How can conscious philanthropy help you contribute to build a better world?

05 July 2021 by Darwin Schandor and Haleh Alexander
Montage of various hands forming a heart.

Darwin Schandor, Regional President, British Columbia, at National Bank and Haleh Alexander, Regional Vice-President at Private Banking 1859, discuss how conscious philanthropy can set one’s legacy in motion and power the future.

Philanthropy, at its core, is about appreciation—of our loved ones, our planet, and the people who surround us every day. Often, when we give charitably, it’s in direct response to events around us.

Sometimes we face events in our lives that make us question how we want to contribute during our lifetime. For some people it was the year we just had, the death of a close relative, sickness, an accident, or even something small like an eye-opening movie. It can be a pivotal moment, a stark reminder to examine our own contributions and ask ourselves: what can I do? 

A time for challenge and reflection

Conscious philanthropy challenges that approach and gets in front of it. When we ask clients whether they have a philanthropic plan, it often catches them off-guard. They are quick to identify causes they’ve donated to or fundraisers they’ve attended. And that kind of charitable giving is valuable. But philanthropy calls for deeper reflection, a distillation of values. 

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When we sit down with a client to speak to them about conscious philanthropy, we get into long conversations about what’s important to them in life, and what’s important to them about wealth. We urge them to think about whether they’re doing everything they can. We suggest, gently, that they think about what they might look back on and regret not doing. It’s a shift to an emotional mindset—often, there are tears. But that’s where we need to lead them by asking a crucial question: What mark do you want to leave on the world?

As a starting point, with the client’s permission, we look at their charitable contributions on their tax return for clues about where their actions reflect their values. And then we take that analysis a step further, encouraging our clients to think more strategically about the legacy they’re building for their businesses, their families, and themselves. What causes do they care about most? What kind of change do they want to be part of?

Setting a legacy in motion

For a business, answering those questions will help make more impactful gifts, whether it’s through real estate assets or charitable trusts. It will also send a clear message to the market and to consumers about exactly what the brand stands for. For a family, it will help ensure that all members continue to work toward the legacy that was set in motion—and toward a better future. A partnership, like the one National Bank Private Banking 1859 has with the Philantra Foundation, offers the resources of a foundation to families desiring a seamless transfer of wealth and long-term support.

Paying it forward

Philanthropy can save the world. That might sound far-fetched, but imagine, for a moment, a long, sandy beach by the ocean. Just as a legacy isn’t built in a day, a beach is made up of billions of grains of sand that undergo tiny changes over time and eventually, together, have an immense impact. The causes clients want to support most fall under two pillars, both of which will require incremental shifts on a massive scale. The first is people. Before the world was hit with COVID-19, global poverty had declined steadily for 25 years. For the first time in a generation, those levels are rising again. Now more than ever, we need to continue our efforts to help those most affected by social and economic devastation.

The second pillar is our planet. From the earliest days of COVID-19, the effects of industry on our planet became immediately clear. When global economic activity was forced to pause and industries shut down, the air got cleaner. The planet began to heal. Many of us remembered that a healthy planet makes for healthier humans. We’ve seen substantial efforts lately by governments and industries to develop ESG strategies. What we need is a long-term commitment to turning things around, where everyone has a role to play. Consider it a long-term investment in our future.

Powering our future

Today, it’s more critical than ever that we leave the world in a better place than we found it, for ourselves, our children, and generations to come. This year, we’ve reflected on the loss of life we have suffered and how much our future depends on the actions we take today. We’re not here forever. We must do what we can right now so that when we take our last privileged breath and look back to ask if we helped improve things around us, the answer is yes.

Are we doing everything we can every day to earn what we have? To give back to what helped us get here? Ask for advice on how to make the change you want to see in the world, and we’ll do everything we can to help you get there. Legacy is a reflection of the past, but philanthropy is what powers our future. Let’s shape the future together.

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