It was day two of the covid-19 crisis, and Carm Michalenko, CEO of the Saskatoon Community Foundation, was keenly aware the needs of the community had changed overnight. Businesses shut their doors and people were told to stay home. Although many people could take care of themselves, the lockdown would have an unexpected side effect. Community support services were forced to close too, and our city’s most vulnerable were left behind. Some families had no means to put food on the table. Many did not have proper housing to stay safe. The need for mental health support was greater than ever.
Michalenko, the foundation board, and her staff team moved quickly to create the Saskatoon Covid-19 Community Response Fund, and joined a group of 60 Saskatoon agencies, the Inter-Agency Response to covid-19, in mobilizing community support, acting as one of the primary funding partners. Funding and donations from the community enabled the agencies’ staff to coordinate delivery of supplies such as food and water, to provide personal protective equipment where required, and to offer other support to those who were vulnerable or at risk of becoming vulnerable due to isolation. The Inter-Agency Response partnership made an immediate and significant difference for vulnerable population, which helped the entire community stay safe in the early days of the pandemic.
The foundation staff team combines expertise in planned giving, community granting, and investment to offer a unique giving solution for every donor.
“This level of coordination and collaboration was an amazing feat; a model which I believe can be replicated for other complex social issues. The Saskatoon Community Foundation is currently deploying over $2 million from donors and federal sources,” says Michalenko. She is quick to credit the donors who stepped forward and the agencies that delivered services. “We are thankful for the generous individuals and businesses who helped meet community needs caused by the pandemic. And credit should go to those working in organizations like The Friendship Inn. They are the ones on the front line making sure people are fed. Our role is to create a bridge for donors with charities to enable them to do their good work.”
The community continues to be incredibly generous. In 2019, the Saskatoon Community Foundation granted over $3.3 million for programming and initiatives on behalf of donors. Michalenko is clear that these funds have had an impact. “Donations we have been trusted with were used to create positive change in our community, through the Community Fund for Reconciliation, Quality of Life Fund, Youth Endowment Saskatoon, and many other funds directed by donors.” The foundation wholeheartedly embraces the need to support and partner with organizations. Funds created by donors support a wide range of areas, from arts and culture to food security to health care and more.
The foundation staff team combines expertise in planned giving, community granting, and investment, to offer a unique giving solution for every donor. The Saskatoon Community Foundationnwas founded 50 years ago by a visionary group of committed people, mostly members of the business community, who wanted to address inequity. Their business model was to create endowments that would retain the principal while using interest earned to support people in need in the city. And now more than ever, nonendowed funds have gained popularity ensuring immediate support to charities.
“The foundation was created by an act of legislature that ensures it will be here in perpetuity,” explains Michalenko. Today the foundation represents over 350 fund holders and manages an endowment of $50 million, as well as non-endowed and managed funds of $24 million, ensuring a stream of grants flows into the community forever. Its staff team combines expertise in planned giving, community granting, and finance, to offer a unique giving solution for every donor. Businesses, individuals, and family foundations all look to the foundation to help them give strategically to create their own enduring legacy.
After 50 years, local businesses and the charitable sector are still working together today to benefit our city. Michalenko uses the analogy of a supply chain to explain the connection. “Businesses are an important part of the supply chain of this community. If one link in the chain is weak, every part is disrupted. We know this interconnected system is fragile and that many businesses are struggling. It is inspiring to see the businesses and individuals who are making the community stronger, whether they are giving financially or giving their time to support the charitable sector.”
The foundation’s connections, expertise, and infrastructure link those who want to give to a wide variety of charitable causes. “For the average person living in Saskatoon, as well as for those who have accumulated some wealth, the Saskatoon Community Foundation serves as a way to build a stronger Saskatoon. “It’s about the individual’s story,” Michalenko explains. “Each person has a desire to make a difference. Whether it is small business, arge business, families, or individuals, we all want to impact our community. And we all have the capacity to give.”
People give back to their community for many reasons. But a common theme ties together individual donors’ perspectives. “We see our lives as being bigger than our own individual selves,” Michalenko says. “People have a strong connection to their community. They realize the way to make their community stronger is to create a legacy of inspiration and hope. Regardless of the amount or purpose of your gift, we can ensure you as a donor get to create a unique and meaningful story that reflects who you are.”
First published in the December 2020 edition of The Business Advisor.