There are 86,000 charities in Canada all vying for your support. But many donors today are looking for opportunities to get involved and ensure their charity dollars go further. This special episode of MoneyTalk is all about giving: ways you can be more connected to the causes you support, as well as methods to maximize your charitable giving and your sense of fulfillment. Kim Parlee speaks with Jo-Anne Ryan, Executive Director of the Private Giving Foundation at TD Wealth, Paul Nazareth, Vice President at the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, and Krishan Mehta, Associate Vice President of Engagement at Ryerson University.
- Canadians are a generous people. We give almost $10 billion a year, and it's going up steadily. But many Canadians are looking to do more, something more meaningful. Tonight we're going to meet three amazing Canadians who care deeply about their causes and are so savvy about how they use their money to help them. First off, Miranda, a retired financial executive who found her charity soulmate in the Canadian Red Cross.
MIRANDA HUBBS: My name is Miranda. I have had many opportunities that have come to me just by virtue of being Canadian. And I recognize how fortunate I am in that. One of the organizations I'm involved with that helps make Canada better is the Canadian Red Cross.
My philosophy when it comes to giving is to ensure that the mission of the organization resonates with me. I really do want to feel a connection to their mission. My first major interaction with the Red Cross from a major gift standpoint was after the earthquakes in Haiti. For me-- and I think for a lot of people-- to see the scope and scale of the devastation. Almost a quarter of a million people died. And these were people who were largely below the poverty line already. My company had a matching program with respect to Haiti. And again, there were a lot of us who said, how can we help. And we did look at a number of organizations and settled on the Red Cross. They are a trusted brand.
The Tiffany Circle is a community of women philanthropists who are committed to furthering the humanitarian vision of the Canadian Red Cross. There is an author, Laura Liswood, and she had a great quotation about-- "Women are like snowflakes. One alone may melt, but together we can stop traffic." And that's what we have with the Tiffany Circle.
Women give differently than men. This was in the TD report. Affluent women have a higher propensity to give than affluent men do. If you look at life satisfaction as a measure of happiness, it seems that women derive more life satisfaction out of giving.
We're hosting an event called Behind the Red Vest. It is an event that is a simulation of what it's like to be a first responder as part of the Red Cross. Women want the relationships with their organization, with the volunteers, with people around them. And they want more information on those organizations.
And the Tiffany Circle has given me that opportunity to actually get closer to the work of what the Canadian Red Cross is doing and understand it better. And actually, that makes you feel better and it can actually deepen your whole relationship with the organization when you have that time and opportunity.
- Miranda's story-- it's a fantastic story. And here to give us a little more context, Jo-Anne Ryan. She is executive director of the Private Giving Foundation at TD Wealth, also Vice President of Philanthropy. Great to have you here.
- Great to be here.
KIM PARLEE: Such a great story with her and the way that she's engaging more with the charity. That's good for her and good for the charity.
- So why do you think that has a better outcome?
- Well, we've done a lot of research on women in philanthropy. And for women, they want a relationship with the organizations that they support. It could be-- as Miranda said-- with the staff, with the volunteers, with the board. They want to get involved. They want to roll their sleeves up. And the more engaged that they are, the happier they are and the larger donation they're likely to make.
- And I think in the same study, and in the work you've done too, is women have a lot more to give as well.
- Well, they do. I mean women are growing in wealth in Canada. So in 2016, women controlled in Canada $1.4 trillion. And that's jumping to $3.6 trillion in 2026. So in 10 years, women control 35% of their wealth, which is increasing to almost 50%. Their life expectancy is greater than men. So they often inherit twice. They inherit from parents and then again from a spouse or partner. So they actually have a lot to give and care very deeply.
- It's interesting because she talked about-- you were saying about the relationship often with the charity is different with women than it can be with men. And Red Cross is using the Tiffany Circle as one way to engage donors. What are some other examples of charities that are doing this similar types of things?
- So organizations are realizing that women have a huge potential to give. So they are developing strategies to attract women. So a number have what are called Giving Circles. So United Way has what's called Women United. They'll get together. They'll commit a minimum dollar amount. And together as a group, they'll decide what organization they want to fund.
But other organizations are pulling women together in these circles. Sometimes there's a financial commitment required. Sometimes it's just to learn about an issue that they all care deeply about.
- And when they learn about that issue, of course, they can apply their skills, because, I mean, obviously Miranda is a great example. She has a lot she can bring beyond money.
