Donor Commitments- Make Sure they are Clear!

Posted by 14 Apr, 2015

The recent Globe and Mail article on some donor unpaid pledges at the Royal Ontario Museum has sparked a lot of discussion in the philanthropic community:

From a donor’s perspective  it is always good to be clear on how you will fulfill your commitments. Of course you will have had discussions with the organization and may have sent a few emails back and forth but when all has been determined in relation to your gift, the best thing for you to do is:

Put it in writing!

A simple letter will do or a fully executed formal agreement if you so choose but make sure you have clearly advised the organization:

  • The purpose of your gift
  • How much you are giving
  • When and how you will pay
  • Any expectations you may have in relation to reports or recognition
  • What to do in the event of changes to the project or fulfilling your commitments

A few simple steps to ensure all parties are aware of your gift, your intentions and expectations is helpful for both you and the organizations you support. Need some help with your giving? Contact us at

Comments Off Categories : Monitor & Evaluate, Philanthropy, Research & Due Diligence, Terry Smith

Giving Tuesday…Giving Any Day…Give Wisely!

Posted by 1 Dec, 2014

Giving Tuesday is the national day of giving, this year on Tuesday December 2, 2014,  when we are encouraged to give back to our communities and to support charities.

While it is exciting to think of the amount of donations charities may expect to receive on this day, and indeed til the end of December,  it is also important for you to make sure you are giving wisely.

Here are three important questions to ask yourself:

  1. Is the charity registered and in good standing with the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA)? Click on this link and type in the name of the charity you are considering supporting. . If they are not listed, do not waste your money.
  2. Is the charity’s mandate in keeping with your giving goals? Even if they are a registered charity, you should focus your giving on those areas that mean the most to you.
  3. Is the charity doing good works and well run? Despite being registered, you want to make sure the organization actually fulfills its mandate. If you are able, visit the charity in person to see their operation, check out their website, review their annual reports and financial statements and talk to others to learn as much as you can about where you are investing your charitable donations.

Answer these basic questions to direct your funds to the best charities for your giving.

Need some help choosing your charities? Contact us:

Comments Off Categories : Terry Smith

Does Your Philanthropy Give You Joy?

Posted by 1 Dec, 2014

Well, it should!
Too often lately I have had discussions with donors who are not exactly filled with joy about a donation they have given.
What should you do if you are not happy with the result of your gift?
3 quick tips:
1. Ask for an update report. It may just be that the charity has not had a chance to keep you up to date. A quick email update on the status of how your funds are being used can often help.

2. Talk to them! Go and visit or invite the charity to a meeting and ask them how things are going. Let them know how you are feeling and what you had expected. In most cases the charity will quickly fix the issue.

3. Have clear expectations.  It may seem natural for you to expect the charity to report back, to tell you how your funds are making a difference or to provide you with appropriate recognition. However, sometimes charities are not always clear on your expectations. It is best to put these expectations in writing so all parties are clear on  the purpose of the gift, what you hope it will achieve and how the funds  are to be expended.

Giving should bring you joy. Need some help? Contact us at

Comments Off Categories : Monitor & Evaluate, Philanthropy, Terry Smith

Does Canada need ” Benefit Corporations”?

Posted by 7 Jul, 2014

Have you heard about these new corporations in the USA?  The New York Times referenced them in this article over the weekend  The article was promoting the idea if a donor feels a sense of belonging, they will give more.  In these days of social entreprise, impact investing and sustainable business models,  the  “benefit corporation”  is gaining momentum across several US states.  Basically, a benefit corporation is a for-profit entity whose social purpose is central to their existence.  It requires some additional fiduciary duties of the board of directors as well as an obligation to report on the social and environmental impacts of their work using a third party standard.  Establishing such corporations in Canada  just might be a useful mechanism to ensure charities are indeed addressing social issues and delivering on their mandates particularly as it relates to these new forms of giving. What do you think? Need some help with your giving? Contact us at

Comments Off Categories : Terry Smith

A Time to Give…With Meaning

Posted by 3 Dec, 2013

Its December again and time to get bombarded with all those charitable requests.

Whether you are a seasoned veteran or a new recruit to charitable giving, make sure your giving is meaningful & impactful.

If you do nothing else before writing that cheque, please follow these four essential steps:

  1. Make sure the charity is indeed registered with the Canada Revenue Agency- Charities Directorate. Go to scroll down to where it says “Charities listings” and type in the name of the charity, if it does not come up, it is not a registered charity. Only support charities that are registered with the CRA.
  2. Make sure you are confident the charity is well run- not all charities are created equal. You can browse the charity’s past filing records with the CRA for the past few years to see how much revenue they bring in, how much they spend, how much is actually given to charity and how much is spent on administration & fund raising. You can also see what types of programs they run. Check out their website or go and visit them yourself if that is feasible. The more you know the better.
  3. Make sure the charity has some meaning for you or your family. Just because they send you Christmas cards does not make you beholden to them.  Find a charity that has some meaning for you or  addresses issues that you truly care about.
  4. Make sure the charity does indeed make a difference. You have a right to know how your money was spent and if the charity actually did what they said they were going to do. If they are not willing to let you know how your funds will be spent then find another charity who will.

Need some help finding the right charity for you?  We can help, contact us at

Comments Off Categories : Terry Smith

The Slaight Family’s $50M Gift to 5 Toronto Hospitals- A New Way of Giving?

