Vancouver Foundation

Fall 2016

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p a g e 2 I V a n c o u v e r F o u n d a t i o n l F a l l 2 0 1 6 The First Word . . . Kevin McCort President and CEO Vancouver Foundation Jason McLean Chair, Board of Directors Vancouver Foundation Building a sense of belonging In 2012, Vancouver Foundation released the seminal Connections and Engagement Report, which found that residents of metro Vancouver were most concerned over the growing sense of isolation and disconnection. Vancouver Foundation responded with a renewed focus on Connections and Engagement, supporting projects and research that help people build relationships and participate in activities that make their communities better. To mark Canada's 150th anniversary in 2017, the Foundation chose "belonging" as a theme for this magazine. Here, the editor talks with President and CEO Kevin McCort and Board Chair Jason McLean about how the Foundation helps people improve their lives through connections to community. How does the theme of belonging play out in the work of Vancouver Foundation? Kevin McCort: One example is our Neighbourhood Small Grants program, which we also call "grassroots granting." City residents can bring forward projects that they believe will help increase their sense of engagement and belonging in their community. In turn, they receive small grants from $500 to $1,000. Jason McLean: Ironically, it was the Connections and Engagement initiative that caused me to get more actively involved with Vancouver Foundation. ey interviewed me for a survey regarding this and I was immediately impressed that a charitable organization was taking a leadership role in helping define the needs of the communities it serves. Since I have been on the board and been directly involved with some granting committees, I have seen first hand how a proactive approach to our decision making affects a community. For example, tackling important issues, such as social isolation and focusing on belonging, is one way we may see these grants improving engagement within the community. How has Vancouver Foundation adapted to meet community needs? Kevin McCort: I can think of two ways. e first is our Donor Advised Fund offering. Individuals, families and corporations can set up a fund here—usually a simpler, cheaper alternative to a private foundation —and then advise us where they want the grants to go. Often when we talk to donors, we find that they want to give back to the community, and that they want to give to causes they're personally connected with over a longer term. is offering allows them to do that. e second is our Charitable Agency Endowment Funds. If you're one of 12,000 registered charities in B.C., you can create an endowment fund at Vancouver Foundation whereby the income from that fund will go to your charity to help support your mission. Charitable agencies understand the value of having a steady stream of income they can count on—year over year. What role does your board play? Jason McLean: In addition to the usual roles of ensuring effective governance and executive leadership, we rely on our board to build bridges within the community. As leaders in the community, the board brings social capital and credibility to our relationships with external partners, in both the business community and the public sector. We look to our board to provide strategic guidance to help us refine ideas and build the relationships needed to ensure the long-term success of the organization—and the sector. We also rely on our board members to chair committees—such as granting committees, finance, giving circles, and more. As our endowment has grown, the importance of managing our financial resources well has become a greater focus for us in recent years. How do you see Vancouver Foundation fulfilling its purpose as a community foundation? Kevin McCort: It's important that it's not us sitting around deciding what the community wants. We believe that we can only succeed when community members—whether partner organizations or private citizens—guide our work. For example, we have calls for proposals from charities for projects that they want to fund. We then have a panel of community volunteers who assess those proposals and then recommend them for approval. Finally, our board, which is also composed of volunteers, makes the ultimate decision. So every step of the process, from defining priorities to evaluating those projects to approving, is done by community. I think that deep commitment to grassroots direction is the most important way we can bring about positive change in the community.

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