Promoting sustainable futures for charities

Photo: Winnipeg Folk Festival, 2015. Credit: Photo by Travis Ross. Courtesy of Winnipeg Folk Festival.


For charitable organizations, securing financial support can be an ongoing challenge. Agency Funds at The Foundation provide some financial stability, enabling staff to plan for the future.

The first Agency Fund dates back to the late 1950s. If you were attending brass baritone Donald Bell’s performance with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra on Dec. 3, 1959, you would have read this announcement from WSO’s Board of Directors:

“If we are to continue to improve, a broader base of financial support is necessary. The establishment of the Endowment Fund is one step in this direction.”

The WSO’s Agency Fund continues to be one of the largest at The Winnipeg Foundation. Since the establishment of that fund more than 60 years ago, many more local charities have decided to establish Agency Funds, viewing them as an important part of long-term stability. In 1998, Creative Retirement Manitoba, Continuity Care and the Manitoba Wildlife Rehabilitation Organization all established new funds.

In 2011, after Bruce Oake tragically lost his battle with addiction at age 25, his parents Scott and Anne Oake along with brother Darcy, established a fund in his memory. Even then, the family set their sights on developing a program or facility for addictions rehabilitation.

Fast forward 10 years, and the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre is expected to open in spring 2021. The 32,000-square-foot facility in Crestview includes recovery space for 50 people, a gymnasium and a smudging room for residents. Their original fund has been converted to an Agency Fund, which is ensuring the charity will be in a strong place to do its important work.

Some of the funds established more recently include the Centre for Aboriginal Human Resources Development Endowment Fund established in 2017, and the African Communities of Manitoba Incorporated (ACOMI) Fund established in 2020. Today, there are 210 Agency Funds at The Foundation.

To help agencies develop their funds, The Foundation offers stretch grants. For the first $20,000 raised by the agency, The Winnipeg Foundation will contribute $15,000. Depending on the overall amount raised by an agency, The Foundation will contribute up to $300,000. This is part of The Foundation’s commitment to strengthen the charitable sector by ensuring ongoing support for local charities.

To celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2015, local theatre company Theatre Projects Manitoba (TPM) set its sights on ensuring long-term sustainability and put a major push on developing its Agency Fund.

“The endowment will help us to plan for the future, meet unanticipated costs, and overcome challenging times when support from funders and donors fluctuates,” Theatre Projects Manitoba’s General Manager Rea Kavanagh said in 2015.

Both TPM and the Winnipeg Folk Festival have also benefitted from Canadian Heritage’s Canada Cultural Investment Fund. Through the Endowment Incentives component of this program, Canadian Heritage encourages private donors to contribute to arts organizations’ endowment funds. There are more than 20 qualifying arts organizations in Winnipeg that have Agency Funds at The Foundation. Since the program began in 2001, more than $18 million in federal payments have been made to their endowments.

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