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MONTRÉAL’S WELL-KEPT PHILANTHROPIC SECRET 

By Nathalie Deshaies 

In 1941, Cleveland-based Frederick H. Goff, one of John D. Rockefeller’s lawyers, was part of a group of people who revolutionized philanthropy by establishing the first community foundation, based on endowment funds that create income in perpetuity. One of the foundation’s first achievements was Cleveland Metroparks, which funded family-oriented city parks to improve the lives of the people of Cleveland. The movement was guided by the belief that the ecosystem surrounding the heart of a city is where you are most likely to find those who can identify the city’s primary needs, and that business people had a role to play in ensuring the well-being of a city’s people. That initiative gave rise to other community foundations, and there are now more than 1,800 of them around the world. 

The Foundation of Greater Montréal (FGM) is a member of this illustrious family. Positioned as a veritable hub of philanthropic intelligence, it has an impressive reach, with nearly $250M in assets, and 509 funds established by individuals, organizations and businesses. 

FGM is also known for its strict management, and it is the only foundation in Québec with a mutual fund created under the aegis of the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF). In addition to its role as manager and donor, FGM handles the logistics for a number of philanthropic organizations, issuing receipts, producing administrative reports, ensuring compliance and governance, monitoring activities using customized software, etc 

Administrative expertise are, in fact, one of the reasons why FGM attracts so many different donors seeking to establish their own foundations quickly, within the FGM. Donors who have clear strategic priorities can tailor an endowment fund to their values, or define specific philanthropic purposes, such as funding a particular organization. 

Others choose to rely on the expertise of FGM, which publishes a biennial report called Vital Signs. The report provides a snapshot of the community based on data from a few dozen sources (cultural and environmental agencies, police departments, etc.), which helps establish priorities to better target investments. The 2017 edition of Vital Signs will focus on children, in the context of Montréal’s 375th Anniversary, and Canada’s 150th. 

The report on children in Greater Montreal could not be timelier.  On June 15th, UNICEF released its Innocenti Report Card 14, which contained a disturbing fact: Canada is in the bottom half of industrialized nations—ranking 25 of 41—when it comes to children’s well-being. In 2007, we ranked 12th on this same list. 

Yvan Gauthier, CEO of FGM, believes in the importance of establishing philanthropic structures that can respond to what people are saying, and have a concrete social impact. His talent for bringing people together, plus the passionate commitment of FGM’s board of directors, staff and volunteers, have had a remarkable effect on building a solidly rooted movement in Montreal. But, it’s time to spread the word and keep FGM from being such a well-kept secret! We look forward to seeing it reach ever more deeply into the heart of our city.

Mixte Magazine's online version available here.





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