Philanthropy is about more than writing big cheques; it is about taking the calls, attending the meetings and doing the work.

By Pepper Parr

BURLINGTON, ON. March 6, 2013   We are being asked to think hard about the kind of city we are and determine who the real leaders are.  The Clergy use the word ‘discern’ when they want to think deeply and make decisions that are not the simple everyday decisions we made.

The Burlington Community Foundation (BCF) is seeking nominations from Burlington residents for the 2012 Philanthropist of the Year. This is your opportunity to nominate a philanthropist who merits community-wide recognition for their contribution.

A philanthropist is a person who gives voluntarily to promote the common good. This person, or family, may give financial resources, time, expertise and/or products, and has likely given over a long period of time. This award offers the  community the chance to publicly honour and thank a noted philanthropist for their contribution both to Burlington and the wider community.

Most people probably see philanthropists as people with a lot of money who write big cheques The people the BCF are looking for are those who can write a cheque but more importantly can also show up for a meeting, spend the time needed to make something happen.

Is Burlington a city where many of the men and women in their late 40’s early 50’s could be seen as philanthropists?  Are we going to define ourselves as a city that understands what money can do but knows that hard work is what makes things happen.  Money alone will never make the difference.

The 2012 Philanthropist of the year will be the fourth that Burlington has chosen to recognize.  The first three, Don Smith, Kevin Brady and Doug Leggat were certainly well-known, successful  business people but more importantly they were known for the work they had done.  And for the personal experiences that shaped their lives.

Don Smith, 2009 Philanthropist of the Year

Were you to watch the video done on Don Smith you would see how hugely he was impacted by young boys in Sierra Leone who just wanted a soccer ball and the chance to play the game.  Don was taken aback by such a simple need; it was a transformative experience for him.  But he didn’t stop at that – he made phone calls and got colleagues to buy thousands of soccer balls and probably paid for many of them out of his own pocket.

Kevin Brady 2010 Philanthropist of the Year

Kevin Brady suffered a serious medical situation that left him with an appreciation for life he did not previously have – and he knew then that he was here to do more than make money.  Name the organization that has a need and Kevin Brady will have had his hand in it someway.  Sometimes these men write cheques but more often they show up at meetings and provide experience and energy to community problems.

Doug Leggat 2011 Philanthropist of the Year

Doug Leggat gets into his car, it is fitting to see the film footage of him driving around town,  – to the Nelson Youth Centres to help a needed community facility source the resources it needs.  Sure Doug can, and does write a cheque, but more importantly he is attending the meetings, making the phone calls and asking the questions.

Tom Dobbie, a former Burlington city manager who certainly understands the needs of the city serves as the President of the Burlington Community Foundation and will tell you that “it takes awhile to fully understand just where the needs are and then think about how they can be met.

The BCF holds an Annual Masquerade Ball where everyone has a lot of fun and it takes more than chump change to pay for the tickets.  The event produces the funds needed to cover the operating costs, the ticket price is $250.

There are two things to take away from this story.  Do you know of anyone who serves the community the way Don Smith, Kevin Brady and Doug Leggat have and do you see yourself as a philanthropist?  It isn’t just about money – it is about serving.  Listen to what past philanthropists have had to say about their experience – you might see philanthropy differently.

Giving, and these men do give, substantially.  They give of their time, their energy, their expertise and their experience.  All are successful business people, and several have known personal grief and harm.  They were down, they had been hurt but they struggled and recovered and know that they are here to serve and they do so day in and day out.

For a city the size of Burlington to have such depth in character; for a city this size with a rural background that can remember when the land around Dundas was orchards and Plains Road was a highway to somewhere and not the main street of a community.  They have been a part of the city’s growth, have prospered because of it but have never forgotten who they are and what they were fortunate enough to have given to them.  They have made giving back a part of the life they live each day – and ensured that their children grew to follow their lead.

Next October, the community will gather at the Convention Centre to celebrate and formally recognize the 2012 Philanthropist.  The event is called the Masquerade Ball and they do it up real fancy and use the event at the prime fund-raiser to cover the $200,000 operating budget for the BCF.

The funds that are raised to be used in the community are never touched for administrative purposes.  The BCF currently has $6.5 million in assets under administration.  They use the interest from those assets to met the needs of different community organizations.  The report setting out who they support is HERE

The nomination forms are HERE.

The deadline for nominations is March 15th: Nominations due at BCF by midnight. Please submit by mail, fax, email, or deliver in person.

Late March/April 2013:  Past BCF Philanthropists of the Year and BCF senior staff review nominations and select finalist.

May: BCF announces 2013 Philanthropist of the Year.

October 26th:  Award and honouring of Philanthropist of the Year at BCF Masquerade Ball.

If one were to be just a bit critical – positively critical, the same organizations are the beneficiaries of the philanthropic efforts.  The YMCA got mentioned by all three men nominated in the past (time for a woman to be nominated folks); everyone was involved in the hospital and the United Way.  Those are the core groups – there are literally hundreds of others that serve the community and at times need some help.

Later this year the community will nominate the next person to be recognized and honoured and then added to the list.  How many of these philanthropists do we have?  More than we imagine.  Appreciate those who have been recognized.

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1 comment to Philanthropy is about more than writing big cheques; it is about taking the calls, attending the meetings and doing the work.

  • John Birch

    Couldn’t agree with you more. Philanthropy certainly includes that most precious, and non taxable asset we have – Time

    As a long time volunteer (24 years) and boater myself, fortunately: the gods do not deduct from one’s allotted span, those days spent while sailing.

    Some comfort in that truism.

    Perhaps it will buy me a few more years yet of volunteering my allotted time left; Or at least help keep me out of the warmer place when all accounts are settled in the latter day 😉

    Only good things, fair winds and following seas.

    Kindest regards,

    John Birch, President, LaSalle Park Marina Association