Canadians’ giving spirit

Generosity is at the heart of all social change, and on November 15, fundraisers are putting the spotlight on the importance of giving – and asking.

The Association of Fundraising Professionals’ (AFP) 30th annual National Philanthropy Day promises to be an exciting one, with events held across the country. Speakers in the east include Ottawa-based CBC TV host Lucy van Oldenbarneveld, who is waging a battle against breast cancer. Dr. Samantha Nutt, co-founder and executive director of War Child Canada, will be one of the keynote speakers for western audiences.

But if AFP wants a single message to be taken home from all the activities, it’s that philanthropy goes far beyond responding to emergencies and disasters. “Of course we encourage Canadians to help in times of crisis, but we also want to foster the philanthropic spirit that is in all of us, so that the term ‘giving back’ is a constant impulse,” says Leah Eustace, chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada.

The whole idea of National Philanthropy Day is for our chapters to celebrate regional volunteers and philanthropists, both individuals and corporations.
— Leah Eustace is chair of the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada

As the philanthropic arm of AFP, the AFP Foundation for Philanthropy – Canada supports many programs and services designed to help fundraisers better reach out to donors and encourage Canadians to give effectively and wisely to charitable causes across the country.
All this is in keeping with AFP’s mandate, established in 1960, to advance ethical and effective philanthropy. As the world’s largest network of fundraisers, AFP works with charities, donors, volunteers and others to help change the world –  its 33,000 members raising more than $115-billion annually.

In Canada, AFP has 21 chapters from coast to coast and 3,800 members, all of them currently preparing for National Philanthropy Day. One measure of the organization’s success is that the federal government officially recognized the once-grassroots event in 2012, setting a new model for other countries to emulate. “The whole idea of National Philanthropy Day is to celebrate regional volunteers and philanthropists, both individuals and organizations,” says Ms. Eustace. “

Companies like Telus, Bell Canada and The Calgary Herald have been recognized internationally for their philanthropy.”

She adds, “What is especially fulfilling to me is the celebration of young volunteers: they really are the backbone of the philanthropy community, and they tend to inspire adults, who are already inclined to give back, to do even more for their community.”

Derek Fraser, Calgary-based president of iDophilanthropy and co-founder of Purpose Philanthropy, agrees. “As we work toward the November 15 celebrations, I’m impressed yet again by the countless children and youth who exhibit the philanthropic spirit, whether it’s volunteer work or fundraising for charity,” he says. “Young people love to see something and try to fix it, and that’s infectious.” That’s why Mr. Fraser is especially interested in this year’s We Are the Future Conference.

“The event is organized by a past recipient of the Youth Philanthropist Award, and it’s our way of reaching out to those at the senior high school and university level,” he explains. “It’s the perfect accompaniment to events such as Generosity of Spirit, which will honour seven individuals and businesses that have demonstrated outstanding philanthropy in our community.”

However, even though AFP seeks to encourage the low-key, constant flow of altruism that is the lifeblood of any healthy community, Mr. Fraser doesn’t want to ignore the spectacular examples of giving back that inevitably occur during times of crisis. “Alberta has had its fair share of disasters of late, as anyone in Fort McMurray can attest,” he says.

Indeed, the wildfire that destroyed 590,000 hectares of land, razed 2,400 buildings and caused the evacuation of 90,000 residents in May of this year also brought out the best in people, from those who sheltered the displaced in their own homes to businesses that provided free prescriptions, food and furniture (reportedly, over $67-million was donated to the Red Cross alone).

Mr. Fraser cites another crisis that continues to involve Canada. “As everyone knows, the events in Syria have displaced thousands of families, and since Ottawa has increased the number of privately sponsored refugees into our country, it’s well within our capabilities to step up to the plate and help them start new lives,” he says.

Even though she’s focused on the buildup to National Philanthropy Day, Ms. Eustace touches on another topic that AFP wants the public to know: fundraisers are committed to connecting donors to causes. She explains “Fundraisers are agents of social change – the engine that drives philanthropy. We are committed to helping donors make a difference and see their money used ethically and effectively.

“This elaborate network of donors, volunteers, causes and fundraisers is the core of Canadian philanthropy. It’s what we celebrate on National Philanthropy Day, November 15 and I encourage everyone to get involved.”

National Philanthropy Day (NPD) is being celebrated in many communities across North America, including every major metropolitan area in Canada. As the main sponsor of NPD, the Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) takes this opportunity to acknowledge the generosity and dedication of the many Canadians who have made a contribution.

Check out the NPD website – – or connect with your local AFP chapter ( to learn how you can join in.

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