Why more Canadians are leaving a gift to charity in their Wills

We are lucky. Supporters of NCF are thoughtful individuals, who share a concern for Niagara and are committed to building a better future.

Often people think about contributing to the causes they care about with monthly donations or volunteering time, but there is a growing number of people who are going one step further to leave a gift to charity in their Wills. These are ordinary Canadians who’ve realized they can make a powerful contribution that will last for generations to come, without taking away from the resources they or their families need.

This new mindset among Canadians of all ages has been triggered, to some extent, by the intensity of recent global events and the realization that it’s possible to do more just by giving in a different way.

In fact, if more Canadians left even a minuscule percentage of their estate to charity, the sum of all their efforts could represent as much as $40 billion to advance organizations like NCF.

When you look into it, you may be surprised to learn that a donation of as little as a 1% of your estate can result in a bigger contribution than you ever thought possible. You are still leaving 99% of your estate to support your loved ones, and you’re not using any of the money you need now.

The best part is that leaving a gift in your Will can be a very simple process. Here are a few suggestions that can help you take the next steps:

  1. Calculate your donation. You can determine how much you want to leave to charity, and how much you want your loved ones to receive, with a simple calculation. You can make that calculation using the Legacy Calculator tool developed by Will Power, a national public education campaign designed to inspire Canadians to think differently about charitable giving.
  • Discover the tax benefits. Did you know the Canadian government has created some of the best tax incentives in the world to encourage more giving to charity, especially from your estate? Just to cite an example, this article illustrates how a couple’s financial advisor helped them give big to charity and take advantage of the tax benefits, all while leaving a sizeable inheritance for their daughters.
  • Ask a financial advisor. Consulting a financial expert can help you maximize your donation and ensure it works in your favour. You can use Will Power’s Financial Advisor Finder to match with an expert in your region. There is also a handy guide available to start the conversation with your advisor here.
  • Find out how to keep the love going. Learn how a gift in your Will to NCF would be used to advance Niagara here. Or you can contact us to find out more.

Who would have thought of a Will as a powerful tool to make change in the world? But more and more Canadians are harnessing the power of their Wills to become larger-than-life philanthropists who continue to inspire others and make an impact on the future. Join the movement and keep the love going for what matters to you!

A Garden Party with Big Impact

Good intentions, without action, remain just that- good intentions. But when you put your intentions into action, you get impact! And that’s exactly what two Niagara women did, taking a small garden party idea and growing it into a $57,000+ endowment fund with NCF, impacting women and girls across Niagara for 20 years!

In 2001, one year after Niagara Community Foundation (NCF) was founded, Karen Stearne was inspired by the idea of creating an endowment fund that could have an impact on the community in perpetuity; forever! But, there was only one problem- she didn’t have $25,000 to start a Field of Interest fund by herself. She could make a $250 donation and build it overtime, but Karen had bigger ideas.

Karen approached her friend, and then NCF Board Member, Ann Louise Branscombe, and together they created a vision. What could happen if they brought together twelve of their friends for a garden party and asked each of them to bring twelve of their friends? For $50 the friends would enjoy good food, wine, some live music and great company. How much money could that group raise and what impact could that make on the community they call home, directing funds to support the advancement of women and girls in Niagara?

After some planning, support from Niagara Parks and concerted effort from the core group of 12, the first “Sunday in the Parks” event was held, bringing together 160 people… but they didn’t stop there. Three years in a row, a garden party was held and over $30,000 was raised! Now this was enough to invest into a new fund, aptly named, “Sunday in the Parks, field of interest fund.”

In 2021, the fund celebrated its 20th anniversary and has now grown to over $57,000 and has supported over 15 different charities in Niagara. Since the Fund was created, grants have been awarded for workshops for women returning to the workforce, computer training for older women, and outreach programs for girls. And the Fund continues to grow! This is a true testament to what can happen when you turn your intention into impact.

NCF is in the business of endowment building. You don’t have to have sizable wealth to make an impact. Whether you are committed to building a fund over time, want to come together with others to pool resources, or contribute to an existing fund, NCF helps connect donors with causes and charities to resources. We help YOU turn your intention into impact.

Congratulations to Karen, Ann Louise and all the donors who helped create the Sunday in the Parks fund twenty years ago. Together, you have made a noticeable impact on Niagara.

