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Difference Makers

Giving back through charitable donations creates a legacy worth leaving

British Columbians are generous. In fact, ours is among the most generous provinces in Canada. In 2012, the median dollar value of British Columbians’ annual charitable donations was $390—30 per cent more than the national median of just $270. And in total, B.C. residents donated a staggering $1.25 billion to registered charities that year.

It’s an impressive sum, and yet charities still operate on slim budgets, putting every dollar to good use to provide some of B.C.’s most essential services.

Health Care

While we generally think of medical care as being under the government’s purview, the high quality of our treatment is often thanks in part to the generosity of donors.

“Providing state-of-the-art medical equipment ensures our patients receive the highest standard of care,” says Cheryl Carline, president and CEO of Burnaby Hospital Foundation. “Whether through decreasing the amount of time a procedure takes or speeding up a patient’s recovery, using the latest technology positively benefits patients.”

Burnaby Hospital Foundation’s primary goal is to raise funds for priority medical equipment for Burnaby Hospital, a cornerstone health care provider to approximately 425,000 residents in Burnaby and East Vancouver. It also has one of the busiest emergency departments in the province, with more than 70,000 patient visits a year. Funds raised by the Foundation are also used to support community health programs, medical staff education, minor equipment as well as patient care and comfort.

Carline notes that by sharing their intention to leave a gift in their will, donors can help charities to maximize their contribution. For example, “it can help Burnaby Hospital to better plan for the purchase of medical equipment if we know funds will be forthcoming. As well, this allows the charity an opportunity to express appreciation to you personally for your commitment and future support.”

BC Women’s Hospital + Health Centre Foundation is likewise committed to improving the care available at BC Women’s Hospital through newer, more advanced technology and equipment. Currently, the Foundation is in the midst of a fundraising campaign with the goal of raising $17 million to purchase advanced equipment for the newborn ICU, such as specialized incubators for transporting newborns from other hospitals around the province.

James Carruthers, the Foundation’s director of development, emphasizes the importance of having the latest and greatest tools available to the medical professionals at BC Women’s Hospital. “The highest-risk pregnancies and the most critically ill newborn babies in the province come here to this hospital. There is no higher level of care for mothers and newborns than here,” says Carruthers. “And they [hospital staff], as a team, are able to save lives today that would have been impossible to save even a short time ago, thanks to the advancements in technology. We’re really helping families have a chance to be families, whereas they might not have had that chance before.”

Meanwhile, supporting groundbreaking research is the primary focus of the BC Cancer Foundation, the fundraising partner of the BC Cancer Agency and the province’s largest charitable funder of cancer research.

According to Douglas Nelson, president and CEO of the BC Cancer Foundation, more than 24,000 British Columbians will be diagnosed with cancer this year. One in three people in B.C. will face cancer in their lifetime. And yet, despite these staggering statistics, British Columbians experience the lowest rates of cancer incidence and the lowest rates of cancer mortality anywhere in Canada—thanks in large part to the BC Cancer Agency, which provides comprehensive prevention, screening and early detection programs, research and education, and care and treatment for the people of B.C. and Yukon.

“The BC Cancer Foundation supports research initiatives at the BC Cancer Agency that hold the most promise to dramatically improve early detection, diagnosis and treatment for all cancers,” explains Nelson, noting that all funds raised in B.C., stay in B.C. “And this year, more than 115,000 donors from across the province partnered with the BC Cancer Foundation to raise $36.3 million for innovative research and enhancements to patient care at the BC Cancer Agency.”

Sick Kids

While medical care itself may be provided by the provincial health authority, supplementary care services—such as out-of-hospital care for the families of sick children—are largely supplied through donations and the generosity of volunteers.

Ronald McDonald House is a home away from home for seriously ill children and their families when they have to travel to Vancouver for treatment at BC Children’s Hospital. The first Ronald McDonald House in Vancouver, which opened in 1983 in the neighbourhood of Shaughnessy, only accommodated 13 families at a time—nowhere near meeting the current need. However, in June, Ronald McDonald House opened both a brand-new, 73-bedroom house at Children’s Hospital, as well as a four-bedroom Family Room at Surrey Memorial Hospital, making B.C.’s Ronald McDonald House program one of the largest in Canada. With bedrooms as well as kitchens, laundry facilities, play areas and lounge spaces, “families can get out of the hospital environment and have that support and a little bit of a break,” says Richard Pass, CEO of Ronald McDonald House B.C.

The new facilities will do much to meet the overwhelming need for family accommodation, but will also increase the program’s operating costs, “and we still have $1.7 million to raise of the total $31-million capital campaign,” says Pass, making donations more necessary than ever.

Canuck Place Children’s Hospice, B.C.’s recognized pediatric palliative care provider, faces a similar challenge. “We care for over 560 newborns, children and teens with life-threatening illnesses and their families through outreach programs and two hospice locations: Vancouver and Abbotsford,” says CEO Margaret McNeil. “Canuck Place is currently serving only 20 to 25 per cent of the provincial need. We need to reach the 75 to 80 per cent of children and families we are not yet able to care for.”

Canuck Place’s second provincial location in Abbotsford, which will open in phases throughout 2017, is a big step toward meeting that need.

