Non Profits — 19 June 2012

Imagine someone who is called a “Canadian Pioneer”– and an 18th century picture might pop in your head. Some hearty European immigrant who comes west to become a fur trader, a forester, a miner, or a rancher.

Fast forward to the 21st century and a different type of pioneer might come to mind, like Canadian born Jack Warner, who started the Warner Brothers studio, or sure to be NBA Hall of Famer Steve Nash, who has redefined the point guard position in basketball.

Today, a real-life Canadian pioneer named Tony Myers is plying his trade in a much different way. Myers is trying to change the face of Canadian philanthropy.

Myers, who has earned a PhD in Philanthropy and Development, has been working hard with colleagues on a national committee to establish a graduate program in development and philanthropy in his native country. The efforts are paying off. The first Masters program in Philanthropy and Development will be set up at Carleton University in Ottawa.

Myers is excited about it.

He’s been involved in higher education development for many years and pursued his doctorate for two reasons.

“One is that I have a lifelong thirst for in-depth knowledge,” said Myers. “The other is that I felt I had to show university leaders that I had the credential and the credibility in my field if I was asking them to invest in the creation of a graduate program.”

Like most pioneers, Myers has a true entrepreneurial spirit. He opened his own firm nearly five years ago. Myers and Associates and has offices inEdmontonandCalgary. He has been advising clients since.

Myers, who has worked extensively in the United States, points out while there are numerous similarities that there’s a big difference between the U.S. and Canada when it comes to philanthropy. It goes back to the founding tenets of each country.

“Canadians are by our very nature more collective,” said Myers.  “Our Constitution talks about peace, order and good government.”

The U.S., he believes, underscore the importance of the individual and cites the Declaration of Independence’s words of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” as seminal thoughts that capture the American spirit.

So it makes sense to him that philanthropy is going to be different too.

“We’ve learned quite a bit about it from our neighbors to the south,” smiled Myers. “But we have always had our own way of doing things and it’s no different in philanthropy.”

A recent article in Philanthropy Daily indicated that Canadians give less to charities than theUnited States. There are a lot of possible reasons for that, according to the article.

The trend of charitable giving is definitely on the upswing in Canada. IMPACT, which follows charitable giving in Canada, reports that the trend for giving in Canada is improving and that fewer non-profit organizations are under the economic stress that they were as little as two years ago.

Myers is aware of all this data. He firmly believes that the creation of a new generation of Canadian expertise in philanthropy will not only help his field, but improve the financial health of the non-profits who do the good work in education, environment, health, science and technology and the social sciences that inspire Myers in his own work.

Tony Myers, dressed in a nice suit talking with corporate leaders, may not be your picture of a Canadian pioneer, but he sure is acting like one.

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