EPCOR’s Community Essentials Council was a fantastic experience

I wrapped up my term on EPCOR’s Community Essentials Council (ECEC) a couple of weeks ago with the final meeting of 2012. Some members had three year terms and will be continuing while the rest of us have made way for a new group of EPCOR employees and community representatives to take part. The ECEC was officially announced in May 2011 with the goal of enhancing EPCOR’s commitment to the communities it serves:

We’re committed to supporting the communities where we operate. In 2011, we established the EPCOR Community Essentials Council (ECEC) with the objective of creating a positive impact in our communities. The ECEC includes community leaders and EPCOR employees who meet quarterly to award up to $100,000 to selected eligible applicants.  The ECEC donates up to $400,000 per year.

Before the Q4 2012 meeting, the ECEC had already donated over $598,766 to 34 organizations. You can see some of the amazing programs and organizations that we’ve supported here.

ECEC 2012
From left to right: Jeffrey Lloyd, Liz O’Neill, Mack Male, Matthew Herder, Jamie Pytel, Brian Gerdes, Patti Lefebvre, Ruth Kelly, Simon Farbrother, Frank Mannarino, Not pictured: Robert Walker

Every quarter we met to review applications from a wide range of organizations. Over time we became more efficient at the adjudication process, but it never got any easier to decide against a worthy cause. I feel really fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn about so many of the great things happening in our community (for instance, I got to teach kindergarten). I also had the opportunity to learn about some of the challenges our community faces. There’s a lot of work to be done.

Getting to know my fellow council members was definitely a highlight of the experience. We all came from different perspectives, but everyone was pumped about the opportunity to help EPCOR make a difference, and I think we worked really well together. I felt pretty honored to be at the same table as all of them. Ruth Kelly served as our chair and she set the tone and kept us on track. The ECEC is lucky to have her!

I want to thank everyone at EPCOR who has worked on making the ECEC possible, but I especially want to thank Diane Allen. I know she put a lot of work into the ECEC and clearly it has paid off. Her contributions cannot be understated, and I’m very grateful that she was there to guide us through the process. I can’t wait to see which interesting challenges she decides to tackle next!

My seat on the council was the “Youth Representative” position, and I’m very happy to share that fellow Top 40 Under 40 alum Emmy Stuebing will be taking my place. She is currently the Executive Director of the Alberta Emerald Foundation and loves to get involved in the community, volunteering her time for a number of causes. She brings a lot of experience to the ECEC and I know she’ll have a positive impact.

You can learn more about the ECEC here and you can sign up for the quarterly e-newsletter here. If your organization would like to apply for ECEC funding, make sure you qualify and have a link to at least one of EPCOR’s three pillars for community support, then fill out the application form online.

EPCOR Community Essentials Council

At EPCOR’s Annual General Meeting yesterday, the EPCOR Community Essentials Council (ECEC) was officially announced:

“The EPCOR Community Essentials Council provides funding to not-for-profit groups who’s initiatives directly align with EPCOR’s water and wires businesses, and our mandate of delivering life essentials to customers and the community,” said Don Lowry, EPCOR President and CEO. “We are pleased that our new Council is able to help strengthen the communities where EPCOR operates.”

As Graham Hicks wrote today, “imitation is the most sincere form of flattery.” One could argue that TELUS has certainly led the way when it comes to community investment here in Edmonton, and during his remarks yesterday Don Lowry gave credit to the TELUS Community Boards for setting the example. I think it’s fantastic that EPCOR has revamped its approach to community investment, and I think the creation of the ECEC is a wonderful thing for Edmonton and all of the other communities EPCOR serves.

I’m very honored and happy to be a part of the inaugural council. It’s an incredible group of people!

EPCOR Community Essentials Council

From left-to-right: Matthew Herder, Utility Worker, Distribution and Transmission, EPCOR; Elizabeth O’Neill, Executive Director, Big Brothers Big Sisters; Mack Male, Software Engineering Manager, Questionmark Computing & Founder, Paramagnus Developments; Robert Walker, Vice President, Building Division (Northern Alberta), Ledcor Construction Ltd.; Jamie Pytel, Acting Associate General Council & Acting Assistant Corporate Secretary, EPCOR; Jeffrey Lloyd, Vice President, Stantec Consulting Ltd.; Ruth Kelly, Chair, EPCOR Community Essentials Council, President & Publisher, Venture Publishing Inc.; Frank Mannarino, Divisional Vice President, Water Operations, EPCOR; Leigh-Anne Palter, Vice Chair, EPCOR Community Essentials Council, Vice President, Public & Government Affairs, EPCOR; Simon Farbrother, City Manager, City of Edmonton; Patti Lefebvre, Dean, Faculty of Foundational & Intercultural Studies, NorQuest College.

