Winnipegger Craig McIntosh is inspired by Warren Buffet – as much for the business magnate’s ability to earn billions of dollars, as for his commitment to giving it all away.
“I’m a bit of a follower of Warren Buffet,” says McIntosh. “Every year I go to the Berkshire [Hathaway conglomerate’s] annual meeting in Omaha. [Buffett]’s very good about teaching why he’s done things. He talked about how to think about giving money and the great thing was he said ‘if you’re going to give money, make sure it has a meaningful purpose’.”
That led McIntosh, and his wife Lorraine Beck, to think about the difference they could make with their own giving.
“We certainly don’t have Warren’s billions to give away,” laughs McIntosh.
“[But] it got us focused. Prior to that, we gave to causes that popped up. [But we thought] ‘can we give money to causes where we can make a tangible difference?’”
Mr. McIntosh and Ms. Beck narrowed in on education as an opportunity with impact. A member of the Board of Governors for Balmoral Hall, a private university preparatory school for girls, Mr. McIntosh saw potential in students and their futures.
The couple wondered: “If we could tie our giving to the education of an individual, could that change a life?”
So, they started providing a supplemental bursary to enable students to attend Balmoral Hall who wouldn’t otherwise have the means.
They also started providing scholarships to help students in Virden, where Mr. McIntosh grew up. Initially, those scholarships were modest, he says. But, because youth outside Winnipeg face additional barriers to post-secondary education – the expense of travel or living away from home – he learned that a few hundred dollars often wasn’t enough to provide real assistance.
“I sort of realized that whatever you gave was nice, but it really wasn’t changing the direction of any of these students,” says Mr. McIntosh. So, he met with the school guidance counsellor to talk about deepening the impact of his giving.
“I asked: ‘would a $5,000 scholarship make a difference?’ I was trying to draw the connection between my gift and them actually changing their lives,” he says. Making a larger investment also gives Mr. McIntosh and Ms. Beck a stronger sense of connection to the individual and his or her outcome, he says.
The couple also supports students at the University of Winnipeg’s Collegiate Model School. The program offers 50 students, from grades nine to 12, a high school experience designed to maximize their potential and support their success. Participants are identified by nonprofit organizations and public schools as having promise but facing barriers that may hinder their completion of high school in a typical setting.
Employing a variety of teaching strategies, the Model School offers creative, engaging and culturally relevant opportunities to students who tend to be from Indigenous, newcomer and inner city communities.
Students receive a full bursary and the costs of transportation, nutrition, equipment and recreation are covered. They can also earn tuition credits toward attending the University of Winnipeg after graduation.
Now, Mr. McIntosh and Ms. Beck route their support for these students – and many other causes – through a Donor Advised Fund at The Winnipeg Foundation. In 2013, after learning from a professional advisor about the variety of options available at the Foundation, the couple decided to establish the Craig McIntosh and Lorraine Beck Fund. They’ve structured their fund so that a portion of their gifts is permanently endowed to address future needs, and the rest used for immediate granting.
In addition to education, they also use their fund to support causes close to their hearts, such as Manitoba Opera. The fund helps simplify their annual giving and tax filing, says Mr. McIntosh.
“The flexibility is what I like,” he says. “And also that I’m not chasing a bunch of tax receipts. This becomes much simpler as a single source.”
It also provides an opportunity for their children to get involved and build a tradition of family philanthropy.
“We spend time with them to help them understand the kinds of things we’re supporting and why we’re supporting them. And we try to show them the outcome,” says Mr. McIntosh.
Recommending Donor First
Craig McIntosh uses The Winnipeg Foundation’s online donor platform, DonorFirst, to manage all aspects of his Fund. One of the first donors to adopt the free tool, he says it’s a quick and easy way to keep track of his fund balance, review granting history and make grant recommendations in a timely manner.
“I find it very useful because you always know what’s available to give. You can see what you’ve given in the past. When you decide to make a gift, it’s incredibly easy to do it,” says Mr. McIntosh.
Photo of Warren Buffet by Mark Hirschey
Photo of McIntosh/Beck family by Ian McCausland