To help celebrate the anniversary, consider donating to the Sunday in the Parks Fund here.

Michael Berlis-Ellen Cheslock Fund

When Michael Berlis and Ellen Cheslock retired to Niagara-on-the-Lake more than 15 years ago, they weren’t about to quietly retreat into their golden years. 

They did everything imaginable to get involved in their new hometown. Berlis, for example, worked at a winery and then helped found one the first breweries on Niagara’s Ale Trail. He joined a local gastronomic and social club. Then he became chair of the Niagara Community Foundation’s Niagara-on-the-Lake Fund in support of organizations and initiatives dedicated to making life even better for residents. 

In the process, the couple fell in love with their adopted community, proud to show it off to anyone who stopped in for a visit.

To show how much they appreciate life in Niagara-on-the-Lake, the couple established the Michael Berlis-Ellen Cheslock Fund through the Niagara Community Foundation. 

“You get involved with different aspects and then look for ways to give back to the community,” Berlis said. “The Community Foundation is a part of that. The main driving force behind starting this fund is that the money stays in the local community.”

Berlis and Cheslock started their fund with a lump sum and plan to add to it over the years ahead to help it grow and meet the ever-changing needs of Niagara-on-the-Lake. 

Right now, mental health, particularly children’s well-being, has become a priority due to the pressures of living in a pandemic, Berlis noted. He and Cheslock are also aware of the difficulties charities in general have had with fundraising over the past two years to help some of those causes.

“Charities are important, but they may be even more important today than they were before. There are needs that will emerge that will need to be monitored. Niagara-on-the-Lake is not immune to the issues that COVID has created.”

Fiorentino Scholarship Fund

Dr. Lisa Fiorentino had a rewarding and successful career as a professor of nursing and as a university administrator, but the Niagara Falls-born academic knows that the educational path that paved the way to her success is expensive, and not available to everyone.

That’s why she and her husband, Dr. K. James Evans, worked with the Niagara Community Foundation to establish a pair of scholarship funds for students at Brock University and Niagara College – to help ease the financial burden of post-secondary education for others.

Dr. Fiorentino and Dr. Evans named the scholarships after her parents and an aunt and uncle, as a tribute to their hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, and to the loving support that made possible her journey through post-secondary education – earning a college diploma followed by Bachelor, Master, and doctorate degrees.

The P. Louis and Philamena A. Giagnorio Fiorentino Scholarship Fund is named after Dr. Fiorentino’s parents and will be awarded at Niagara College, while the Peter and Gloria Giagnorio Savelli Scholarship
Fund is named after her beloved aunt and uncle and will be awarded at Brock. Fiorentino chose Niagara College because it is where she began her post-secondary career, and she chose Brock because she wanted to support another Niagara institution that serves so many local students. Earnings from the two funds will flow to the financial aid offices of the two schools, and will be awarded, at the schools’ discretion, to returning undergraduate students in good academic standing, who have a demonstrated financial need.

Neither of Dr. Fiorentino’s parents had the opportunity to attend college or university, but they knew the importance of education and made it possible for Dr. Fiorentino and her siblings to attend and to graduate debt-free. Dr. Fiorentino and Dr. Evans want to offer that kind of encouragement to other students too.

“Student debt can be crushing for students and their families,” she said. With the wise stewardship of the Niagara Community Foundation, “these scholarships will make a difference in the lives of students from the Niagara Region.”

The RAFT Endowment Fund

When a donor provided the RAFT with a $100,000 gift in 2020, they did so with some specific requests. 

The money was to be used for housing. The RAFT, which provides support services for at-risk and homeless youth, also had to ensure the gift’s legacy and longevity.

Enter the Niagara Community Foundation and Executive Director Bryan Rose, who helped the RAFT establish a namesake fund that would support Niagara youth for years to come.

“The main concern was making sure the donor was satisfied with how we were investing the money,” said Mike Lethby, RAFT executive director. “Bryan laid out the options for us and tailored it to what we needed.”

The result is a fund whose dividends are used to provide monthly rental supplements between $250 and $350 to RAFT clients.

