The Joy of Giving: Evolving from Charitable Giving to Family Philanthropy

Malcolm is a nationally-known philanthropic advisor and gift planner.

He spent 13 years with three Toronto charities before assuming his current role as the Head of Philanthropic Advisory Services for Scotia Wealth Management in 2004. Scotia Wealth Management is the largest national service provider to private foundations and operates Aqueduct Foundation, a public foundation with donor advised funds.

Malcolm is active as a speaker, writer and volunteer in the charitable sector. He has worked extensively as a volunteer on tax and policy issues relating to the charitable sector. As past-chair and member of the Government Relations Committee of the CAGP he has contributed to the development of new charitable tax incentives, including the elimination of capital gains on gifts of public securities.

 [00:00:01.690] - Cindy Radu

Welcome to the Tamarind Learning Podcast. I'm your host, Cindy Radu. I'm the Chief Learning Officer for Tamarind Learning Canada, an online wealth education platform that develops practical foundational learning programs for beneficiaries and their advisors to help them prepare for the responsible stewardship of wealth. As part of the Tamarind Learning Platform, I have the great privilege to speak with experts on topics relevant to families of wealth and to family offices.


[00:00:31.190] - Cindy Radu

In this episode of the Tamarind Learning Podcast, I am absolutely delighted to welcome Malcolm Burrows from Toronto, Canada as our guest. I've had the great pleasure to know Malcolm for more than 20 years, and I'm always delighted whenever we have the opportunity to cross paths. Malcolm's personal mission has been to help families and individuals to become more engaged, fulfilled and effective philanthropists. Malcolm, can you share with us a bit about your personal and professional story that inspired your personal mission statement?


[00:01:09.110] - Malcolm Burrows

Absolutely, Cindy. It's great to be here and working with you on this. I'm a lifelong charity guy. I've been working for charities, with charities, and more to the point, charitable people, philanthropists, families, for the last 32 years. So I started out working at charities in Toronto and bringing together the sort of the complex world of exceptional giving. When people want to do more than the ordinary everyday and integrate their wealth planning, integrate their values, and integrate that sense of community mission to make the world a little bit better place. So I now work at Scotia Wealth Management and head of Philanthropic Advisory Services. And I've been here for the last 18 years and work leading our foundation practice and our philanthropic advisory services practices.


[00:02:09.810] - Cindy Radu

You're very modest and you haven't brought up, but if I'm not incorrect, you started the first donor-advised fund foundation in Canada. Can you tell us a little bit about that?


[00:02:26.960] - Malcolm Burrows

One of the first. So I'm the founder of Aqueduct Foundation, which is a national cause-neutral foundation, and it has donor-advised funds, and our purpose is facilitating personal philanthropy, again, these exceptional gifts in the community, and really working deeply with families to figure out what they would like to support and having that flexibility, having that intentionality to really achieve their philanthropic goals. And blessed to say that over the last 16 years, it's become one of the 15 largest foundations in the country.


[00:03:09.010] - Cindy Radu

And you also sit on the board of a number of other charitable organizations. One of my personal favorites that you're involved with is Doctors Without Borders. Are there any others not to be exclusive of some, but you can share with our listeners?


[00:03:28.060] - Malcolm Burrows

Absolutely. So Doctors Without Borders I have been involved with. I always try, in my work... I always wanted the charity's perspective, so I find it to be a tremendous learning opportunity. So I sit on a number of family foundation boards there's the Muttart Foundation in Edmonton, Wah Family Foundation in Toronto, Canada Helps, which is a large intermediary charity for the charitable sector in Canada. It's actually one of the largest in terms of donations. And again, it's a bridge charity that raises money for other charities using their technological expertise. And I've been involved with Doctors Without Borders, both on the Canadian board as well as their International Spanish Board, which, again, huge learning experiences.


[00:04:18.390] - Cindy Radu

Well, we're very fortunate to have your expertise and your passion for philanthropy for this podcast today. So let's start out with sort of a foundational question. If an individual or family wants to get involved in philanthropy in this more intentional or formal way, what suggestions do you have for them as to where they might start?


[00:04:41.950] - Malcolm Burrows

Well, there's a number of different sort of, I think, triggers for major philanthropy. And sometimes it's structural or something that's happening in their personal life or wealth and sort of management of their wealth or businesses. And that often ends up being sort of a transition point into philanthropy. But if you were to look at sort of the philanthropic process alone, I think one of the things that we see over and over again with a lot of giving is people are generous, they want to be more involved, they want their giving to be more meaningful. But often we end up sort of, because of the structure of fundraising and charities, we often end up in a reactive mode to giving and we're responding to other people's solicitations and asks. I'm a big proponent of being proactive, sort of stepping back and figuring out not what the world expects of you, but what you want to do, what's meaningful, and really getting to know charities better. So I worked with donors over the years and families to be much more intentional about their giving, starting with basic issues like what are their sort of key values, what are their key life experiences and how might that relate to individual charities.


