Thinking Outside the Donation Box

By Mary Jane Kreisel

June is an exciting month for the Great Divide Trail Association! Our volunteer trail building trips in BC and Alberta are about to begin. Hikers from far and wide will soon embark on a thru-hike of a lifetime on the GDT. Others will attempt a challenging section-hike, some will enjoy a weekend backpack, and equestrians will experience the rewards of the backcountry as they ride along the trail.

Much work goes on behind the scenes to provide supports for these wilderness experiences that we all enjoy. This also means significant financial resources for programs to build, maintain, and protect the GDT as well as provide trip planning resources for trail users.

I am writing this article to introduce you to a new page on our website: Donation Options, which outlines the various ways we can donate to the GDTA to support these programs.

Perhaps the simplest way to donate is through our Online Donation Form powered by CanadaHelps.  We have also introduced an Online Dedication Form specifically formatted to donate to the GDTA in honour of a person – whether this be an in-memoriam tribute or a dedication to someone for a special occasion.  This form provides a variety of e-cards to choose from including sympathy or all-occasion (birthday, wedding, thank-you) and these can be automatically sent as notification of the donation and the person being remembered or honoured.

From my own personal experience, I know of a unique situation where donations were given in honour of a couple being wed. When GDTA members Jenny Feick and Ian Hatter got married, they were able to generate a significant amount of donations to the Young Naturalists’ Club of BC by asking their wedding invitees to donate to this charity in lieu of wedding gifts.  I think most of us who attended their wedding felt pretty good about taking them up on this donation request.  (Also, it beat having to shop around for a wedding gift!)

Although digital forms have made life easy for us, the GDTA also welcomes donation cheques that can be mailed in – these will be honoured with tax-deductible donation receipts.

In the past, the GDTA has received significant support from the corporate world.  We would certainly like to welcome this sector back to the fold.  Increasingly, companies are turning to corporate donation platforms such as Benevity.  Many companies have workplace giving programs and may provide a matching contribution to an employee’s donation.

The GDTA is registered with Benevity and has a detailed cause profile listed in their charities.  If your company works with Benevity or another employee giving platform, please check to see if they will match a donation to the GDTA. We have been the recipient of generous donations from a number of individuals and companies in the past through Benevity. All donations to the GDTA through this donation platform are issued tax receipts.

ATB Cares have partnered with Benevity to provide a matching program for individuals who wish to donate to Alberta-based charities. They currently match 20% of an individual’s donation up to a maximum of $500 until they reach their budget limit of matching funds each month. For example, if you wished to donate $50, ATB Cares will match 20% of the donation – adding an additional $10 to the donation.  For those feeling particularly generous, a $2,500 donation will net a total donation of $3,000!  This is a powerful incentive to donate to the GDTA through ATB Cares or through their online listing of charities. And don’t forget to donate early in the month before the matching funds run out!

Planned Giving is the term often associated with end-of-life gifts to charities.  However, it can also mean a donation that is set up in advance to be distributed later.  Just recently, my husband and I started looking into ways we can provide long-term gifts to the causes we believe in.  I contacted the Edmonton Community Foundation and found out that we can set up an endowment fund in our lifetime that will continuously fund the charities we support for a long period of time.

The Edmonton Community Foundation (ECF) and the Calgary Foundation (CF) – similar to other community foundations throughout the country – help people set up named endowments or donor advised funds in which a percentage of the fund’s invested growth is used to provide gifts to charities of choice on a long-term basis.  An endowment can be set up in your own name, in your family’s name, or in memory of a loved one.  Check out this link at the Edmonton Community Foundation to see how endowment funds work and the Calgary Foundation for a list of ways to give – please refer to their tab “Donor Advised Funds.”

After some consideration, my husband and I have decided to set up an endowment fund with the Edmonton Community Foundation.  This will take us several years of contributions to build this fund to the ECF’s minimum threshold amount. The good news is that we will receive charitable tax receipts for all these contributions. Once the full amount is achieved, it will be professionally invested by the ECF with the intent that a percentage of the growth will be disbursed every year to the charities we have chosen. Our aim is to name a few charities including the GDTA to be recipients of this fund.

This story does not necessarily end here since we can add more money to the endowment fund at any time during our lives. We can also designate in our wills that a specific amount or percentage of our estates go to this fund.  The remarkable thing about these endowment funds is that once they are set up, they will continue to grow over time and in turn, distribute monetary gifts to our chosen charities for as long as they remain in existence.

Speaking of wills and estates, I will again refer to my friends Jenny Feick and Ian Hatter who have recently named the GDTA in their wills as one of their beneficiaries.  I asked Jenny why she and Ian wanted to leave money to the GDTA.  She replied:

“Giving to the GDTA was a values-driven decision. I believe in and support the Great Divide Trail concept and the work of the Great Divide Trail Association to establish and maintain the GDT and seek a protected corridor along its route. I have a historic connection with the GDT and the GDTA as one of the so-called “originals” on the Project: Great Divide Trails crew in the summer of 1974. At the time we made the change in our wills, the GDTA had not yet regained its charitable status. Now that it has, I suppose there will be some benefits to my estate in terms of tax planning as well.”

I also asked her what she would say to GDTA supporters about bequests to charities.  Here is her answer:

“Bequeathing money to charities is a good way to leave a lasting legacy that reflects one’s beliefs and values and that benefits future generations…”

It is clear that a bequest to a charity in a will is a heartfelt way for a person to express their regard for an organization and its mission. It is also an avenue to leave a legacy that will live on in that organization. There are also clear tax advantages to an estate when a donation is made to a charity.

As you can see, donating is not a “one size fits all.” There are many meaningful ways to make a gift to the Great Divide Trail Association. I hope this article has provided some insight into how you can make a real difference in whatever way you choose to give.

Comments are closed.