Fresh Old Ideas

By Arnold Malone

More than two thousand years ago it is told that three wise men gave gifts at the birth of Christianity. The Christmas celebrations that followed across the next 20 centuries have been a season for giving.

Over our long history giving has been a part of what brings happiness. We love to give. We give surprises for birthdays, rings for engagements, and special meals for guests. Sometimes we just give to be helpful to another who is in a situation of need. Giving is its own reward. Usually, we feel a special warmth when we have improved a worthy situation. 

Whether we are trying to protect the elephants in Africa, mowing a neighbour’s lawn when they are ill, or providing a surprise candy bar to a child, giving brings pleasure to the giver.

While it is the case that giving brings joy across the whole year, December is the Christmas month and therefore a special time; it is a season for giving.  

Some of our giving occurs with neither choice nor our participation. We pay taxes and some far-off government sets priorities, establishes procedures and doles out our money as they determine appropriate for the public’s greater advantage. That is how we get schools, hospitals, roads, security and an unending list for other good services.

Taxation of our earnings is important but it lacks the direct connection that comes when your gift is personally directed. This is where a ‘community foundation’ offers such a rewarding opportunity for those who are able and wanting to be a community builder.

Most people reap an advantage and some delightful associations from the community in which they live. A community foundation is an excellent avenue for paying back and saying “thank you” for the advantages that your community has provided.

When compared to paying taxes and hoping for positive programs from governments, a community foundation has many advantages.

First, tax dollars have a lot of leakage prior to a delivered project. While understandable, any government program needs to be considered/discussed then advocated prior to being framed and designed. Then criteria needs to be developed and thereafter the application forms, advertising and sometimes followed by an inspection. Every one of those stages requires staff and those persons need to be paid fully for their special talents.

By comparison, most community foundations operate largely on local volunteers. While there may be a paid director, usually that person is paid less than government staff. 

Moreover, the volunteer staff of a community foundation is able to evaluate the needs of a community from their direct association that comes from living within the community. Governments by contrast are required to imagine from an application what might be a priority for some removed place. Another major difference is that foundations make their considerations with local people while government make their choices with staff that are usually disconnected from a specified community.

Through a community foundation a giver may choose to direct how the funds are used. Instantly, the giver becomes a manager of his/her gift across a range of concepts. Now, the giver assumes a degree of control over the legacy they choose to leave. Moreover, when money is placed in a community foundation it is invested and as it grows it keeps giving in the giver’s name even after that giver has died.

So, if it is your choice to leave a legacy and to say “thank you” for what you have received from your community, a community foundation, such as the Columbia Valley Community Foundation, is an excellent venue. Donors have the advantage of knowing that they have contributed in making a wonderful place an even better place. 

Arnold Malone served as MP for Alberta’s Battle River and Crowfoot ridings from 1974 through 1993. He retired to Invermere in 2007.