Looking back at 2013, I’ve been reminded daily of the economic weight of philanthropy. The reminders are the large-format ads that run in The Globe and Mail. Being a reader of print edition I’ve noticed that the biggest advertisers on many days are “institutional” charities — especially publicly-funded universities and hospital foundations. Some days the majority of the full-page ads are from these charities. They are celebrating gifts, donors, and faculty — or simply bragging and promoting the cause.
At my first charity job 23 years ago I encountered a helpful explanation about why philanthropy is important to these large institutional charities. The source was a Yale University annual fund appeal from the late 19th century. An alumnus was making a fundraising pitch, and in it he tackled the question: “didn’t Yale have enough money?” His answer, as valid today as it was then, is that an institution with ambition would continue to require new funds to meet new needs. The secondary message is that growth and innovation are reliant on philanthropy.
Canadian institutions are jostling for share of mind and share of wallet through these ads, and the battleground is good-old-fashion newsprint. The size and frequency of the ads emphasize just how much these large entities are reliant on philanthropy. Donations may not be an ideal source of core operating funds, but they are a catalyst for new programs, ideas, facilities, etc. An institution with ambition has no choice but to court donor support – and they aren’t doing it through Twitter.
Consider these ads a leading indicator of a culture that is becoming increasingly philanthropic. For the estate planning community, it means we will see more and larger gifts in the coming years.
Happy New Year.