The Victoria Foundation’s Gadsden Initiative brings together an innovative and engaged group, including GenX’ers and Millennials, to build relationships within the community through a series of learning sessions, networking and community activities.
The Gadsden Initiative started in 2019 and was inspired by Burges Gadsden, whose vision led to the creation of the Victoria Foundation in 1936. The program has had over 70 members and is in its third cohort. Participants take part in four core sessions while creating a permanent endowment fund and supporting the community through grant-making.
What does the Gadsden Initiative mean to its members? Here are thoughts from members of past cohorts:
In 2011, Andrew’s father died. He reflects on that moment and how it started his philanthropic journey. “I was always proud of my father, and he was always proud of me, and I wanted to continue that journey.”
Years later in 2022, he lost his mother whom he describes as an “earth angel.” Speaking of his parents, Andrew describes them as quiet and humble. He wanted “to make sure their name lives on one way or another.”
Andrew then decided to join the Gadsden Initiative. The program, Andrew says, is a chance for people to connect and get out in the community. One session had members, along with Andrew, touring the Mustard Seed Food Distribution Centre. It inspired him to make plans to volunteer at the centre.
“The Gadsden Initiative is a wonderful vehicle for me to expand my horizons in the city and make sure that the breadth of giving is there.”
When he turned 30, Bhupinder started wondering how he could remain involved in his community. He had always been involved in youth initiatives, now what?
“[I] hit this point of ‘what may I do to be involved in the community to still have an impact and give back in meaningful ways?’” He then discovered the Gadsden Initiative. It was a chance to involve his family, as they operated a family catering business and food played a large role in their lives. Through the program, they started a fund focused on food security.
The Gadsden Initiative allowed Bhupinder and his family to explore how they could give back to the community, together. “The biggest benefit of joining the Gadsden Initiative is conversation.”
For Lindsay, philanthropy is important because it helps her “appreciate what I have and realize that, at whatever level it is, I’m able to help and support other people.”
Joining the Gadsden Initiative, for Lindsay, was a chance to focus on areas that are important to her. This included food security, children’s health and domestic violence. The biggest benefit, she describes, is to connect with other people in the community and understand the needs in the community.
“It’s great to have the Victoria Foundation as that resource to really help us understand what’s happening in our community and where we could be of assistance.”
When you come together as a group, powerful things can happen. For Jenna, the Gadsden Initiative was a chance to gather as a group and find more meaning in philanthropy. It was a chance to have support and learn more about the community and the impact you can have through giving.
Reflecting on philanthropy, she says it’s important to name and honour the wonderful intention, no matter the level or amount. “There’s a culture shift that can happen there, it doesn’t matter if you’re donating ten dollars or thousands of dollars, that’s philanthropy.”
Marlena and Nick
“We did have a family member battling an illness and we were trying to think of a way we could honour her because we knew it was terminal,” says Marlena. When the opportunity of joining the Gadsden Initiative came to them, Marlena says it was a no-brainer. “We could give back to causes that mattered to her.
Marlena and Nick say the opportunity to learn from professionals and be around other like-minded people in the community was a highlight. For them, there was nothing more important than giving back and being able to leave something behind that will help people when you’re not there.
“A lot of people don’t really understand what philanthropy is or what it means,” says Marlena. It doesn’t just have to be about giving cash, it can be “giving your time, sharing a skill or a talent. Time is a big gift.”
Learn more about the Gadsden Initiative and a new generation of global citizens today and see the full videos from these five members on the Victoria Foundation website.