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News

Celebrating Philanthropy

September 10, 2013

I had the opportunity recently to speak to the supporters and the first incoming class of the new Master’s of Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership program offered at Carleton University—the first degree of its kind in Canada, the value of which cannot be understated. 

Universities have always looked to the future, reacting to and predicting societal shifts and trying to prepare students to live, work, think and thrive in the new reality. While philanthropy, in one form or another, has been around for centuries, it is constantly evolving, changing to meet the times. 

And we must evolve with it. 

As more and more students work to obtain this master’s degree, I believe that education, combined with practical experience, will allow them to be the leaders that philanthropy needs. It will allow them not only to react to trends, but also to create them. They will be affecting the changing face of philanthropy.

And in this respect, there is so much to consider. 

As governor general, I have spoken with many Canadians, those who have achieved success and those who are struggling, and with so many others besides. In my conversations with them, I have been heartened to note that regardless of their circumstances, people want to give back. They all have ideals, they have goals, they have vision. They have passion and energy, and the desire to make this country a better place to live. 

Canadians are united under their convictions: to helping others, to giving freely of their time and talent, not to mention their resources, to create a stronger country. 

Yet, even with all we have accomplished, we must recognize the challenges we still face. We must still address serious social and societal issues, such as poverty and mental illness. 

What Canada needs, what philanthropy needs, is both the future and established leaders of third sector organizations—including future graduates of this program—people willing to delve into community problems and seek solutions. 

In his book, Why Philanthropy Matters, Zoltan J. Acs, professor at George Mason University in the United States, writes that “Philanthropy . . . is part of the implicit social contract that continuously nurtures and revitalizes a society.” 

As a member of the philanthropic community, students and community leaders can make a real contribution to strengthening and revitalizing the contract, for themselves and for others. In addition, they have a great responsibility to maintain it so that we can improve the world around us. 

Let me give an example of this responsibility. Many philanthropists are speaking more and more about the impact of their giving. They want their donations to mean something, to count in the long run. They want to see a return on investment of social change. 

And they will look to the leaders of philanthropy and non-profit organizations to spend wisely, to think innovatively and to leave a lasting impact that can be measured. 

That is why professionalism and ethics are two fundamentals to be absorbed by students of this degree, and to be adhered to rigorously as they practise this profession.  

They hold an important role, and thus must ensure that the highest standards are met. It is not a commitment made lightly, but it is one well worth the effort.

The students of this program are embarking on a long journey, one that has its share of challenges, but also one that is very rewarding. 

When we work together, we can build a better Canada in which we can all thrive. This is not an abstract concept; I have seen it for myself. 

I wish the first class of this master’s program the best of luck in their studies. And I would also like to thank Carleton for creating a program in which Canadians can learn to become the future leaders that philanthropic and non-profit organizations need. 

David Johnston