Making philanthropy a family affair


Ron and Janet Smith are leaving a gift to Winnipeg – and involving their family in their choice.
“It’s important to us that Winnipeg continues to thrive.”
– Janet Smith, fund holder

Ron and Janet Smith’s roots run deep in our community. Winnipeg has given them a lot – friends, family and a comfortable life – and they want to ensure our city is supported permanently. They established a Community Building Fund and are planning a legacy gift to The Winnipeg Foundation, and have included their adult children in the process.

“Both sides of my parents’ families have been in Winnipeg since the turn of last century. That’s why we feel, on our behalf and on behalf of them, we’d like to leave something to the community,” Mr. Smith says. “And certainly, there’s no problem choosing where that money should be left – we feel nothing is forever, but The Winnipeg Foundation will be around longer than anything else.”

Mr. Smith’s father moved to Winnipeg in 1911 from Quebec’s Gaspe Peninsula where his ancestors had settled in June 1784. Mr. Smith’s maternal grandmother moved from England to Winnipeg in the 1880s with her parents and siblings.

Mrs. Smith’s mother immigrated from Scotland to Winnipeg as a child around 1910. Her father was born in Northern Ireland and moved to Winnipeg in the early 1920s at age 22.

Both Ron and Janet were born and grew up in Winnipeg and graduated from the University of Manitoba. The couple met at the Canoe Club and married in 1960. Their children, Brian, Colleen and Daryl, were also born and raised in Winnipeg and all are U of M graduates. Colleen still lives here.

Mr. Smith worked for Hudson’s Bay Company’s real estate division in the late ’60s and early ’70s, looking after the management of properties and negotiating department store sites. When the company moved his job to Toronto, the family chose to stay in Winnipeg. Mr. Smith went on to set up a real estate development company in our city.

Mrs. Smith spent part of her career working for non-profits. Her last position was Volunteer Program Officer at the Manitoba Museum.

“When I first became associated with the museum it was as a volunteer doing school programs. The program I enjoyed the most was about the growth and history of Winnipeg. We’ve always been interested in our City and how it has developed. It’s important to us that Winnipeg continues to thrive,” she says.

“I think overall we get a very nice feeling from giving. That’s one of the reasons why we want to give more in the future.”

Ron Smith, Fund holder

The couple put a lot of thought and consideration into how and when they would ensure greater support for their community, eventually establishing a Community Building Fund and including a legacy gift in their estate plans. Community Building Funds give The Foundation the ability to respond to changing needs and emerging opportunities in our community.

“The Winnipeg Foundation has longevity. There are a lot of situations where you donate to a cause and then something happens, either because that cause diminishes in importance or because of changing needs, and you begin to think that the intention you had didn’t necessarily get carried through,” Mrs. Smith says. “The Winnipeg Foundation is a good place to entrust funds because we know they will be well managed and meet current needs in the community over many years.”

Although philanthropy wasn’t necessarily something they discussed a lot when their children were young, it was certainly something the kids saw their parents do, at church as well as in other places.

“If there was a canvasser at the door, they knew that cause was something that was part of the community. Kids selling chocolate bars is still philanthropy,” Mrs. Smith says.

Now that their children are grown and have kids of their own, the Smiths have discussed charitable giving.

“We always joke, ‘We’re spending your inheritance,’” Mrs. Smith says with a laugh. “Giving to the community is something they understand.”

“They are all supportive of our support for our community, the community they grew up in. We want them to be a part of our philanthropy,” Mr. Smith adds. “I think overall we get a very nice feeling from giving. That’s one of the reasons why we want to give more in the future.”

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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