Our Foundation was created in 1995 by Joan VanDuzer, with a gift of $150,000.
Because it was a very small endowment but with the promise of future funds, and because she had had some experience volunteering in a developing country through Crossroads Africa (now Canadian Crossroads International), it was felt that a small grant could have greater effect outside Canada. We comply with Revenue Canada rules that all grants given by charitable foundations must be given through a Canadian registered charity.
‘Harbinger’ means change, things to come. For us, we are hopeful that this will be positive change.
Her family has been involved in philanthropy since her grandfather, The Hon. Ray Lawson, created ‘The Lawson Foundation’ in 1955. On the death of her father Col. Tom Lawson in 1991, she became president of this foundation. At that time it was about $28 million, now it is about $130 million and is one of the bigger foundations in Canada.
The Harbinger Foundation is a family foundation, with Joan and her three children meeting regularly to develop policy and to agree upon recommended grants. Advisors, particularly Tides Canada, Andrea Derbecker (Métis), and recently Catherine Carpenko, help us make informed and sound decisions.
It seemed like giving away money would be an easy thing to do. “Playing Santa Claus” was how one friend put it. However, the task and opportunity of “giving away money” has proven to be a very challenging job.
Over the years, the foundation has evolved, as has the philosophy of effective philanthropy. We hope this effort at sharing what we do and why we do it will be of interest to you.
The Foundation has given more than $5.5 million over its lifetime. It stands at about $8 million in 2019.
In 2006, we were honoured to receive the award from the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Greater Toronto Chapter.