About 40 per cent of the youth the RAFT supports live outside of Niagara’s three main urban centres where there’s constricted rental housing supply and, like elsewhere in the region, rents are high. Meanwhile, the average monthly Ontario Works payment a young person receives to cover all living expenses is about $700. In comparison, rent for a one-bedroom apartment exceeds $1,000 a month. 

Uprooting a client to bring them to the RAFT’s 16-bed shelter in St. Catharines isn’t a viable alternative, Lethby explained. It takes a vulnerable youth out of their community and away from their support network.

Using The RAFT Fund to help with rent supplements ensures some stability, he said — for both RAFT clients and the organization itself. 

“That’s an established fund and we’re hoping other donors see that and donate to the fund,” Lethby said. “It’s something we thought was a real benefit to going this route with the Niagara Community Foundation. It makes us feel part of the community to have this, and there’s a sense of permanency to what we’re doing as well.”

Dr. John Hunter Fund

It wasn’t every day that Dr. John Hunter was able to join his daughter Victoria when she walked her son to kindergarten in the morning. As a busy obstetrician and gynecologist and Chief of Staff at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital in Grimsby, Dr. Hunter was on call 24/7, so it was a rare treat to have him part of their daily routine. 

But that morning walk, 20 years ago, was memorable for another reason. 

“He easily delivered 50 per cent of the children in that kindergarten line,” Victoria recalled. “He was a big part of the community in Grimsby.”

That’s why, after Dr. Hunter’s death in 2016, Victoria chose to honour her father by establishing the Dr. John Hunter Memorial Fund with the Niagara Community Foundation. Victoria, who is part of the community foundation’s Grimsby Community Fund committee, already knew the broad impact that a fund managed by the Niagara Community Foundation could have on a community or cause.

It also does something else. It keeps Dr. Hunter’s memory alive in the community he served while giving back to the place Victoria and her husband Andrew had the good fortune of raising their boys.

“People stop me and tell me how much they loved my Father and how much he helped them through difficult pregnancies,” Victoria said. “That always warms my heart. He cared deeply about his patients and they were always his priority.

The fund continues to look after those for whom Dr. Hunter cared. The memorial fund will support youth mental health care at West Lincoln Memorial Hospital.

“It’s also for the children he delivered and the young adults they have become, as well as for the next generation of children who’ve been having a difficult time, especially through COVID,” Victoria said. “I thought this fund would be a special and useful way to pay it forward. It’s keeping the money close to home but also taking care of the youth and our own Grimsby community.

Agape Series Fund- J.L. Garrett & Family

Jim Garrett and Alice Klamer see generosity as a way of life and a way of loving. That’s why they named their family fund with the Niagara Community Foundation the Agape Series Fund – incorporating the ancient Greek word for love that is found in the Bible.

Their fund, established in December 2020 with money that Garrett jokingly told his children was originally saved for a sports car, is meant to continue growing long after Garrett and Klamer are gone, and continue to benefit some of the children’s charities that are dear to the couple’s heart: Red Roof Retreat, Big Brothers Big Sisters, and Youth Unlimited, thus Garrett and Klamer also established sub funds in 2021/22 for each of these charities as well. 

The work of these organizations, and the way they care for vulnerable children and families and give young people meaning and hope, are important to Garrett and Klamer, and they want to be able to support this work for many years. They also expect their adult children to help make decisions about future disbursements from the main Agape fund, so establishing the fund now gives them a chance to talk with the next generation about their priorities, and the importance of generosity. That generosity is something they saw modeled by their own parents, and a gift they want to pass on to their children that they think is even more important than money itself. 

Garrett said agape love is the highest form of love – doing something with absolutely no expectation of return. Garrett and Klamer, who through their faith, consider themselves to have been richly blessed and they want to always pay it forward.

“I am hoping that this will be important to our children and grandchildren,” Garrett said, “and that it will be a meaningful way for us to continue to help others.”

James and Landy O’Donnell Fund

For years, Landy O’Donnell would visit Niagara Falls semi-annually with her husband James. Little did she know, however, that the real crown jewel of the region was Port Colborne on the shores of Lake Erie.

Landy discovered this in 2015 when she moved to the canal city to live with a friend after James’s passing. She was drawn to Port Colborne’s walkability, something she missed when her Oak Ridges neighbourhood was swallowed up by the sprawl of Richmond Hill over the years she and James lived there.
But she would stay in the small town on Niagara’s southern tier because of the people. She would be compelled to give back to her newly adopted community because of them, too.

