HAMILTON, Ont. – It took two years to pull it off, but visionaries for Christian education succeeded in merging three foundations in support of Christian schools into one organization prosaically called the Christian School Foundation with a membership of 23 Christian schools in Ontario. The three that merged were the Foundation for Niagara and Hamilton area Christian Schools, the Grand River Advancement of Christian Education Foundation (GRACE), and the Central Ontario Christian Education Foundation.
Together they unite under the banner: “make Christian education excellent and accessible for everyone who wants it,” says executive vice-president Henry Koornneef. Koornneef has spent nearly 13 years connecting with donors as executive director of the Niagara and Hamilton Christian School Foundation, and he has seen the potential wealth that could be shared in the coming years in support of Christian education.
“Donors want to know the funds are getting into the right hands,” he said. “They want to have the sense that schools are running bursary programs and that their gifts are going to the families that need it the most.”
Communications director Marlene Bergsma points out that a vast amount of wealth is held by people who are most likely to pass away in 20 years. “Macleans magazine wrote in September that Canadians over the age of 75 hold $1 trillion worth of assets, not including their homes. We are looking at the single-biggest intergenerational transfer of wealth the world has ever seen.”
If the Foundation’s focus on that transfer of wealth sounds like a money grab, the vision of the Foundation clarifies the purpose of the fundraising efforts: to make excellent Christian education affordable in the future not only for rich kids but for all. As such it relies on the covenantal faithfulness of those who have been fortunate to build up financial resources that they can’t take with them anyway.
Many elderly parents and grandparents may want to carry out their covenantal faithfulness by passing on their wealth to their children and grandchildren. To that Sylvan Gerritsma, a retired Niagara-area businessman and board member of the new Foundation, responds that “some people realize that it may not be all that good for their children to suddenly receive all that unearned wealth.”
Enthusiasm for financial security
Marlene Bergsma highlights another stewardship angle that the transfer of wealth brings along, namely that people who do not think about the tax implications of a “charity child” (a charity that has been mentioned in the will as a one of the recipients of the benefits along with the children) may end up paying more tax than they need to.
On the Foundation website (christianschoolfoundation.ca) an article points out the new bursary fund that has become available to Christian schools: “In late August, principals at the foundation’s 23 member schools were informed that a supporting donor had made a $100,000 gift – but it came with a catch. The funds should be used specifically to boost enrolment. In particular, the donor wanted the gift to open the doors of Christian schools to families who had not considered it an option before . . . .Seventeen principals at schools across the province responded to the donor’s offer, and now close to 40 more students from 32 different families are being blessed with the opportunity to attend a Christian school.”
Koornneef looks forward to increasing the number of member schools in 2015. “There is a cultural power in our larger community,” he writes, “seeking to build enthusiasm for the medium and long-term financial security of the institutions we cherish.”
“We will be building a community of lawyers, accountants, financial advisors and others who need to know that all our schools are backed by a solid foundation that is qualified to steward gifts and able to honour the desired interest of the donor.”
Acting CEO Michael Van Pelt adds that 2015 will be the first year of operations for the Christian School Foundation “and it sure looks to be exciting.”
Working smarter together: the benefits of a provincial foundation
- Expertise in fundraising, governance, administration and reporting
- Sophisticated services, making it easy for anyone to donate
- Connections with hundreds of allied professionals: lawyers, accountants, financial planners
- Professional staff and professional offices
- Lower overall costs
- A strong board of directors accountable to member schools, with ambassadors in school communities
- Each member school will continue to have a general endowment in its name, along with one or more named or memorial funds (typically a donor driven initiative).