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AnitaWortzman, Rick Frost, Marsha Cowan

Premier Greg Selinger, Councilor Marty Marantz

Head table


by Rhonda Spivak, November 25 , 2015



At the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba's 40th Annual Luncheon on October 20 at the Fairmont Hotel, Marsha Cowan CEO noted that  the Foundation, which this past year celebrated its 50th anniversary, has recapitalized over $3 million of excess income, and surpassed $100 million in assets. 


She noted that although "numbers help us measure our progress and assess our opportunities" and "plan for the future", there is something even more powerful than numbers . "What’s more powerful than numbers? Solving problems. Meeting challenges. Empowering donors to make great things happen through their philanthropy. Simply put – impact."


Cowan spoke about the JFM's Jewish Community Campership Fund. Research shows that Jewish summer camp experiences help Jewish children develop a deeper appreciation of their heritage and closer connections to their community. Income from this JFM's Jewish Community Campership Fund helps our community's summer residential and day camps subsidize campers whose families cannot afford the full cost of attendance. Cowan noted that the JFM's goal is to raise 2 million dollars in the Jewish Community Campership Fund (The fund currently has over $550,000) . Cowan explained that the JFM realized that a Jewish Community Campership Endowment Fund was needed since the JFM was receiving "requests of up to $60,000 a year for campership subvention." She added that "Through this endowment fund as well as the endowments of the individual camps, we are now subsidizing camp tuitions for about 100 children a year. That, my friends, is impact."


Cowan also spoke about "a former camper of BB Camp who was subsidized by the community years ago while his family raised him on meagre welfare dollars." The individual, who is now a "successful professional" "attended  16 sessions of summer camp throughout his childhood. "Earlier this year, he sent the Foundation $32,000 as a thank you to his home community – that’s $2,000 per session of camp he attended. That, my friends, is impact."


Cowan also spoke about the he Jewish Foundation’s Seniors’ Transportation Initiative, which ensures that aging seniors are not "home bound" and can go grocery shopping,  and attend social events and programs. "The initiative was seeded by a $1 million gift from Daniel Tallman a number of years ago and other donors have enhanced the project since. The initiative is all about keeping seniors connected to their community with safety and dignity. Roughly 1500 seniors a year use the service. That, my friends, is impact."


Cowan also spoke about a JFM donor who was in a displaced persons camp after World War II. "She told me recently that she remembered what it was like to be a hungry child and didn’t want children in Winnipeg to experience what she did. Along with other donors, she contributes through her Jewish Foundation fund to the Broadway Neighbourhood Centre that provides 17,000 healthy meals a year to families who need help. That, my friends, is impact."


Cowan also noted that through its donors, the JFM has helped fund an inner-city program that assists newcomers gain job skills. She added that "We’ve given an aspiring Jewish playwright a boost through one of our donor funded special grants – her play was produced by the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre, and today she is advancing her education in New York with the help of one of our major scholarships, also donor supported. That, really, is impact!"


Cowan concluded by saying that "The impact we have on the community is significant and we can sustain and enhance it with your continued generosity and interest in the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba. We are grateful for our donors and for what you do." She thanked the "leading volunteers in the community" who govern the Jewish Foundation, adding that JFM Board and committee members are "talented, passionate, and forward thinking."


Anita Wortzman, president of the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba introduced the keynote speaker for the event, Rick Frost, CEO of the Winnipeg Foundation, who spoke about "Sustaining our Culture of Generosity"


Frost began by noting that "Canada is one of the most hospitable places on the globe for citizens to pursue a limitless range of charitable purposes."


"According to the 2015 Index of Philanthropic Freedom published by the Hudson Institute, only the Netherlands, the United States and Germany have laws and regulations that are more conducive to charitable giving," he said


Moreover, 'Each year, among all provinces, Manitoba has the highest percentage of tax filers who donate to charity. And each year, among all provinces, Manitoba has the highest percentage of aggregate income donated to charity." 


However, Frost indicated that the truth is that our “culture of generosity” is "not secure."