It was only a year after moving to Port Colborne that Landy began contemplating bequeathing something to a local social organization while doing her estate planning. As a relative newcomer, however, she was hard-pressed to choose just one beneficiary. That’s when Gary Talosi, who serves on the Port Colborne Community Fund committee with the Niagara Community Foundation, suggested making a donation to benefit her new hometown sooner. She could set up a fund in her and James’s names, have the community foundation manage it for her, and see to it that her lump-sum gift would help many causes in Port Colborne in the years ahead — and while she was still alive to witness its impact.

Landy, who keeps busy by volunteering with several groups and initiatives in town, was sold. The James and Landy O’Donnell Fund was born in 2016.
“I don’t really mind what it’s used for as long as it’s used for good,” Landy said. “I’ve gotten so much from living here, I just wanted to do something for Port Colborne.”

Phil & Karen Court Family Fund

<!–vcv no format–><!– vcwb/dynamicElementComment:95ab5b41 –><div class="vce-row-container" data-vce-boxed-width="true"><div class="vce-row vce-row–col-gap-30 vce-row-equal-height vce-row-content–top" id="el-95ab5b41" data-vce-do-apply="all el-95ab5b41"><div class="vce-row-content" data-vce-element-content="true"><!– vcwb/dynamicElementComment:adb967b7 –><div class="vce-col vce-col–md-auto vce-col–xs-1 vce-col–xs-last vce-col–xs-first vce-col–sm-last vce-col–sm-first vce-col–md-last vce-col–lg-last vce-col–xl-last vce-col–md-first vce-col–lg-first vce-col–xl-first" id="el-adb967b7"><div class="vce-col-inner" data-vce-do-apply="border margin background el-adb967b7"><div class="vce-col-content" data-vce-element-content="true" data-vce-do-apply="padding el-adb967b7"><!– vcwb/dynamicElementComment:729f5bde –><div class="vce-text-block"><div class="vce-text-block-wrapper vce" id="el-729f5bde" data-vce-do-apply="all el-729f5bde"><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">When Karen Murray returned to the workforce after taking time off to care for her two young children, the job she chose ended up permanently affecting her perspective — and her philanthropy.</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Trained as a lawyer, Karen worked and volunteered for many years in homelessness outreach – first as an employee and then as a member and board chair for Niagara Regional Housing. That exposure to the many problems homeless people face, and the sometimes simple ways that a bit of extra funding could help, led Karen and her husband Phil to establish the Philip and Karen Court Family Fund with the Niagara Community Foundation.</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Previously, the couple had established their own family foundation, so they could grant money to small programs with which they were familiar “that had trouble getting funding.” Karen and Phil didn’t want to fund initiatives in a long-term way, but wanted to be available to provide charitable help “with special projects or emergencies.”</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">The family managed it on their own, handling grant requests and navigating the charitable donation accounting landscape. But as their first-hand connections with the organizations and people working in homelessness outreach became more distant, the Niagara Community Foundation seemed like the logical next step.</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">Now the couple can continue contributing to the causes that matter to them, leaving the oversight to the experts. Karen said she still wants to be able to respond to requests for help, which is why a donor-directed fund made sense.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">“We could set our own parameters, that the funds would go to anti-poverty initiatives or to the at-risk community,” Karen said.&nbsp;</span></p><p><span style="font-weight: 400;">They also hope to inspire others, including their two sons, Luke and Ben, to continue the generosity. “Working with the Niagara Community Foundation means you can start small, but it can continue to grow,” Phil said. “This lets us do something we can be proud of, and that our kids can be proud of.”</span></p></div></div><!– /vcwb/dynamicElementComment:729f5bde –></div></div></div><!– /vcwb/dynamicElementComment:adb967b7 –></div></div></div><!– /vcwb/dynamicElementComment:95ab5b41 –><!–vcv no format–>

Cooper Family Fund

Grandmothers often hold a special place in our hearts. Trevor Cooper’s two family matriarchs, Verna Smith and Josephine Cooper, lived to be 99 and 96 respectively, leaving an indelible imprint on the St. Catharines resident. So when it was time for Trevor and his wife Christine to update their estate, they decided to make a lasting impact on Niagara’s senior community in return.

