Ensuring adaptability and responsiveness

Photo: Barbara Sharp, 2018.


Community funds ensure The Winnipeg Foundation can support the community’s changing needs and emerging opportunities. We may not know what our community will need in 50 or 100 years, but Community Funds ensure The Foundation has the adaptability and discretion to support whatever those needs may be.

Community Funds – which over the years have been called Community Building Funds, Unrestricted Funds and Undesignated Funds – are what William Forbes Alloway had in mind when he established The Winnipeg Foundation in 1921. Restrictions placed on philanthropic gifts may sometimes mean a charity cannot use a gift, and a donor’s wishes go unfulfilled. For instance, a hospital in Boston was unable to use funds it received to give wooden legs to American Civil War veterans when the veterans inevitably passed away.6 Undesignated gifts to community foundations ensure the gifts received will always be relevant.

Alloway based The Foundation off the brainchild of Frederick Goff, who established the Cleveland Foundation in 1914. Goff later wrote in Collier’s Magazine:

“How fine it would be if a man about to make a will could go to a permanently enduring organization… and say: ‘Here is a large sum of money. I want to leave it to be used for the good of the community, but I have no way of knowing what will be the greatest need of the community 50 years from now, or even 10 years from now. Therefore, I place it in your hands, because you will be here, you and your successors, through the years, to determine what should be done with this sum to make it most useful for people of each succeeding generation.’”7

For many years, the majority of gifts received by The Foundation were undesignated. In 1986, The Foundation noted:

“It is encouraging to reflect upon the fact that two-thirds of all of our funds are unrestricted, which in itself is evidence of the confidence expressed by so many who have contributed to the Foundation over the years. The opportunity and need for such funds becomes even more focused as we perceive other funders, particularly governments, unable to provide all of the funds required for the major social, health and education needs of our community.”8

Being able to support a variety of programs and projects through Community Funds appeals to donors such as Barbara Sharp. In 2018 she noted, “I have wide interests and concerns that I just can’t seem to focus on one thing. So, to me it’s best to just leave it in this Community Fund because it encompasses a lot of things.”

As donors’ interests and desires have changed, with some choosing to support specific charities or interest areas, so too has the percentage of undesignated funds. Today, The Foundation has discretion over the distribution of approximately half of the annual income generated. However, Community Funds remain vital to ensuring The Foundation’s adaptability and responsiveness.

This story was informed by research done by Dr. Gordon Goldsborough, which appeared in The Foundation’s 90th anniversary publication.

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