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National Philanthropy Day® Bill Set for Consideration by Canadian Senate

(April 21, 2008) A bill to create a government-recognized and sponsored National Philanthropy Day® in Canada has been approved by a Senate committee and could be voted upon in the next couple of weeks.

Bill S-204, which would make Nov. 15 the permanent date for celebrating National Philanthropy Day® in Canada, was approved by the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology after a hearing on April 16. During the hearing, the committee heard from several panelists representing organizations in support of National Philanthropy Day®, including Andrea McManus, CFRE, AFP’s vice chair, professional advancement, and CEO of The Development Group in Calgary, Alberta.

The bill is especially important in light of recent figures from Statistics Canada that show while total giving by individuals continues to increase—$8.5 billion in 2006—the number of donors is decreasing. Additional research reveals that a large majority of gifts are directed to a small number of larger nonprofits, leaving many smaller charities and organizations in rural areas without enough support to provide critically needed programs and services.

“Canadians are very generous people, but we are in a precarious situation,” said McManus, who was also speaking to the committee in her role as chair of the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations. “How long can we rely on a smaller number of individuals to give, especially when the demand on charities continues to grow? We need to ensure that the donor base grows to match the public’s increasing reliance on the charitable sector.”

One Step Toward Greater Awareness

The creation of a government-recognized National Philanthropy Day® has been one of AFP’s key public policy goals in Canada for several years. Similar bills have been introduced in the past, but were not considered in time before Parliament recessed or the government was dissolved and new elections were called.

The sponsor of Bill S-204 is Jerehmiel S. Grafstein (Lib.–Toronto), who also introduced the legislation in previous years and has aggressively pushed the bill over the past several months, leading to the recent panel.

“AFP is indebted to the work of Sen. Grafstein, who has worked tirelessly for the bill and has served as its champion on the floor of the Senate,” said Paulette Maehara, CFRE, CAE, president and CEO of AFP. “Without him, the bill would not be in its current position. We would also like to thank Sen. Terry Mercer [Lib.–Halifax, and AFP member] for his insight and guidance in moving the bill forward, and Andrea McManus for her commitment and efforts to make this bill a reality.”

AFP worked to coordinate the panel that appeared before the committee and assembled a diverse array of philanthropists, volunteers and others involved in the nonprofit sector. In addition to McManus, other panelists included:

  • Wayne Chiu, president and CEO, Trico Homes
  • Grete Hale, president, Beechwood Cemetery, and founder, Ottawa Community Foundation
  • Donald K. Johnson, C.M., senior adviser, BMO Capital Markets
  • Don McCreesh, chair, Imagine Canada
  • Luce Moreau, CFRE, President & CEO, Fondation Centre de santé et de services sociaux Jeanne-Mance

During the hearing, panelists were asked how broadly National Philanthropy Day® would help the sector and the distinctions between “philanthropist” and “volunteer.” In addition, two senators expressed concerns about philanthropy being an elitist field in which only millionaires could get involved, and panelists talked in-depth about how anyone could be a philanthropist and how nonprofits depended on contributions from all donors.

The bill is expected to be considered by the full Senate and voted upon with the next two weeks.

For more information about the bill and copies of testimony by the panelists, contact Jason Lee, director, government relations, at jlee@afpnet.org.

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