Posted by 30 Oct, 2013

What a great announcement for Toronto Hospitals from the Slaight Family:

St. Michael’s:

  • A new emergency department

Toronto General & Western for UHN:

  • Canada’s first  full body 7 Tesla MRI machine

Mount Sinai:

  • A new labour and delivery unit and maternity care support for high risk women


  • State of the art PET MRI  enabling the world’s first imaged guided brain therapy & repair


  • World-first services in mental health care for youth

Each gift astonishing in and of itself but to have all 5 gifts announced together is truly extraordinary.

So what is new about this way of giving?

The Slaight family worked very closely with each hospital for almost a year to find the right fit. They wanted to make sure that their support would truly make a difference to each hospital & their patients.

The Slaight family funds will help kick start major life saving initiatives and provide state of the art facilities and equipment that has been badly needed and were top priorities for each hospital.

Each hospital will have outcomes and impacts they will need to address on an annual basis to ensure the funds are being used as intended and are indeed making a difference.

And very importantly, the process brought all 5 hospitals together resulting  in many collaborations that will help save lives for years to come.

Truly, thoughtful, impactful, passionate  philanthropy.

Congratulations to the Slaight Family for leading the way with this new approach to philanthropy and inspiring others to give back in their own communities. is honoured to have been a part of  this process.

Need help with making your giving impactful?  Contact us at:

Comments Off Categories : Philanthropy, Research & Due Diligence, Terry Smith

Donor Recognition- Why Not Pass It On?

Posted by 16 Jan, 2013

There is a great article in today’s Toronto Star by Carol Goar:

Three donors have banded their funds together and supported a room on the new George Brown campus on the waterfront. The twist is they are naming the room in honour of a migrant care giver, and keeping their names anonymous!  What an honour to the care giver, a great incentive for students in the care giving program and a very generous gesture on behalf of the donors- true philanthropy- pass it on!

Comments Off Categories : Corporations, Cost-Effective Management, Monitor & Evaluate, Research & Due Diligence, Terry Smith, Wealth Advisors

Charitable Giving Tax Deadline- How About February?

Posted by 12 Nov, 2012

Last week I read that Peter Braid, MP, Kitchener-Waterloo has introduced a private members bill to move the Canadian tax deadline for charitable giving from December 31 to the end of February. I think this is a grand idea.
This would match the tax deadline for RRSPS and move the deadline for charitable giving from a time when many Canadians may be cash strapped over the holidays. While private members bills rarely become law, a spokesperson for Jim Flaherty has indicated that the government is reviewing the idea. Might be worth sending your MP an email if you are in favour.

Comments Off Categories : Terry Smith

Donors Names on Buildings in Perpetuity- Is it Right?

Posted by 1 Nov, 2012

This issue came up yesterday at Prime Quadrant’s conference on “Today’s Opportunities Across The Asset Classes”. A donor approached me and said she did not think it right that she and her husband were being asked to raise funds for a building that carried the name of the original donor who is since deceased.  The cultural building is in need of an upgrade and she felt the original donor should not be reaping the rewards from current donors who were raising far more funds than the original gift.  She makes a good point.

While philanthropists have been giving to charitable causes for hundreds of years in Canada, it is only in recent years that formal donor agreements have really come into the mainstream. In the old days a donor was approached for support, perhaps there may have been a “gentleman’s agreement” on the gift amount and possibly on the type of recognition and that was that. There may not have been anything signed aside from the cheque and it was just expected the building would hold the original donor’s name in perpetuity. Read more

Comments Off Categories : Terry Smith, Wealth Advisors

Six Rights for Donors

Posted by 30 Aug, 2012

I was reading an article today from the Chronicle of Philanthropy on who is the best person in an organization to ask a potential donor for support. The response from Kent Dove, a former development officer at Indiana University included a reference to the “six rights” when asking for funding. He says “Aim for the right person to ask the right donor for the right amount in the right form at the right time and for the right purpose.”

He is so right! In working with many donors, I often see situations where a donor has been approached either by the wrong person, at the wrong time, for the wrong reason or in the wrong format.  This can be very frustrating for the donor as well as the charity.

Looking at this from the donor’s perspective, what can you do to minimize unwanted, unsolicited proposals that may not even fit with your philanthropic goals?
Here are “Six Rights for Donors” in order to focus philanthropic requests for your support.
It is Right to:
Be very clear on your philanthropic giving. If you focus on one or two areas, it is easier to identify which projects best suit your interests while reducing unsolicited requests.
Communicate your areas of interest. If you let people know your philanthropic interests it will be easier for charities to understand if their projects are in line with your goals. It can be as simple as a one line statement such as “The Smith Foundation focuses on support to at risk youth and homeless mothers”.
Know something about the charities that have asked to meet with you. At the very least, make sure they are a qualified donee with the Canada Revenue Agency and that you have some idea of their mandate and activities.
• Ask for a written proposal before you agree to meet. Ask the charity to define in writing what it is they are proposing to do and why they need your support. This will help you determine if indeed you wish to meet with the organization.
Make a few calls to other potential funders. See if others you know have been approached and what they know of the project or the organization if unknown to you.
• Say no to a meeting request. Do not be bullied into meeting with a group because your old friend suggested they call you. If it fits with what you wish to do philanthropically, then go right ahead, but if it is just another request for support that is far from your own interests you have a right to just say “no”.
Follow these simple steps and you will reduce the number of unwanted meetings and unsolicited requests for your support.
Need help dealing with difficult charities? We can help:

Comments Off Categories : Terry Smith