Philanthropy & Community Involvement: Making a Difference

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Ashleay: In a context of inflation where everything is increasing, where households are experiencing financial insecurity and where interest rates are also rising, there's a certain pressure on families and individuals leading them to make choices. What's encouraging is that statistics seem to show that in times of crisis, such as the one we're currently experiencing, needs increase, but so does the solidarity of those who can afford to give. So how can we participate in this surge of solidarity? We can do so individually, but do organizations have a role to play too? We'll be talking about this today with our guest, Catherine Tardif. Hi, Catherine.

Catherine: Hi, Ashleay. Thank you for inviting me.

Sébastien: Hello Catherine, it's good to have you here. We’d love to hear about your role.

Catherine: Yes, well, actually, I have the privilege to be the Chief of Philanthropy here at iA. You know, for us, it’s fundamental to give back to our community. It's really part of our DNA. That's why we donate a percentage of our profits to charities across the country working in the field. And I'm really lucky enough to lead this program. And, you know, the idea is to contribute and to try to make a little difference in the lives of people in need.

Sébastien: So, you're the interface between all of the organizations out there that can benefit from such a philanthropic program?

Catherine: Yes, exactly. So, we have charities across the country that request our help or financial support. So we analyze the different requests and when it fits with our policy we happily donate to these different charities.

Ashleay: Yeah, and we're very proud to be part of such a committed organization. Catherine, what do you think motivates companies to get involved and have a philanthropy program like ours?

Catherine: Yeah, I would talk about three different elements. The first one for me would be social responsibility. Companies would make the choice of setting aside a philanthropy budget to first meet their social responsibilities to the communities they serve. So by investing first in charities or community development projects, companies help improve the quality of life of people in the regions where they operate. That would be, for me, the first element. And oftentimes I say, you know, that philanthropy should not be seen as an expense for organizations. They should see it as an investment. So, for me that’s really important. And secondly, supporting the values. So, for example, for us, we support charities in the health sector, environment sector, education and social services. Why? Because for us these are the pillars that we hold, you know, close to our hearts. That's part of our philanthropic values. So, I think that you need to see consistency between companies’ values and their philanthropic actions, for me, that's key. A third element for me, would be that a company's social involvement fosters a sense of pride and engagement among its employees. So, a company that is really involved, engaged, that gives back, that brings engagement and pride, you know, for the employees.

Sébastien: And a company can act as a catalyst for charity. You know, if you want to give, but sometimes we don't have time, we don’t know how, we don’t know where. Well, if your company has programs like that, then it becomes easy to just join those programs. So there’s a catalyst effect that’s good. And also in this world of scarcity of labour, when you want to hire younger people, they tend to be more, let’s say, sensitive to the environmental impact that the company can have and also the societal impact. So, when you have such programs in place, it tends to give you an edge when it’s time to recruit the talents of tomorrow.

Ashleay: Yes. And for the talents that are already in the teams, I think it’s an opportunity for team building when we volunteer also. For example, at our company, we have a day where we all kind of volunteer—we can kind of do any kind of good that we want to or that we can do together. I think that’s great, while helping the community. And some communities like ours put forward fundraising campaigns within their organizations, maybe you could tell us a little bit more about those.

Catherine: Yes, of course. And you’re right, Ashleay. And because I think that if the company doesn’t show the example, it’s difficult at the end of the day to ask employees to, you know, be generous. So, I really believe that the company must, you know, show by example. You were talking about fundraising—I think about United Way, or Centraide. They do an amazing job supporting organizations, you know, for their employee campaigns. And it's easy to donate via these kinds of fundraising because it can be done via payroll deduction. It's as simple as that. It's a couple of dollars or more, you know, per pay. You don't see it coming out. It's super easy, a few dollars. Not much financial impact for the employee, but it's a major impact on the field. So, it's the force of the group that comes together and makes a difference. And it's really powerful.

Sébastien: Yeah, and it stacks up if you have a few dollars per employee, but you have 5,000, 10,000 employees, that's the catalyst effect that I was mentioning. And a company can have this kind of power.

Catherine: Yeah, for sure. It doesn't have to be a big company. It can be a medium-sized, a small company. The idea is just, you know, bring employees together and try to make a difference.

Sébastien: And get the ball rolling.

Ashleay: Yeah. And beyond corporate opportunities, for citizens like us, yes, it's possible to donate money, but there are certainly other ways to get involved. If our situation no longer allows us to donate or give as much money as we used to, especially like us, we're lucky, we have alignment between corporate and potentially giving some of our time. Do you have any leads for us, Catherine, other than monetary donations?