- Absolutely. And women do more due diligence. So they want the information before they make that major gift. So it actually takes longer to get a major gift from a woman than a man. But once you get them, they're very, very committed, as somebody like Miranda is.
- Yeah, great story. Throughout the show-- and Jo-Anne is going to be staying with us for the entire show-- we've got some tips from people who are with me to talk about what things to keep in mind with charities. Let's bring up some of your tips right here.
The first one you have on the screen here is educating yourself on tax efficiency.
JO-ANNE RYAN: We have very generous tax incentives in Canada for charitable giving. So you really want to be educated on what they are so you can give as tax-efficiently as possible. For example, giving securities, eliminating capital gains. And so really become educated and talk to your financial advisors and your advisors about that.
KIM PARLEE: Second one is don't judge the performance of a charity on administration costs. People used to go back and say, well, how much are they spending? Well, don't do it.
JO-ANNE RYAN: Yeah, you can't say the best charity is the one that pays the least out, that has the lowest salaries, or pays the lowest administration, or is 100% volunteer-run because charities need money. They need to invest in their people to get good people. They need to invest in marketing to get the message out about the good work that they're doing. So really focus on the impact of your giving as opposed to what dollar is being spent on salaries and administration.
- And last tip you have here is just give. Don't wait just until the end of the year to make all these big decisions.
JO-ANNE RYAN: Right. December 31 is quickly approaching. So don't wait till the 30th. And the other tip, too, with the holidays coming up is if there's somebody on your list that has too much stuff, consider a donation through Canadahelps.org because you get the donation receipt, and they can choose what charity they want to allocate it to.
- The next person we are going to hear from is someone who cares profoundly about single mothers, their children, and giving them what they need. And she has found a way to amplify what she gives. Ruth is a real estate and investment professional. And this is her story of how she uses a donor-advised fund to support Homeward Bound.
- I'm Ruth. I'm involved in my family's business. I consider myself to be very eclectic, very feminist. And those are some of the reasons why Woodgreen's Homeward Bound program appeals to me. My father was a child Holocaust survivor. So his family was hidden by somebody who had been a former neighbor. Because of that, several of my family members survived. That history has inspired me to care a lot about other people and understand that there's times in your life when you can rely on other people. So I never really forget that.
The way that I understand the Woodgreen program that appeals to me is that it's for single moms and their kids. It would be daycare, education, in some of them it's housing. I like the way that it really tries to provide all the things that one could imagine might be necessary to allow women to give their best shot at really transforming their lives.
Opening a donor-advised fund was for me an alternative to writing checks on an ad hoc basis to support the charities that I was interested in. So also the donor-advised fund allows me to establish a legacy. So I call it budgeting. If I budget inside that fund, then I and then my children will also be able to utilize those monies to continue giving.
The reason I try to engage the organizations a little more than just writing a check is because sometimes they will create opportunities for me to deepen my own learning. And then I can see the program a little more up close and see its benefits. That engagement, I think, can be of benefit to the recipients of the donations and the people that they're extending it to, but also for myself personally.
When I talk to my children about why I do what I do, who I am, is I will often say to them that it's not really an us and them. It takes a lot to get by in the world. And any given person, no matter what they may appear at a certain time, is only one or two crises away from being very needy.
- And that was Ruth. And what a great story it is. She's such a great person. We know Ruth. She's just so generous. So I've got Jo-Anne Ryan here still, Vice President of Philanthropy, and also joined by Paul Nazareth. He's with the Canadian Association of Gift Planners. Paul, it's great to have you with us too.
- Thanks for having me.
- I want to talk a bit about-- she kept saying donor-advised fund, donor-advised fund. What is a donor-advised fund?
KIM PARLEE: So it's a simple alternative to a private foundation. So you don't have to go to a lawyer and set up a structure. It's a public foundation. Within that public foundation, you open a fund. You name it as you would a private foundation, and-- minimum $10,000 at TD with the Private Giving Foundation. You donate to it. You've given your money away irrevocably at that point. You get a donation receipt. And then over time, you get to pick and choose the charities that you want to allocate funds to.
- And the great thing about this, of course, is that you can put the money in, wait and see, later on take some time to be thoughtful about it, too. And also that money, if it's invested well, you can work on that--
- It can grow tax-free. Absolutely.
- Which gives it more for the charity as well.
