many of them small grass-roots and community-based, have reported that her support has been transformational - increasing their ability to fulfill their mission, improving their long-term financial sustainability, and strengthening their organizational capacity. This is a significant shift from the traditional project-dependent gifts with strings that have been found to starve the very organizations they are intended to help.

Read Scott's powerful essays about the spirit and thinking behind her giving.

Simone Joyaux Memorial Award:

Investing in Canada's Philanthropic Leadership

The Masters in Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership (MPNL) program at Carleton University has announced that Ana Talavera has been selected to receive the Simone Joyaux Memorial Award.

The Award was established by Sharilyn in honour of her mentor, colleague, and dear friend, and celebrates the importance of advanced learning and research in philanthropy, governance excellence, and basic fairness and justice. As Simone's partner Tom Ahern has said, Simone believed in the power of philanthropy and that "charities will save the world."

You can change the world too. Learn more about Ana and the MPNL program at Carleton University (where Sharilyn serves on the Advisory Council), here.

Knowledge is Impact: Data Sources for Giving Well

The savviest philanthropists know there are things they don't know. Harnessing community data and getting good counsel are great places to start. Here are some new resources to deepen your understanding and decision-making in 2023.

Carleton University has launched the Knowledge Insights Canada Project (KICP). Funded by a consortium of private foundations, KICP is a $3.4 million 5-year project that will conduct weekly surveys to a representative sample of 1,000 charities across Canada, making real-time data on issues and trends in the charitable sector freely available. The project will develop better data capacity in the sector, inform policy, and advance the resiliency of the sector. It will also help you keep a pulse on where your giving can have the greatest impact.

The Toronto Foundation recently launched the 2022 Social Capital Study which identifies a concerning decline in civic participation, trust in institutions, and social connectedness. It calls on city-building philanthropists to meet the moment and give unrestricted dollars to grass-roots organizations while also investing in chronically underfunded systems-change efforts.

And, the Bermuda Foundation just released the 2022 Vital Signs Report - Pandemic Edition on the health and vitality of the island in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It serves as a useful guide to target areas needing focused resources.

WATCH: What is social capital and why does it matter?

How Faith Traditions Influence Philanthropic Decisions

Religious faith is a strong motivator for giving. In fact, multiple studies conducted around the world have found that people who regularly attend religious services tend to give more and do so more consistently compared to their non-religious peers. So what do various faith traditions say about giving, and how do they inform philanthropists of faith?

What drives people of faith to give anonymously, or not? captures the views of three leaders in Canada's charitable sector who reflect on philanthropy within their faith communities and how it influences some of the practical decisions philanthropists make - like whether to be publicly recognized for giving. Special thanks to contributors Ann Rosenfield, Irshad Osman, and Lori Guenther Reesor for sharing their insights.


Strategy - Family Engagement - Governance

Serving leading philanthropists, generous families, and social purpose organizations in Canada and the Caribbean, Watermark offers customized expertise to help those who give, give well, engage their families, and channel their wealth and influence for good.

Contact Dr. Sharilyn Hale for a confidential exploration of your needs.

Watermark Philanthropic Counsel
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