[00:06:11.930] - Malcolm Burrows

So move it from responding to solicitations to actually initiating. And don't do it in a theoretical way, but actually step forward and start to give. I think sometimes we get stuck in our heads around this and we don't implement. And with giving, it's all about implementing. It's about getting to know charities. It's about educating yourself.


[00:06:36.110] - Cindy Radu

So where might somebody start if they're just completely overwhelmed because how many, you'll know more than me, how many hundreds or thousands even of charities and foundations there are in Canada? Where would be a good starting point for somebody, whether it's in their community or do they go internationally, how do they even start those conversations?


[00:07:00.770] - Malcolm Burrows

It means carving out a little bit of time. It means thinking about, as I said, taking a step back and having that reflection point. And it often helps to work with somebody, an adviser, on this. But I have worked with many people over the years that of course they're getting to this point on their own. But the actual identification of charities is both overwhelming. There's 860 registered charities in the country and in some ways, because of the internet and transparency of information, they're much easier to find out these days. So there's a lot of databases, both in Canada as well as the US, of registered charities. Canada Revenue Agency has their database, every charity, all their financial information, personal information is online, some of their links to their website. So if you start with that, what's important to us, question and then task yourself using some of these databases. Another great one is the It has every registered charity in the country. You can search by key terms and begin to assess sort of finding local charities, finding international charities, whatever is aligned with your interests, and start that giving process.


[00:08:33.050] - Malcolm Burrows

And as I said, I'm a big believer don't sort of once you find something, sort of blow it out, start sort of more modestly, start giving in a way that's a little bit more than you've done in the past, but it's very consistent because what you really want to do is get to know those charities. I hear back from donors, families, we have trust issues. Where do we start? How do we know that the charities are using money? Well, how do we know they're good organization? One of the best ways to do that is actually give them a little bit of money and then actively get to know them. So in my professional practice, that's what we try to do is move beyond just the financial transaction and really beginning to understand the people there, what they use the money for, what are the challenges they face. The charity is trying to address and charities, for the most part, are really open and interested. They want to share this. We don't have to just send money and stand back and wait for an email or some sort of communication. I actively encourage clients I work with to get to know the charities, give them a call, tell them that they're really interested and you'd like to spend half an hour on the phone or even go for a visit.


[00:09:53.230] - Malcolm Burrows

And it can make a huge difference in terms of quality of understanding and the meaning and effectiveness of giving wonderful advice.


[00:10:04.250] - Cindy Radu

Malcolm I'm interested in if you're seeing any trends around generational differences or any of the generations being, stepping up more than others in terms of initiating some of this tippy-toeing into the charitable world for the first time.


[00:10:26.210] - Malcolm Burrows

Absolutely. I almost chuckled to myself when you said that I see trends and generational giving it's forever. Thus, each generation has a different view, a different life experience. And so one of the first things that I generally advise people if they go into family philanthropy is assume that each generation is going to have their own interests, and everybody pretty much knows that. And structure, if you're working, for example, with the donor advice fund or family foundation, or even trying to just bring a little bit more structure and family communication to the process of choosing charities and engaging with them. Assume that each generation and each member of the family is going to have different interests. I think one of the great mistakes is to try and have family philanthropy that has a single cause or two causes. It works in some families. In the majority of families, the best way to engage the next generation is to make sure that they have agency, that they know that they can support the charities that are important to them. Otherwise often the parents end up setting the agenda and the kids say, why am I at this table?


[00:11:48.230] - Malcolm Burrows

This isn't reflecting my interest. And I view the philanthropic discussion within the family about as engagement, about transmitting those values. And if the next generation isn't feeling engaged, they're not going to come to the table, they're not going to carry on that tradition, they're going to shut down. And I've had that experience as well and it's quite disheartening. So I often use structures within foundations. For example, just take a simple pie chart and say some of it's a group decision. But there's also individual parts that allow people to express what they're interested in within the family because there's always going to be these generational differences and they vary from family to family.


[00:12:37.130] - Cindy Radu

That pie chart ideas is one that I'll definitely be using as I go forward with some of my clients, because I do find families (are) very philanthropic. But it tends to be the senior generation, generation one, the founder generation that is really been driving that philanthropic objective. And so it can be challenging to give that voice to the rising generations to say what they're engaged and interested in. And I've almost found in some circumstances where it skips down to the grandkids. Once the grandkids start getting into something, then it's a really cool transition to the grandparents and how do they support things. It's very fascinating to me.


