John Longhurst: Passion for Giving Passed Down Through Generations

Credit: IStock

by John Longhurst

For Alain Reimer, learning to be generous started when he was a child. “We were taught that giving was just a part of life,” he says of what his parents told their children.

On Sundays, when the family attended church, he remembers being given money to put in the Sunday school offering. “If we had something, we shared it,” he says. “Seeing my parents and grandparents always being generous was extremely influential . . . it absolutely ingrained a spirit of generosity in me.”

His parents also emphasized the importance of service; when he was in high school Alain’s family spent a Christmas break in Mexico building a house for a family in need. “That was my first experience with poverty, and it really taught me that not everyone in the world gets to live the way we do,” he says. “It really gave me a desire to give.”

Alain’s wife, Emily, had a similar experience growing up when her family spent a spring break in New Orleans rebuilding houses affected by Hurricane Katrina. “I loved being able to help in that way,” she says.

Their experiences filled the two with gratitude for what they have—and a conviction to help those in need. So, when the southern Manitoba couple married, they made a commitment to live generously.

To help guide their decision, the Reimers opened a donor-advised fund, called a Flexible Gifting Account, with Abundance Canada. Through the account, the Reimers automatically deposit a portion of each pay-cheque every month.

They receive regular statements and a charitable tax receipt for funds added to their account. They can give immediately through it, or at another time, to any charity of their choosing. “I always had in my head that I wanted to have a bank account where I could put a portion of a pay-cheque away for charity,” Alain says. “It was exactly what I’d been dreaming of.”

Recently, the Reimers had an opportunity to travel to Haiti and visit some of the areas where they had contributed to reconstruction efforts. “Seeing the impact on the people we’ve given to have brought us so much joy,” says Emily. “The results of our generosity brought us more joy than we would have ever gotten out of that money had we spent it on ourselves.”

A year ago the Reimers welcomed their first child; they want to pass on the same values for giving that they were taught. “We want to live in such a way that our kids see us worrying more about others than ourselves,” Alain says.

“Generosity doesn’t just happen—it is learned and strengthened through practice,” says Brad Friesen, a gift planning consultant at Abundance Canada. With a flexible gifting account, donors can be strategic about their charitable giving, he explains.

“Whether it’s immediate, a long-term gift throughout a lifetime or potentially a legacy gift in an estate, it’s the donor that advises the timing and the charities they wish to support,” he says. As well, he adds, it’s a practical way for families to model generosity to future generations.

“As children grow, parents can involve their children in the charitable decision-making process, giving them an opportunity to take part and see the benefits of giving,” he shares. “Gifting accounts are an excellent way to make sure the whole family is engaged in learning about and practising generosity.”

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John Longhurst

With offices in Kitchener, Winnipeg, Calgary and Abbotsford, Abundance Canada is a donor-advised public foundation that enables Canadians to achieve their generosity goals though services such as flexible gifting accounts. For more information, contact startgiving@abundance.ca.

John Longhurst is a freelance writer.

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