- Why, let me ask you from your perspective, is a donor-advised fund a good way for people to give?
- Well at the Canadian Association of Gift Planners, we've seen what an incredibly powerful evolution in philanthropy donor-advised funds have been. They've brought a huge amount of simplicity to what was previously complex.
KIM PARLEE: Tell me a bit more about that.
- It allows people, basically, to create a fund, create an idea of a foundation, but the moving parts are simpler. There really-- it's a fund within the foundation. And it helps them to focus on the impact, on how they're giving, where they're giving, what they're doing.
- Let me ask you about the mechanics of a little bit. I mean, you know, part of this, you use a planner, you use an advisor to help construct this and put it in place. So how do-- what is the role the planners and advisors play in this?
PAUL NAZARETH: This is an exciting evolution as well. Planners and advisors will amplify the impact that somebody can have. They help make sure that that head is really a discussion, analytical discussion on taxes and benefits, but the heart is also engaged to say, how do we have more of an impact in something that means a lot to you? So values and planning put together has powerful impact.
KIM PARLEE: Can any advisor planner help with this?
- Well, we train them, and so that's something that I do every day is help train advisors to have the conversations with their clients about what values and passions are important to them, what the tax benefits of giving are, what the different vehicles are. And I think, more and more, it's becoming an important part of the advisor conversation. In fact, at TD Wealth, one of our four pillars is leave a legacy. So we help our clients establish a legacy. And for many, that's a charitable legacy.
KIM PARLEE: And I know you talked to a lot of people about just figuring out their values and what they're really interested in. I mean it's as much as a psychology conversation, as it is about money, right?
JO-ANNE RYAN: Yes, yes, yes. And there's 2/3 of Canadians today, high net worth clients are-- it's new money. So they haven't had a history of learning how to give and being philanthropists, but they're on a learning journey.
- All right, we've got three tips you have to leave with people here. So let's bring them up. And the first one is, to make it more affordable, think monthly.
- Monthly-- for a lot of people, they give because they're asked. And so sometimes they give a certain amount. It may be a stretch. But for a lot of people, making that monthly giving makes it more affordable throughout the year. And again, like Jo-Anne said, CanadaHelps.org is a great place that can help people to give to any charity at a monthly basis.
KIM PARLEE: Second one here is, volunteer and give where you live. So make it local.
PAUL NAZARETH: You know, this is the hard part in that people will often give to big organizations, and they're always wondering, is my money doing something good? Let's go check it out. You know, involve others. Involve your family, and give where you live. See how you can have an impact in your community.
KIM PARLEE: And the final one is, think about what you care about. That's actually harder than it sounds.
PAUL NAZARETH: Most people don't. And you heard in our stories today, a lot of them saying, when I talk to my kids, when I talk to my family. So when we do more of that, people can go deeper in their values. And we'll have more of an impact when they think deeply about it.
- You might have eaten at the Lebanese restaurant chain, Paramount Fine Foods. You may have watched a hockey game at the Paramount Fine Foods Center Mississauga, but you might not know about the owner, Mohamad Fakih, and his incredible story. 20 years ago, he came to Canada from war-torn Lebanon.
He bought an almost-bankrupt shawarma shop and turned it into 70 locations and a brand worldwide. But it wasn't easy. And now he wants to use his heart, knowledge, and money to help newcomers like he was settle into Canadian life.
- I'm Mohamad Fakih. I'm the founder and COO of Paramount Fine Food. The name of my foundation is Fakih Foundation. I actually came here as a gemologist, so I have a master's degree in geology, yet I sell shawarma. And I'm very happy to say, today we're over 70 locations worldwide.
I came to Canada in 1999. I left Lebanon because of the war. People couldn't get along. People were dying, so I wanted to come in to an environment where I could do something and succeed, an environment and to a country that it's accepting and welcoming.
When I heard about the Syrian refugee crisis and how difficult it was for them, people that they were forced to flee their homes, it wasn't their decision, and Syrians were very well-off in their country. They were very educated, very capable people. So I wanted to see it firsthand, and I did.
And I'll never forget, I landed in one of the refugee camps at the border of Lebanon and Syria. And at my arrival, I saw three children, even cuter than my own kids, and they have no shoes, ripped clothes, playing with sand, had no toys, had no life, no sense of life for anything.