“Our programs include clinical respite and family support, pain and symptom management, 24-hour phone consultation support and in-house clinical care, art, education, recreation therapy, grief counselling, and end-of-life care. Our clinicians are highly trained, caring for over 175 rare diseases and conditions and administering over 150 different types of medications,” explains McNeil. “But now more than ever, with our additional location in Abbotsford, Canuck Place relies on the support of individuals to raise the needed funds and to retain the professional expertise required to provide complex clinical care for children and the families who love them.”

Also catering to children, the Children’s Wish Foundation of Canada grants heartfelt wishes to children with high-risk or life-threatening illnesses. “Every day, we are inspired by the power of wish,” [pagebreak]says Jennifer Petersen, director of the B.C. and Yukon chapter. “One of our wish children who recently completed a travel wish described it best, saying, ‘I forgot I was sick.’” Whether it’s a brand-new playhouse, a trip to Disneyland or meeting a real-life princess, wishes truly do work wonders, says Petersen. “By leaving a legacy to Children’s Wish, you can help create a sustainable future for wish granting in Canada, and help bring immeasurable joy to a seriously ill child.”

Conservation Causes

The B.C. Wildlife Federation is the oldest and largest conservation organization in the province, and its mission is to ensure the sound long-term management of British Columbia’s fish, wildlife and outdoor recreational resources, and to educate British Columbians on the value of those resources. 
Donations to the B.C. Wildlife Federation are used to fund a variety of critical conservation initiatives, including strategic advocacy work with government and the Wetlands Education Program, says development co-ordinator Sarah McNeil. As well, “Wetland Wild Kidz and Go Wild! Youth for Conservation programs provide children and teenagers an opportunity to explore and learn about their natural environment, teach stewardship and conservation principles, and develop leadership skills,” adds McNeil. “Another popular program, Becoming an Outdoors Woman, teaches women outdoor skills and conservation stewardship techniques in a fun, relaxed and non-competitive atmosphere.”

With such a variety of initiatives to support, donors can personalize their bequest to make it even more meaningful. “If you want to have your funds directed to a specific project or program, we are happy to work with donors,” says McNeil. “Spend some time reviewing our website, attending events or reading newsletters and updates, and pick a program or an initiative that speaks to you.”

Leaving a Legacy

Whatever cause you choose to support, make sure both you and the charitable organization can make the most of your donation.

“Charitable gifts are governed by the Income Tax Act and the rules are fairly complex, so it’s important that the person you consult be knowledgeable on the subject,” says Sandra Enticknap, partner with Miller Thomson LLP. Miller Thomson is a national law firm with a focus on estate planning and charitable gift planning, recognized for its two-volume publication, Miller Thomson on Estate Planning.

Enticknap advises that donors do their homework before making a bequest. “Find out whether the organization can actually use the gift in the way you intend, and make sure you understand which types of gifts the charity can accept.”

If your bequest is in any way complicated—such as gifting appreciated securities or real estate—get specialized advice. “You need some very specific language, particularly in a will, to make sure that happens.” And, adds Enticknap, whether you’re making a donation now or leaving a legacy in your will, it’s important to know how your gift will affect your tax situation. A consultation with an expert will ensure that both you and the charity are getting the best bang for your buck.

One way to make sure your legacy lasts in perpetuity is to create your own family foundation. National investment firm Mackenzie Investments offers a tax- and estate-planning product called a donor-advised fund, which offers all the benefits of a private foundation without the upfront costs and administrative responsibilities.

With an initial contribution of at least $25,000, donors can create their own giving fund within Mackenzie’s Strategic Charitable Giving Foundation, which donors can name themselves (for example, the “Carson Family Charitable Giving Fund”). Subsequent contributions of at least $5,000 can be made at the donor’s convenience. Donations can be made in the form of cash, securities, life insurance policies with a cash surrender value, RRSPs, RIFs and real estate.

Donors receive a tax receipt for their donations immediately, and choose which of Mackenzie’s mutual funds (balanced and income funds) in which to invest their donation. “The Canada Revenue Agency looks for approximately a 3.5 per cent rate of return every year, so we try to do better than that,” says Bezaire. “Fund owners can choose to grant between four to eight per cent of their fund value each year, and our target rate of return is always greater than that.”

Granting is done quarterly or annually, according to the donor’s preference. “We contact the donor to say, ‘This is how much money you’ll be granting out, how would you like it allocated?’ We do all the statements, we do the reporting and we send out the grants.” Donors can designate grants to as many CRA-sanctioned charities as they’d like, and can change up their chosen organizations every year if they so choose.

One of the particular benefits of this product is that donors can work with their own independent financial adviser to set up their donor-advised fund with Mackenzie, drawing on their adviser’s knowledge of their personal tax situation to make the most of their giving plan, says Bezaire.

Mackenzie Investments currently has $131 million in assets under management in its Strategic Charitable Giving Foundation, and Bezaire sees the donor-advised market taking off. “It’s already big in the U.S., and it’s just starting to get on its feet here in Canada,” says Bezaire. She cites baby boomers’ preference of hands-on control over their own affairs as one reason, as well as the flexibility it offers in tax and estate planning. Plus, notes Bezaire, “it not only simplifies charitable giving, but it encourages people to think more carefully about why they’re making their donations, and to be more strategic about how and when they donate.

Donor-advised funds also offer the advantage of naming a successor donor, so that children and grandchildren can take up the torch down the road. “I think that planning your strategic philanthropy and your charitable giving can become a whole-family event, with the next generation working with the current generation,” says Bezaire. “It’s a really good way to work together on something that offers such a great return to the community, and the family foundation becomes a legacy that lasts for years and years.”