The council supports initiatives that align with EPCOR’s community investment philosophy:

EPCOR’s Community Essentials Council (ECEC) will support initiatives which PROVIDE MORE of the ESSENTIALS required to enhance the quality of life in the communities EPCOR serves.  The most essential elements of strong communities and strong families are:  Food (Water); Shelter (Safety and Energy); and Education. These three elements are the pillars of EPCOR’s new community investment approach.

Here’s a video introducing the ECEC:

It’s important to note that the ECEC is just one of the ways that EPCOR supports worthy causes in our community. The company will continue with sponsorships and other partnerships as well. For example, EPCOR is the Season Sponsor of the Citadel Theatre, and that won’t change as a result of the creation of the ECEC.

EPCOR AGM

We recently had our first meeting and worked through the applications totaling more than $400,000. Our chair, Ruth Kelly, did a great job of facilitating the meeting. It certainly wasn’t easy, but in the end we awarded grants totaling $100,000 to seven worthy projects. It was great to meet Kyle Dube, Executive Director at YOUCAN Edmonton, and a few of the other recipients at yesterday’s AGM! You can see the full list of recipients here.

I knew about many of the organizations that had applied, but was quite pleased to be able to learn about some new ones too. There are so many amazing initiatives underway! If your organization would like to apply for funding from the ECEC, you can learn more and fill out the form here (also check out the FAQ for applicants). You can also seek sponsorship or other long-term support from EPCOR as well.

Thanks to EPCOR and ECEC Chair Ruth Kelly for the opportunity to be a part of this great initiative! You can learn more about the ECEC here.

Tough times for Edmonton charities

Times are tough right now if you’re a charitable organization. Here in Edmonton, the outlook is pretty grim for a number of organizations:

Add up the above numbers, and Edmonton charities are short about $3 million. That’s a lot of money. The scary part is that I’m sure there are more than I haven’t been able to find yet.

The two bright spots I’ve seen are Santas Anonymous, which said it would meet the demand this year, and Stuff-A-Bus, which exceeded its goal.

While the news is terrible, it’s not that surprising. Last year donations across Canada dropped 5.3% from 2007 to $8.19 billion, the lowest figure since 2005. I’m sure we’ll see a similar or perhaps larger drop for overall giving in 2009. The fact is, philanthropy is a lagging indicator. This data is from the US but I think it applies to us too:

During the last 40 years, according to data provided by Giving USA, charitable giving fell in real terms (i.e., adjusted for inflation) in years in which the economy was in recession, or in years in which there was a significant stock market dislocation. Giving fell in 1980, 1987, and 1990. The last time the economy contracted was in 2001. That year, according to Giving USA, charitable giving fell 2.3 percent in real terms, after having boomed along with the stock markets and the economy at large in the late 1990s. But while the economy resumed its growth in late 2001, charitable giving slumped in real terms in both 2001 (down 1.4 percent) and 2003 (down 0.2 percent).

It’s a lagging indicator because charitable donations are seen as a luxury. You pay your bills first, then you make a donation. Not everyone sees it that way, of course, but on the whole, that’s the reality.

Hopefully that means local charities will have a better year in 2010.

There’s still time to help this holiday season! Here’s how:

The 50 Most Generous Philanthropists

Post ImageBusinessWeek has once again come up with their annual list of the 50 most generous philanthropists, and for the first time in a while, Bill and Melinda Gates do not top the list! They were unseated this year by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore and his wife Betty. From the Drudge Report:

The Moores, like a growing number of big givers, take a businesslike approach to philanthropy. Rather than throwing money at problems, they try to ensure the most productive use of their dollars by funding projects they believe can produce “significant and measurable” results. This desire for accountability is one of the most important themes in this year’s top 50 individual donors list.

The complete list and associated articles will be available in the November 28th issue of BusinessWeek which hits newstands on Monday. Looking at the top 26 on the Drudge Report page, I see that seven of them are technology-related like Microsoft, Intel, and eBay. Some of the other companies represented include Home Depot, Wal-Mart, CNN, and Bloomberg. It’s interesting to juxtapose this list with the Forbes ranking of the wealthiest people in the world. Some individuals are on both, while others are quite notably absent. I guess philanthropy isn’t for everyone though.

Read: BusinessWeek