And I said, we can do much more. We can do much more as a country. We can do much more as a human. We can do much more as people. And that's where I pledged to hire over 100 Syrian refugees right there and then. A lot of studies now shows refugees don't need us to hand them out money. They need a job. They need an opportunity. And they need to restore their dignity. Our Syrian refugee employees are our best today, and it brings a great culture and a purpose to the company.
But every time I walk into a restaurant, I see a Syrian refugee-- or a refugee in general, because we don't only help Syrian refugee-- or a newcomer on their way of building a better life and becoming a Canadian, it inspires me. It makes me want to do it more and more.
Yes, everyone can cut a check, but you don't feel that oneness. You don't feel what those people are feeling. The bottom line and the most important is to keep yourself grounded and remember where you came from.
- Mohamad Fakih-- it's an incredible story. I'm back with Jo-Anne Ryan, vice president of TD Wealth, and we're joined by Krishan Mehta. He's EVP of Engagement at Ryerson University. He's amazing. I mean, the things that he's done have just been simply amazing.
And I mean, he's done so much more. He's been in the news recently for all the support that he's lent to people as well. Krishan, you have actually done, in addition to being an EVP at Ryerson University, you did a PhD-- congratulations on getting it done-- in--
- Thank you.
KIM PARLEE: --immigrants and giving. Is Mohamad's story typical?
KRISHAN MEHTA: Well, Mohamad's story is certainly commendable. And what it represents, really, is a way in which new Canadians are taking personal experiences, both from the time before they leave and as they settle in this new space, and are really converting that into a charitable interest and a passion. And so that really informs how they give, where they give, to the extent in which they're involved in charities. It's a very special, special contribution to the narrative of Canada.
I have to say that Mohamad and other new Canadian donors are really changing the perception we have out there about what constitutes or what is a philanthropist or who is a philanthropist. What do they look like? And really changing the ways in which we think about a benefactor versus a beneficiary.
- And you know, this is a myth that needs to actually be busted.
KIM PARLEE: Tell me a bit more about that. Like, what needs to be busted specifically?
- So I'll tell you this. Statistics Canada recently polled-- released a report in which they found that new immigrants or new Canadians, along with citizens born here, actually had the same propensity to give to charities. But immigrants actually give slightly more than others. And when we look at annual household incomes of new Canadians that are over $100,000, that delta shifts quite significantly. And so that story of giving is really important.
So what Mohamad is doing, and others like him, are they're really pulling back the curtain on saying, immigrants, new Canadians, are making a transformative contribution to a bunch of different areas of our community-- arts and culture, newcomer settlement, health care, education. It's really quite an incredible story to tell. And it benefits all of us.
KIM PARLEE: It really does. I mean, the generosity is so overwhelming. Jo-Anne, Mohamad talks about using a foundation for what he's doing. Is that an effective way of giving? It's one more example, someone with some more means be able to do that, right?
- Sure. It's-- a foundation is a very structured form of giving. There is a lot of governance associated with it. Some people prefer a foundation to a donor-advised fund. They have more flexibility in the investments that they can choose. They also have-- they're able to fund some projects that would be difficult to fund through a donor-advised fund.
So if you have the governance in place, and you have a sizable amount of money, then a private foundation is also a good option as opposed to the donor-advised fund, which is very simple and very easy.
KIM PARLEE: Right. And I mean I know you've been involved in some projects, I know, with clients lately who've done some pretty incredible things.
- Yes, yes. So when it comes to immigrants, a lot of them want to give back to their country of origin. As Krishan said, they're very grateful to Canada, who welcomed them in. And so what I do when I'm meeting people that are looking at, for example, sending money to India-- we recently had somebody who made a very sizable donation to a hospital foundation in Singapore-- we will see if there's a way for them to do it tax-effectively as opposed to sending after-tax dollars over to Singapore.
So we work with, as an example, an organization called Charities Aid Foundation, CAF Canada for short. They're a registered charity in Canada, and they can do the due diligence and vet the international project, put the project agreement together to help facilitate these international donations tax-effectively.
- I've only got about 10 seconds left, but I do to ask you, in terms of how you see new immigrants giving, how is it a bit different in terms of-- I know we talked about individualistic versus collective.
- Yeah, immigrants play a very important part in the building of our charitable sector, particularly as it relates to diversifying our donor base and our supporters. I have to say that charities really rely on new voices to be able to innovate and to also create a sense of belonging not just for themselves, but for the people that benefit from those gifts.