“We were very close with them both,” Trevor said. “I watched them both go through a lot of things and live their lives to the fullest. I wanted to help other seniors experience the same comforts that my grandmothers had.”

The couple established the Cooper Family Fund with the Niagara Community Foundation to benefit causes and organizations that help with caring for local seniors. The fund took little time and work to set up, Trevor noted, making the decision to work with the community foundation even easier.

The Cooper Family Fund was an extension of the charity work the couple already do in the community. Setting up an endowment fund gave the family a sense of comfort knowing they could make an impact on older Niagarans today, and then extend their impact by leaving a gift in their will to increase the endowment in the future.

“If I donate the money to the Niagara Community Foundation, it will stay here and benefit the local space for generations to come,” Trevor said. “I wanted my money to stay in my community and help the people of Niagara. The community foundation will make sure this will happen.”

To learn more about gifts in wills, visit Will Power to find out more.

Stack Family Fund

Tom and Melissa Stack know well how much a bursary can help a college or university student, even if it’s just enough to buy a textbook.

Both received such financial assistance when they went through school, and they’ve never forgotten how much it helped them. These days, with tuition costs on the rise, they also know that financial support for young minds is even more critical. It can make the difference between someone getting an education that will set them up for success in life or going without.

That’s why they decided to establish the STACK FAMILY FUND through annual contributions to the Niagara Community Foundation. They’re intent on helping young people get a post-secondary education.

“There’s a large opportunity there, really, with school costs and making sure kids don’t shy away from school because of affordability,” Melissa said. “We know what it’s like to struggle, so if we can impact and help someone else, that’s why we want to give back.” But the couple’s empathy for the youth of Niagara goes beyond the expense of going to school. Mental health resources are also important to the Stacks. So such causes will also benefit from their family fund. The decision to establish a fund was helped along by the community foundation’s established connections with local charities and social organizations. “I love the partnerships they offer as well as the broad spectrum. They’re very knowledgeable,” Melissa said. “They can come up with the ideas and the different groups to donate to because they are the hub.”

The couple also knew their legacy would be used responsibly. “There can be skepticism when you donate to a charity — is the money going to the cause I want it to” Melissa said. “The Niagara Community Foundation takes that question right out of it. There’s accountability.”

Niagara Community Foundation continues the work of the Rittenhouse Legacy

The Niagara Community Foundation (NCF) is honoured to carry on the legacy of Moses F. Rittenhouse with the establishment of the Moses F. Rittenhouse Trust Fund, an opening valuing of just under $500,000. With a legacy of philanthropy, reaching back into the 1800’s in the Vineland community, the Rittenhouse trustees, Doug Holmes, Bill Hodgson and Doug Ransom, are confident, ”Our caring philanthropist's legacy will continue. An outlier from the past, a benefactor today and into the future.”

The Moses F. Rittenhouse Trust Fund will be created as a Donor Advised endowment fund, linking the donor’s legacy with the community. “The Trustees of the Moses F. Rittenhouse Trust have endeavoured to see the monies remain in the Lincoln area. Thus, we chose the Niagara Community Foundation to make the annual proceeds from the Fund available for selected special community projects. These beneficiaries or organizations fit the original requirements or stipulations of the Moses F. Rittenhouse endowment,” notes the three Trustees. The priorities of the Fund include public education, parks & recreation, community gardens and beautification, arts & culture, libraries, natural heritage conservation and local agriculture and food.

“We are pleased to welcome the Moses F. Rittenhouse Trust Fund to the NCF portfolio. Carrying on the philanthropic legacy of Mr. Rittenhouse is our honour and we look forward to stewarding these funds to make a positive impact in Lincoln,” says Bryan Rose, Executive Director of NCF.

Moses Franklin Rittenhouse was a successful businessman from the late 1800 with a strong reputation of community care and stewardship. The Moses F. Rittenhouse Trust has made significant impacts in the Lincoln community, supporting tangible assets such as gardens, the Lincoln Library and the original Mennonite Cemetery in Vineland, as well investing in public infrastructure such as roads and sidewalks to improve public safety.