Manitobans wise to the power of endowment

Rick Frost

CEO, The Winnipeg Foundation

I recently spoke at a dinner hosted by the Carman Area Foundation. It is celebrating 20 years of community service and has just surpassed the $2 million milestone in capital assets. With more than 300 people in the room, it was indeed quite a celebration! My brief remarks focused on the fact Manitoba is at the very heart of the Canadian community foundation movement.

Most of those gathered did not know Canada’s first community foundation was established in 1921 here in Winnipeg. The $100,000 gift from William and Elizabeth Alloway stipulated only the annual income earned on the capital could be used for grants to the community. So, the basic structure that defines the Carman Area Foundation today was created almost a century ago.

The second gift to The Winnipeg Foundation came in 1924 – three gold coins valued at $15. On the envelope that contained the anonymous gift was written, ‘The Widow’s Mite.’ This defined the philosophy for future community foundations — it’s not the size of the gift but the giving that matters.

This spirit of generosity meant that all 300 guests could feel part of a community success as they pooled their resources to build a better life in Carman. As their endowment funds grow, so too will their future annual grant-making capacity.

Another little appreciated fact is that of Canada’s 191 community foundations, 55 are located in Manitoba. With about four per cent of the national population, our province hosts over a quarter of Canadian community foundations. During the 1990s, the Thomas Sill Foundation stimulated interest by offering incentive grants and once the network took root, it has grown steadily and with remarkable success.

It is said that a rising tide lifts all boats. In terms of population, Manitoba is a small province, but social cohesion can be a tremendous asset even when people live far apart. Increasingly, the shared value base and operational consistency of this network will prove to be a true foundation for community development in our province.

For example, in this edition of our magazine, there is a story about the Province’s new Manitoba Heritage Trust Program. Read Planning for the future to preserve the past. This program is offered in conjunction with local museums and archives. Manitoba’s community foundations are providing the infrastructure that will allow for a sustainable stream of annual revenues to benefit our important heritage organizations. This is just one example of the potential that will come as Carman Area Foundation and its more than 50 colleague organizations gain strength.

The Winnipeg Foundation recently published a report on the impact of Manitoba’s community foundations outside the perimeter. Read it on the Endow Manitoba website, EndowManitoba.ca.

It is often reported that Manitoba leads the nation when it comes to generosity. The story of Manitoba’s community foundation movement – which started in Winnipeg and now reaches from Altona to Flin Flon, from Grandview to Pinawa – is a prime example of our province’s philanthropic spirit.


This story is featured in the Summer 2018 issue of our Working Together magazine. Download or view the full issue on our Publications page.

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