According to Frost, when it comes to philanthropy, 2008 may well be viewed as an important turning point.  "The financial crisis that took place that year shook the private sector to its very roots and forced the public sector into uncharted territory that we have not yet managed to escape." 


Moreover, "Beginning in 2008, the pattern of charitable giving and volunteerism clearly changed in Canada. The number of donors started to fall and volunteerism rates also went into decline. To make up the shortfall, the remaining donors started to give more. And yes, Manitoba still leads the nation. But without question, we are experiencing the impact of these national trends. The culture of generosity that characterizes our city is weakened because it is shared by fewer people."


Frost stated that "As a result, we are hearing more about donor fatigue and charities that can’t raise their needed funds."


He spoke of the "new" ” donor wants great flexibility of choice with respect to who they support, when and by how much.


 According to Frost, 'Since 2008, Manitoba has seen about a 10% drop in tax filers who claim a charitable gift and we are increasingly relying on those over the age of 65 to support community agencies."


"We have to ask ourselves—what’s going on and how can we address it?" he said


"One factor is the increasing confusion in defining the charitable or voluntary sector. Because government plays such a large role in health care, education and social services, for example, it becomes challenging to draw a line between government and community agencies."


Frost spoke about the ' government decision to abandon a national housing policy in the 1990’s," concluding that "without public housing, we reduce equality"


He continued by saying that "Tonight, 350 people in our city will have no place to sleep and that is just the surface of an ever deepening issue."


Frost said that "engaging people in the work of charitable organizations is the key" and he then outlined some strategies that might help recapture the general enthusiasm of donors."


"First, we need the courage to consider more collaborations, partnerships and mergers. Too many charities have overlapping mandates," he said. As a trend, charitable giving is mostly going to the largest organizations. "Smaller charities simply don’t have the capacity necessary in today’s society to convey a powerful story and show how donors can make a meaningful difference. For many, partnerships are the best hope for the future," Frost stated


Secondly, beyond the courage to collaborate, we need to celebrate more. People who work in the charitable sector are doing amazing things and their stories need to be told in a way that penetrates a world that is overwhelmed with messages...  We have to get better at telling our stories in a way that can easily be repeated by others," he added.


Thirdly, Frost indicated that "At a time in our city when the number of donors is falling, we need leaders and role models."


Ironically, according to Frost, "we already have them but our culture shies away from celebrating what is viewed as personal and private. For a charity to celebrate that 100% of its leadership are donors is great news that should be shared—it’s community leadership and we need it. How else will our young people learn about our traditions of generosity?"


Frost emphasized that "The performance of a charity should not be solely measured by its cost. Its impact on community well-being is far more important. We often joke that Winnipeg is a wholesale city. People take great pride when operating budgets are restricted. However, strong evidence suggests that the donating public is prepared to accept higher costs if it delivers better results."


"Donors want to make a difference and they almost always judge performance based on the information that a charity itself provides. While cost is obviously important, we need to focus more on impact," Frost concluded


Frost pointed out that "the charitable sector could not survive without the commitment of generous volunteers," and reminded the audience that "people give to people."


 Our willingness to ask others can be just as important as our financial support," he emphasized


Frost noted that the worst child poverty rate among developed countries is 25%. "But in parts of our City, the rate is even higher." He said that "Many worthy organizations in our city, including the Jewish Foundation of Manitoba, are showing leadership in this area by investing in youth through a wide variety of programs. A generous community can influence the priorities of public policy so that all of our children can prosper."


Frost then spoke about a recent book by Winnipeg historian Jody Perrun entitled The Patriotic Consensus tells the story of our city during the Second World War. "Not surprisingly, our citizens were renowned for their ability to work together in a common cause," he said. He also pointed out that "our City has witnessed the construction of the first National Museum outside of Ottawa." 


Frost said that giving and volunteerism rates across Canada are in decline, “Who else can reverse this trend but the people of Winnipeg?"


"Working together is the Winnipeg way and that is how we will sustain our culture of generosity," he concluded.


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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.