Thinking outside of the box. Innovation. Empowerment. Adaptation to rapid change.
These are just a few of the words and phrases that guide donor Lucy Hensel when articulating the philanthropic vision behind her fund at the Ottawa Community Foundation. “While it’s very exciting to be living at this time in history, it is – and will continue to be – increasingly challenging,” she says. “Tackling key issues in our society is going to require some fresh thinking and new ideas as we challenge assumptions and move along the creativity spectrum to taking a more innovative approach to philanthropy.”
One of the Foundation’s most engaged donors, Lucy has used her advised fund to provide grants to numerous organizations over almost two decades, supporting a wide variety of projects and causes, from children’s mental health and education to Aboriginal and new immigrant services. In total, she has helped fund approximately 50 local initiatives delivered by such groups as iSisters Technology Mentoring, Pathways to Education and Centretown Laundry Co-op.
Over the last couple of years, Lucy has been working even more closely with Foundation staff to refine and evolve her grant-making strategy to support work that will lead to sustainable and transformative change within a particular segment of the population. Focusing on women and children, she wanted to make an ongoing commitment to organizations providing services in key areas that will help create more choices for them now, while raising their awareness of their own self-worth and leadership potential to ensure the next generation’s ability to adapt to a changing world.
“We need to be equipping people with the education and tools they need to not just eke out an existence, but to grow and flourish. Women and young people in our community need to be empowered to live sustainably with distinct voices and self-respect.” To this end, Lucy met with Foundation staff, attended site visits to charitable organizations, met with both service providers and their clients, and conducted her own extensive community research.
Since that time, grant-making from her fund has been concentrated on providing multi-year funding to support projects that empower women and children, assist communities in working together, address poverty through housing and shelter, and prepare young people for the future through skills development and training. As a result, organizations like Eco-Equitable, the Wabano Aboriginal Health Centre, OCISO and the City for all Women Initiative have been able to provide vital programs and services to their growing clientele that might not otherwise have received the required funding.
“By focusing her charitable giving on more long-term, sustainable initiatives, Lucy is able to see how her support can have a more enduring impact on the community,” says Bibi Patel, Vice-President of the Ottawa Community Foundation, “and she’s helped us to learn even more about the most pressing local needs by continually asking the harder questions, pushing the envelope, and making us think outside of the usual boxes. She’s also expressed interest in working with other donors and supporting organizational collaboration – she truly is an innovator in the field of community philanthropy.”
“Foundation staff have always been so helpful in informing me about both the challenges and opportunities that are most prevalent at any given time here in Ottawa,” says Lucy. “It’s really been a privilege to use my fund as a chance to dig deeper into the issues facing so many people in our midst, and to support some of the groundbreaking work being conducted by a legion of dedicated and unsung heroes on the frontlines of our community.”