[00:13:30.390] - Malcolm Burrows

Couldn't agree more. I've been so inspired often by next generation, it's G2 or G3 within the family, the way they embrace it and run with it. And they often give in a very different way than the first generation, which is often more of a giving back, responding to the community that they built                                                      their wealth in. And I find that future generations tend to be more cause oriented. They're seeing issues in the world and they want to respond to it. So it's quite a different dynamic, but it's allowing space and learning from each other in that regard.


[00:14:09.090] - Cindy Radu

So when people are new to what I'll just generally refer to as formalized philanthropy, rather than sort of a pattern of charitable giving that's maybe more reactive, what do you find they find most challenging in starting on this path?


[00:14:32.190] - Malcolm Burrows

That's a great question in terms of being more intentional and structured about giving. I often tell people that they should be thinking about if they're moving in this direction they're in the business of giving. And so it's going to be less athootic, less reactive and more proactive. So within a family, it's really important to have a bit of governance around that. The simple pie chart examples are a great way of defining that. All members of the family will want to know how they can participate, what their role is, how much they can grant and spend, how decisions are made. And those are really important things, whether you're doing it within a foundation or doing it just in a more structured, formalized way. And if you want that next generation involvement, you need to have some guardrails and figure out how to do it. I also should say that in my experience, families often take many years to develop this ethos and there's nothing more wonderful. I've been involved with a number of families that over three, four, five, even ten years, that transition happens. And the internal dialogue, a mature dialogue around philanthropy, happens in the family.


[00:15:52.840] - Malcolm Burrows

So it's not as simple as click your fingers, throw out some basic tools and you think everything's going to happen all at once. So don't be hard on yourself. Just know that this is something you need to work at together with a bit of structure so it's not so.


[00:16:10.920] - Cindy Radu

Overwhelming step by step. Don't put too much pressure on yourselves to go from zero to 100. Take your time and be thoughtful.


[00:16:22.950] - Malcolm Burrows

Giving should be a joy, not an extra source of… (stress), joy, pride, satisfaction. And it shouldn't be a source of extra stress.

[00:16:34.390] - Cindy Radu

But it is a commitment if you're moving into this more intentional form of giving. But it should be fun. It should be fun. So this time of year, we're starting to head into fall back to school this end of year seasonal celebrations and people tend to think about giving at the end of the year. I think a little bit more sometimes tax driven, admittedly. But if families have been thinking about starting on a more intentional charitable journey, what would you suggest that should be on their radar? As we got this lead time towards the end of the year and a refresh, September seems to be a bit of a start, more of a new year sometimes than January does for many families on this kind of activity.


[00:17:38.830] - Malcolm Burrows

Absolutely. About 50% to 60% of charitable giving in Canada happens in the final three months of the calendar year. So there's a lot of pressure around it. And if there's one thing again with the philosophy of don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good, this is a good first step for families that want to be more intentional, particularly to get next generation involved, is have that meeting. Say that even if you don't have a foundation structure or a donor advice fund, have the family meeting and say we collectively want to have more of a focus on this and give the next generation an opportunity to say, here's some money that you can spend. And it could be. We started with our kids when they were six, seven and eight with $100, but some families is sort of like each child has $10,000. But the core sort of methodology is making sure that each person can decide on their own and then report back to the family about what charities or charities they've chosen. And so that creates a little bit of a dialogue about what's important to each one without ever setting up the situation where the one generation is asking permission from the next generation.


[00:19:08.590] - Malcolm Burrows

Again, the focus is on giving and the focus on family harmony as opposed and family understanding as opposed to everybody giving to a single cause for a single purpose. And this is a wonderful opportunity for learning as well as giving. And it's often a great first step for longer, more structured giving that may happen for future generations as well.


[00:19:40.730] - Cindy Radu

Well, I think, Malcolm, those are amazing guidelines, tips to get family started on this conversation. I think, for me, a few takeaways are I really appreciated your comment that people are generous and want to be more involved and proactive. Being proactive on what's meaningful to you. That's a key takeaway for me. Love the quote that you just said, don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good and start modestly a little more than what you've done in the past, but being consistent and actively getting to know the charities are a few of my takeaways. Is there anything else that you'd like to share with us before we wrap up?


[00:20:29.090] - Malcolm Burrows

I always stress the joy of giving. I love that this should be giving and engaging with charities. Getting more involved in the community is a source of enormous personal fulfillment and also expression of all of our own agency in terms of trying to make the world a little bit better place. So ensuring that that's embedded in the process and it's a generous process, not just sort of a rule space. One to me is immensely important. It has to be driven by spirit, and it's a positive one. Welcome.


[00:21:08.120] - Cindy Radu

Burrough thank you so much for sharing your wisdom and warmth on the Tamarind Learning podcast. I'm very confident that our listeners will find your comments helpful and inspirational as they embark or continue on their philanthropic journey. Thank you.


[00:21:24.250] - Malcolm Burrows

Thank you. Bye.


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