Community Foundation of the South Okanagan celebrates milestone

Community foundation has given $1 million to local charities

Ian Bird

Ian Bird

Most of us would be thrilled with the prospect of making $1 million over 20 years. However, last week one Penticton group celebrated the exact opposite of that — giving $1 million away.

On Friday afternoon, Poplar Grove Winery was host to a celebration of philanthropy and generosity. Former and current board members and donors were in attendance to celebrate their organization’s milestone: the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan granting out over $1 million.

While the foundation has given away $1 million, this money was based on returns on the foundation’s endowment fund, which is over $6 million. This year, the foundation is set to give away $192,000 in grants, and will be looking to do the same next year, even without any new donations, said Aaron McRann, executive director of the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan.

“It’s really exciting for myself and for our board of directors to see that we’ve been able to grant a million dollars to local charities, but the original gift is still there,” said McRann. “If we were to close up shop today, and not have any kind of administration or marketing, we would still be able to grant a million dollars over the next five years.”

The Community Foundation of the South Okanagan, established in 1991, is one more than 180 community foundations across Canada. These foundations, rather than supporting their own programs or fighting for funding from the government, take charitable gifts from the community, invest them into a legacy fund, and then grant the fund’s return out to where the money is needed within the community.

Friday’s celebration comes at a time where community foundations across Canada are being looked to by Canada’s Governor General to unite, and help make Canada an even better place to live, said Ian Bird, a guest speaker at the event. Bird is the president and CEO of the Community Foundations of Canada.

“The Governor General David Johnston has turned to us, and called on us to do something more,” Bird told the crowd on Friday night. “We are going to assist him in this vision he has of Canada 2017, a smart and caring nation, a place where we might imagine where all people’s talents and skills and contributions can come forth.”

This initiative, called smart and caring communities, has two goals, said Bird. The first is to have every community in Canada supported by a community foundation. The second is the development of smart and caring funds for every community foundation in Canada to have in common.

“The idea is that if we have 100 foundations that all have smart and caring funds that are all discretionary, and a national initiative comes forward that says, ‘We, as a country, need to kind of come together and do x,’ then the community foundations could pitch in our smart and caring funds to do this,” said McRann.

However, for now the foundation will be concentrating on reaching out to outlying communities, such as Cawston, Keremeos and Princeton, to help them establish their own funds within the foundation, he said. While these areas have received funding in the past from the foundation, a lack of donors makes long-term funding difficult.

Future plans aside, McRann added that without the community, the foundation wouldn’t exist.

“We just wanted to say thanks to the community, and the whole region obviously, for believing in the foundation and for supporting it with their gifts and volunteer work and so on,” he said. “We’re going to continue to work towards making the foundation more impactful in the future, so we’re just pushing forward.”

For more information on the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan, visit