Ways to Give
Giving directly or indirectly
You can choose to be involved directly with the charities you have selected or to give indirectly through a foundation via an endowment or donor-advised fund.
Giving directly ensures you have direct contact with the charities carrying out the charitable activities and direct communication from them relating to their activities. But having direct contact with organizations sometimes can be difficult, especially if you impose conditions on your gift. You will also have to do all the paperwork relating to your gifts yourself unless you hire an administrator.
An alternative is to use a community or national public foundation like Benefaction and set up a personal endowment or donor-advised fund. In this case, the foundation supports the good work of other charities. Its staff can negotiate granting criteria on your behalf and ensure that you get recognition for your gift, if you wish it. For busy people, this is an effective and low-cost solution that still allows you to decide who will receive your gifts. You can focus on your giving, keep administration costs down and avoid getting bogged down in paperwork.
Giving time and skills
Many charities are under-resourced and some lack the business skills needed to help them grow and manage their organization and programs effectively. Sometimes, donating your time and business acumen can be as valuable to charities as financial donations.
Charities often deal with a difficult balancing act. Increasingly, donors are putting conditions on their gifts, preferring to support a new initiative that they believe will have the greatest impact, instead of allowing their donations to fund core costs such as management salaries and administration. The charities are then constrained in what they may do with the donations.
Setting up a new charity
Another way to give is to set up your own private foundation. This is an effective route if you want to maintain total control over your activities, but it can be expensive and time consuming. Also, with over 9,000 public and private foundations in place, it is likely that there is already a charity with a similar mandate to your own. You should investigate this before committing to the set-up costs. An existing charity may be happy to carry out the work you specify, based on an endowment gift. Private foundations are really most effective for sums over $5 million, assuming you are prepared to do the work required. For smaller amounts, an endowment or donor-advised fund with a public charity is a far simpler and more cost-effective solution.
If a private foundation is your choice, you will need to establish a board of directors, decide on your corporate structure (trust or incorporation, national or provincial) and process that application. Then, you need to apply for charitable registration with the Canada Revenue Agency. On an ongoing basis, you will need to hold regular meetings, keep minutes, issue tax receipts, keep adequate books and records, report to the CRA and administer your grants and monitor your annual budget. And, you may be audited. Usually some professional staff is needed.
In Canada, a charity must qualify as being charitable under one of four specific categories:
- The relief of poverty;
- The advancement of education;
- The advancement of religion;
- And other purposes beneficial to the community as a whole in a way the law regards as charitable.
In addition, to qualify for registration as a charity, an organization must meet a “public benefit” test. An organization must show that its purposes and activities provide a tangible benefit to the public as a whole or a significant section of it. All this is done at the outset when you establish the objectives of your organization in its charter.Print PDF