Determining the path ahead

Rick Frost

CEO, The Winnipeg Foundation

Rick Frost
Rick Frost, The Winnipeg Foundation's CEO.

You may not have noticed but The Winnipeg Foundation is in the midst of a transition. This would be completely understandable because of our policies are intended to promote stability and predictability. A ‘steady as she goes’ environment seems very natural to an endowment based organization that must always compensate for the ups and downs of the investment market. But nonetheless, change is a reality for us all.

Our current strategic plan covers the years 2014 to 2017. Because our year-end is Sept. 30, we are now only months away from the end of this four-year period. For example, the last three projects in our Downtown Green Spaces Strategy are identified and largely funded. Projects like Growing Active Kids, the You Can Do It Awards and Nourishing Potential which didn’t exist only a few years ago, are now positioned to provide sustained support long into the future. Our fall magazine will review all The Foundation activities of the last four years.

Looking ahead, we are now asking, ‘What are the priorities that should impact our community building work as we approach our 100th anniversary in 2021?’ The Winnipeg Foundation describes itself as a 360-degree grant-maker because we engage with charities of all types. This will not change. But we are likely to identify areas of focus. For example, working in the health sector will remain, but we may decide that mental health deserves special emphasis over the next few years.

Our process for determining priorities is called Vital Signs®. Through a wide range of activities from community forums to public surveys, we will create a picture of what Winnipeg sees as its primary challenges. We have already engaged a number of research partners to help us with this work. Our intent is to reach out to donors, charitable agencies and the general public. We encourage everyone to participate. In October 2017, our Vital Signs® report will be released.

Another factor that will influence our thinking is the strength and capacity of charitable agencies. Are some parts of the voluntary sector faring better than others? Are smaller organizations less stable or more vulnerable than larger ones? Certainly, there is a general concern that we need to re-enforce our philanthropic traditions. For years, Manitoba has led the nation when it comes to giving, but like all of Canada, the number of people who donate is on the decline. These are factors that could influence how our Board defines our role in the next few years.

There is always a sense of excitement as we move from one planning period to the next, in pursuit of our vision: ‘A Winnipeg where community life flourishes for all.’