I’ve met two kinds of people in the 18 years I’ve been an EO member. Those making a mark and leaving a legacy, and those who seem to think they have to be Bill or Melinda Gates to make a lasting impact. This is not true. In my experience, establishing a foundation is a great way to give back!
Like Peter Thomas, EO’s Chairman Emeritus, I suffered a personal tragedy in the death of my son, Paul. Peter shared with me his own personal journey and the establishment of the Todd Thomas Foundation, an educational foundation to raise awareness about the magnitude of mental illness. And this inspired me to establish the Paul Hansell Foundation, to promote programs supporting the mental and emotional wellbeing of youths.
To begin with, I needed a setup with a turnkey operation that is easy to establish and maintain. I learned some foundations, like the ones run in my city, allow fund management without bureaucratic administrative work. This means a busy entrepreneur can engage a fund and have it deal with tax deductions, administration, accounting and regulations reporting — all the red tape that would put one off. What’s more, these foundations — popular around the world — only charge a low fee to manage the fund and are flexible enough for you to direct usage of the fund’s proceeds. If you are establishing a foundation and using a managed service, it’s crucial that you’ve weighed the administrative charge with the work that will be delivered. It was an absolute no-brainer for me, considering my schedule and abilities.
I think there are two main drivers in setting up a foundation or charity: Its mission needs to be compelling on a personal level — this empowers you to overcome any hurdles or issues that may crop up — and the foundation or charity’s objectives need to be relevant to the community at large.
My foundation was set up in honor of Paul. In 2010, when he was a first-year accounting student at Brock University, Paul took his own life. We were really close and there weren’t any outward warning signs. While we will never know for sure why he did it, we often wonder how things would have been different if mental health and wellness was a part of our everyday conversations. Not only is mental health an overlooked issue in our community, it resonates with friends and family who knew Paul.
Now, I get a deep sense of fulfillment whenever I see and hear that we are making a difference. This foundation model was a win-win — for myself, as a busy entrepreneur, and for the community, as funds are now available to support specific interests and causes. Creating a foundation of your own can be a pathway for you to leave a legacy too.