Gena Rotstein's blog

Charitable Giving and Family Business

Philanthropy in the family enterprise model is distinct from other family based charitable giving programs.  What makes philanthropy planning for family-owned businesses and their successors is the relationships that the enterprise has with the family.  Over the next three weeks I will be sharing a series of posts about philanthropy in the family enterprise model, leading up to the Michael Shuman, Social Impact Investing summit that is being held in Calgary on April 18 and 19 as part of the REAP Calgary Down to Earth Week.

80% of Canada’s economy is built on small and medium sized businesses.  It is estimated that 90% of those are family owned.  What comes to mind when I say family business might be some of the larger names like McCain, Ford Automotive, Loblaws (Weston Family), Sobey’s, Wal-Mart, Cargill, and Shaw; but there are a number, lesser known or more localized family businesses that cover every possible industry in our country from automotive to agriculture, from retail to construction, from IT to the energy sector.  With such large market-share in our economy it’s a wonder that we don’t hear about the strength and values that family businesses bring to our economy, especially when things are turning downwards.

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Quarterly Notes from the Tech Team

Some major developments have happened with the technology at Dexterity Ventures Inc. (DVI) over the first few months of 2015. Here is the overview of what has been going on:

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Fiscal Unequals and Household Philanthropy: A New White Paper from Dexterity Ventures

The demographics of wealth creation and wealth management are changing. Not only are women amassing greater wealth on their own, but they are also controlling more of the household's finances. The new Dexterity Ventures white paper, "Fiscal Unequals and Household Philanthropy," explores this shift and explains why it is important to financial advisors and nonprofits. This white paper was inspired by the panel I moderated last December discussing the TD Waterhouse Report Time, Treasure, Talent: Canadian Women and Philanthropy.

Click here to read the full white paper on the Dexterity Ventures website.

Divest-Invest: Divesting from the past and Investing in the Future

Over the last three years, a global climate movement has called on all institutional investors to divest from fossil fuels and has focused on exposing the problem of ‘unburnable carbon’, alerting investors to the risks of stranded assets, and calling for urgent action on financial and ethical grounds. For the philanthropic sector, the social, human, and ecological impacts of climate change significantly impacts our missions and programmatic activities. Climate change also introduces serious ethical and financial risks to our investment portfolios.

In January 2014, a coalition of 17 foundations with $1.7 billion in assets launched Divest-Invest Philanthropy to address the challenges of climate change and to catalyze the philanthropic community to action. Divest-Invest Philanthropy believes that foundations should move quickly, as the science compels us to act with urgency and at scale. Our primary objective is to grow the number of foundations committed to divesting away from carbon intensive fossil fuels and reinvesting a portion of their portfolio in climate solutions such as renewable energy, energy efficiency, clean tech, and energy access for the world’s poor over a five-year time period.

A secondary objective is to build a community of practice where we share information about investment mechanics, products, trends, and partnership opportunities. By working together, we can identify and remove barriers to divestment and direct our resources to the most promising investment opportunities. We also operate in partnership with members from the broader divest-invest movement that encompasses universities, faith groups, hospitals, pension funds, cities, and individuals.

Signatories to Divest-Invest Philanthropy share a set of common values; foremost is the principle that philanthropic organizations have an ethical imperative to divest from harmful industries that damage the environment, impact vulnerable populations, and put our planet and children’s future at risk. In the broadest sense it means using all of our assets to advance our goals, values, and beliefs. At a minimum, it means ensuring our investments do not drive the very problems we ask our grantees to solve. Investments cannot undercut our philanthropic mission – serving the public good. Our investment portfolios are being used to catalyze financial and technological innovation, develop sustainable investment models, and push for mainstream financial institutions to develop new investment instruments that incorporate financial, social, and environmental factors. We can do well, while doing good.

The mission and values of Divest-Invest Philanthropy has resonated throughout the philanthropic community. Over the last 13 months we have grown to 73 foundations worldwide – a four-fold increase – with $4.4 billion in pledged assets. Our members include leading foundations such as the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Goldman Environmental Foundation, Sierra Club Foundation, Ben and Jerry’s Foundation, Wallace Global Fund, Trust Africa, and the Russell Family Foundation.

We announced our last round of signatories at the UN Climate Summit in September 2014 alongside Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Mark Ruffalo. We also shared our goal of tripling the number of signatories by the COP 21 in December 2015 where a binding and universal global agreement will be negotiated in what may be the last opportunity to do so to avert the worst impacts of climate change. This year is perhaps the most significant for demonstrating both the will and capacity to orchestrate an energy transition. We very much hope that institutions and individuals will join from Canada and around the world.

If you are interested in learning more or have any questions please contact Jenna Nicholas at

Big Data in the Charitable Sector: A Whitepaper

Did you know that you can use Big Data to make smarter decisions about where to spend your social capital? Or that you can use charity sector Big Data to help you power your latest tech solution? We have published a whitepaper that takes a look at the data that powers Dexterity Ventures Inc.’s Place2Give site, and how you can use that data for your charitable giving or business needs.

Click here to read the full white paper 'Big Data in the Charitable Sector' on the Dexterity Ventures website.

Triple Bottom Line Businesses Succeeding Despite Economic Slowdowns

Guest Post From Adam Jones, Owner/Operator of MAXgreen Windows, Doors and Exteriors

With the price of oil down, everybody in Calgary seems to be worrying about the future of our local economy. After all, the oil and gas market is what generates billions for this province's public services, directly provides thousands of jobs, and trickles down those earnings to other local industries, especially construction.

  • Will housing prices drop?
  • Will skilled labour costs go down?
  • Will I be laid off due to the slower economy?
  • Is this the right time to be doing a renovation?

These are all common questions and you can talk to half a dozen "experts" and get 6 different theories on each question.

Unfortunately, many business still look at only one bottom line - their profit.

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Philanthropy and the End of Geography - a Response to Seth Godin

On January 31, 2015 Seth Godin published a short blog entitled the End of Geography.  In this post he points out how companies and technologies have removed the geography barrier and that localized markets are no-longer limited to kilometers and miles.  He ends his post with, "If you are still betting on geogrpahy, on winning merely because you are local, I hope you have a special case in mind." 

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Dream Big... What would you do with $50Million

Last week someone in Alberta won the $50Million lottery prize.  This morning on CBC Eyeopener, David Grey interviewed the spokesperson, Kevin van Egdom from Western Canada Lottery Corporation and one of the questions was about preparing for the acceptance of such a significant cash prize.

This got me thinking about “What if…”

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Place2Give Charity List

Every year I provide a list of organizations that Dexterity Consulting clients and Place2Give donors have directed their funds.  This past year we have seen significant growth in our donor base and so the list below is a snapshot of the organizations that were supported.  

As this is your last chance for year-end donations, we have made giving easy - by clicking on any one of the links you can donate directly to the charity through the Place2Give Foundation.

Happy New Year and thank you for your generosity and continued support of the organizations that make our communities strong!

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