Family philanthropy is a key driver of social change and an opportunity for high-net-worth families to demonstrate their values, commit to a mission, and work collaboratively across generations to build and protect their legacies.
Charles H. Ivey was dedicated to his family and his community, and worked hard to establish a successful professional career. Born in London, Ontario, in 1889, he graduated in Electrical Engineering at McGill University before joining Emco Ltd. in 1911. In 1916, he married Ethel Jamieson before leaving Emco to serve in the war overseas. After the war, Charles returned to Emco Ltd. and eventually became its President in 1946. In addition to his successful career, Charles and Ethel raised three children.
Under his leadership, Emco Ltd. became a public company, expanding its operations across Canada, England, and West Germany. In 1957, he established the Charles H. Ivey Foundation, with his three children as its original directors. For 65 years, four-generations of family members have worked to make significant annual grants to the charitable sector with the goal of giving with purpose, passion, and transformation.
"Some of the very first grants made supported the educational pursuits of children of Emco Ltd. employees,” explained Gina. “Charlie and his children understood the value of education and its importance to the evolution of the Canadian workforce”. Other early strategic philanthropic endeavours, led by the Ivey children, resulted in the launch of some of the most admired national charities still around today, including Cystic Fibrosis Canada, the Royal Conservatory of Music, the Royal Canadian Regiment, and National Service Dogs.
Ensuring future generations of families will continue building on the legacy that was established by Charles and his children has been a focus of Gina McDonnell and Erinn Piller, members of the Charles H. Ivey Foundation Board of Directors.
“Our family is proud of its rich history of giving and the ability we have had to incubate and facilitate positive change,” says Gina, a third-generation Ivey family member. “However, in recent years, it has become clear we need to consider shifting our mission if we want to attract future generations in our family to play an active role at the governance table of the Charles H. Ivey Foundation and continue its good work”.
Erinn agreed, suggesting, “We needed to consider modernizing our thinking, streamlining our processes, and creating efficiencies so family members, especially those starting families, or with young children while mid-career, might consider volunteering their time”.
In 2020, BMO Private Wealth and its Philanthropic Advisory Services team worked with Charles H. Ivey Foundation board members to explore and educate the group on the collective importance of:
Shared family values: Private family foundations aren’t just about giving money away. They’re about sharing family wealth strategically and with purpose. The choice of issues and organizations a family supports are a demonstration of a family’s values in action. Including multiple generations in the conversation has the added benefit of passing on values from one generation to the next.
Communication and teamwork: Identifying worthy potential grantees and allocating funds between them requires communication among family members, often, with a degree of negotiation. Essentially, strategic philanthropic granting is an exercise in practicing teamwork. This practice of decision-making over time can prove beneficial for other, non-charitable family decisions.
Financial literacy: Participating on a family foundation board involves, among other things, financial oversight of the organization’s investments and expenses. Including younger family members in foundation finance conversations introduces key financial concepts, and involving them in investment and expense decisions teaches responsibility and leadership skills.
This collaborative work and constructive learning resulted in a new mission for the Charles H. Ivey Foundation being adopted. “Board members agreed to move away from historical and traditional grants to the Arts and Healthcare sectors in favour of a value-based giving approach, more closely aligned with Generation X, Millennial, and Centennial family members,” says Erinn.
For the period 2021-2026, the Charles H. Ivey Foundation will make grants to charities providing innovative projects to assist marginalized youth in Southern Ontario, who are experiencing difficulties due to personal challenges and/or family economic circumstances, in the areas of education, health care, social services, arts and culture, and the environment. The Board of Directors is eager to read the impact results of its most recent granting cycle and meet with some of its new charitable partners at an upcoming board meeting.
“Employing the services of BMO Trust to manage Charles H. Ivey Foundation administrative and secretarial governance functions has also eased time commitment pressures within Foundation operations,” says Erinn. “Moving forward, our family can remain focused on what is most important—granting $300,000 annually to create a meaningful impact in the lives of young people who need support”.
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