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Retaining Wealth in our Community

Grey County Backroads photo by Stuart Reid


By Stuart Reid, Executive Director

There are 191 Community Foundations spread across Canada that work towards building awareness of the importance of philanthropy. Almost half of those foundations, like Community Foundation Grey Bruce, serve largely rural areas.  One of the goals at our Foundation is to ensure that there is a healthy amount of resources for the future of a prosperous and strong community in Grey Bruce. The foundation helps donors have impact locally – contributing cash, trusts, bequests or real property to build permanent endowments that will benefit the community for generations to come.

There is a strong history of philanthropy in rural Canada, and there is a great deal of wealth that is available to change hands in the form of land, equipment and rights. Over the lifetime of running a family farm, many families garner increased personal wealth. That growing resource is coupled with a strong commitment to community and a great sense of attachment to place held by people who have dedicated their lives to working in and building a rural community network. 

Community Foundation Grey Bruce recently participated in a day-long workshop hosted by the Rural Ontario Institute called “Community Wealth Forum: Creating Public Benefit from Individual Legacies.” It was enlightening to hear from Ryan Gibson, Professor of Regional Economic Development at the University of Guelph, who spoke about the challenges of rural economies and the opportunities that exist for rural communities to plan for the ongoing transfer of wealth. Community foundations are best poised to be a local solution for donors, and to ensure long-term community betterment through the establishment of endowments.

Statistics show that our rural population is ageing, so the turnover of the traditional family farm is on a fast-approaching horizon for many. Demographics show that youth shift to cities as they leave their rural roots to follow pathways of education and to seek employment. The looming question is, “when is the wealth going to shift out of rural communities to urban centres and has that shift already begun?”

Gibson also talked of how millennials – who will be 50% of the workforce by 2030 – are changing modes of philanthropy and have different interests in terms of impact and place-based donating. As expected, giving now happens predominantly online. We learned that, in our contemporary online world, money is mobile and moves very quickly. In fact, the days of “cash in hand” are gone and now our personal wealth is “placeless”, often held in other locations than where we live. 

Community Foundations need to be ready to talk to families about philanthropy, and remind folks that we are the natural funding agency with our local impact, ready to assist with intergenerational wealth transfers and invest that wealth back into the community where it was generated. These aren’t easy conversations, because they involve complex legal situations and extensive knowledge of tax laws.  Foundations have to examine their own skill sets, capacities and governance structure to be ready to step up and talk about the importance of location, using community storytelling to reinforce the good work that can come from community investment.

If you would like more information on what your community foundation can do for you and your family and your particular interests, visit or call our office at 519 371 7203. We look forward to hearing from you.

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