Catherine: Yes, I do, and while there is no small donation, because every donation counts, there's other ways to contribute. The first thing that comes to mind for me is volunteering. Simple, if you have time to do it, and it can be a few hours per week, a few hours per month, it does make a difference. And how you can do that, you can simply contact charities around your home, in your community. Ask where the needs are. We were talking about inflation before. You know, that puts pressure obviously on citizens, but it also puts pressure on the charities that, you know, they have limited resources. Sometimes it's one person that does, you know, 4 or 5 jobs in the charity. So, they need oxygen and they need hands. And if I may, I can talk about a personal experience where my son went to volunteer at a food bank, La Bouchée Généreuse in Quebec, not to name it. So, he only gave, you know, three, four hours. But the general manager said to me, you know, these three, four hours that your son did, that he was working in the food bank—I had the time to do other things. I had the time to go knock on doors and ask for, you know, donations. So, time is money.

Sébastien: Okay, and, you know, we always talk about inflation and the cost of living in this podcast here. And Catherine, we were talking before and you mentioned the statistics from Statcan that said that nearly 7 million Canadians went hungry at some point last year, and some even went without food for one or more days due to rising inflation. So, of course, government can help. But, you know, all of these organizations that we're mentioning here can also help, because if you remember, Ashleay, we had Isabelle Genest, the president from Centraide here in the region of Quebec or United Way, and she mentioned that they do bring people to the grocery store and help them, you know, figure out how to eat well, even though food now is much pricier than it was a few years back. So, it can make a very direct, concrete impact in the lives of many.

Catherine: Yes, for sure. And you know, while some charities need hands, other charities need more specialized knowledge. If you have knowledge, you can offer your expertise and put your skills to good use within charities. I'm thinking, for example, of a charity called Bénévoles d’Expertise here in Quebec City. What they do is that they match an expert volunteer with a charity precisely to encourage knowledge transfer. So that's another way to contribute. Obviously, you can also get involved by tutoring, donate blood, plasma. These are concrete actions that for me have a direct impact.

Ashleay: And also, with the holidays approaching once again, you know, lots of spending to come for individuals and families. Do you have any ideas for the people listening to us on how to consume responsibly and socially?

Catherine: Yes, a few ideas that can come to mind. I talk, I think about the reverse Advent calendar. It's unlike the usual Advent calendar that we all know about. The idea is to put an item that's no longer in use in a box each day and donate it for Christmas, so that's a fun way, you know, to help others. And it's a tangible activity. And you know, you can get all the family involved. You can also offer an experience as a gift. I really enjoy doing that. It's rather than, you know, buying something material. You offer an experience like a cooking class or an outdoor activity. You can also offer a second-hand product. You know, second-hand products offer an excellent alternative to new products. You can choose a second-hand item in good condition. You can also offer a subscription, a monthly subscription to a magazine, for instance, or a fruit and vegetable basket from local producers. So, these are different things that can be done.

Sébastien: I might be the ignorant one in the room, but I didn't know that you could subscribe to locally grown vegetable or fruit baskets. That's a very good idea.

Ashleay: Yeah, no. It’s fantastic. It’s kind of like the Jelly of the Month Club in “Christmas Vacation”. But this is local.

Sébastien: Okay, alright. I have no idea what reference you're talking about here.

Ashleay: I'll help you out, I know what to buy you for Christmas. Alright, so that's it for our inspiring episode on social responsibility and philanthropy. Many thanks to our guest, Catherine, Head of Philanthropy at iA Financial Group, for enlightening us on the importance of giving back to the community.


Sébastien has nearly 20 years of experience in the public and private sectors. In addition to his roles as Chief Strategist and Senior Economist, he is an iAGAM portfolio manager and a member of the firm’s Asset Allocation Committee. All of these roles allow him to put his passion for numbers, words, and communication to good use. Sébastien also acts as iA Financial Group’s spokesperson and guest speaker on economic and financial matters. Before joining iA in 2013, he held various economic roles at the Autorité des marchés financiers, Desjardins, and the Québec ministry of finance. He completed a master’s degree and doctoral studies in economics at Laval University and is a CFA charterholder.

Sébastien Mc Mahon and Catherine Tardif

This podcast should not be copied or reproduced. Opinions expressed in this podcast are based on actual market conditions and may change without prior warning. The aim is in no way to make investment recommendations. The forecasts given in this podcast do not guarantee returns and imply risks, uncertainty and assumptions. Although we are comfortable with these assumptions, there is no guarantee that they will be confirmed.

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2024-06-14 12:57 EDT
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