Making a Life by What We Give

The 2015 CIBC Wood Gundy Miracle Day is Wednesday, Dec 2nd. Investment Advisors will be giving back to our communities by donating their fees and commissions to charities that are helping kids rise above. To find out more, or to get involved, contact your local CIBC Wood Gundy Investment Advisor.

by Reg Smith

As we mark National Philanthropy Day, a famous saying from the great Winston Churchill comes to mind, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.”

Truer words couldn’t be spoken.

Anyone — young to old, individuals to companies – can be a philanthropist by volunteering your time, or making a donation – big or small.

Philanthropy is about the desire to make an impact, to build healthier and stronger communities and I’m proud, and not at all surprised, Canada was the first country in the world to formalize a day of recognition for charitable works. It is who we are and what we do.

It’s more than just writing a cheque. It’s about getting involved, being the change that you want to see.

Research shows that volunteerism, which brings together persons from all walks of life to work on a common project or objective, contributes to “social cohesion” or “social capital” – for example, by increasing social trust, reciprocity and sense of belonging in communities. But worryingly, the latest statistics on volunteerism show that it’s on the decline in Canada.

We need to embrace a culture of giving and build this social capital within our communities. The best way to achieve this is to recognize what’s important to your co-workers and clients and support those causes.

We here at the Victoria branch of CIBC Wood Gundy help to fund 20 local organizations with employee donations raised through CIBC Miracle Day, including the Boys and Girls Club of Victoria, 1Up Victoria Single Parent Resource Centre, KidSport Victoria and The Victoria Foundation. We buy food and gifts for CFAX’s Santas Anonymous hamper program and grow mustaches for Movember to raise funds for prostate cancer research, while my female co-workers willingly crawl through obstacles in the annual Woman2Warrior adventure race to help send kids with disabilities to camp.

To me, it’s about getting involved and making an impact, small or large. A little heart, as they say, can go a very long way.

I am reminded of one philanthropist in particular, the late Tim Miller. Most people likely have never heard of him, but more than three decades ago, he started what’s become an annual employee-driven tradition at my firm to support children’s charities and underprivileged kids.

A giant of man with a big heart, Tim loved kids. He believed in the powers of the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Clause. Where there is magic and wonder, there is good in the world and joy. So, Tim had his nine-person team at Wood Gundy donate their trading fees and commissions so that every child could experience the joy of Christmas.

His passion had a lasting impact. The first Wednesday of every December since 1984 we hold CIBC Miracle Day. All of the trading fees and commissions earned by the bank, its traders and Gundy advisors go to help kids year round.

The best part, what’s donated locally stays local in the community, and last year, thanks to the help of our clients, our Victoria branch donated more than $300,000, for a total of more than $1 million since 2003.

This kind of support introduces many of our younger employees to causes that matter to so many others in our community and helps them find the best way for them to give back. There are many great examples of long-term individual and corporate philanthropy initiatives, such as the David Foster Foundation and The Victoria Foundation.

Their success has made our society stronger, and ultimately helps so many lives. And that is, after all, what it is all about.

Reg Smith is First Vice-President and District Manager of CIBC Wood Gundy in Victoria.