At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we believe every child should have the opportunity to reach his or her full potential – both as individuals and citizens. We believe that by changing the course of young lives we can in turn be changing the course of a community’s future.
Start Talking is a place where we want to raise awareness of key issues that face today’s youth. We will sometimes advocate, sometimes educate, sometimes inform, sometimes ask questions and always invite discussion about the pressing concerns that involve the younger generations of today.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Canadians give but don’t take [advantage of the tax] credit

By Bill Schaper

Canadians are generous people. The latest available statistics show that in 2010 some 84% of Canadians donated a total of $10.6 billion to charities, an average of $446 each. Their main motivations for giving are to help those in need, to support causes they believe in, and to contribute to their communities.

Governments across Canada provide generous support for people who claim donations against their income tax. The federal tax credit is 15% for donations below $200, and 29% for donations above $200. Combined with provincial tax credits, this significantly reduces the cost of making a donation.

But proportionately, not very many Canadians take advantage of the tax credit. In 2010, only 23.4% claimed the charitable tax credit, down significantly from the almost 30% who did so in 1990.

Most people aren’t motivated to give by the tax credit, so why should it matter whether they claim it, as long as they keep on giving?

Here’s what the tax credit means for someone making that average donation of $446. Depending on where you live, the after-tax cost of that $446 donation ranges from $262 for Quebec residents, to $308 for someone living in Nunavut. If someone is already generous, but wants to do even more, claiming the tax credit means more money in their pocket that they can donate to their favourite cause.

And for people that haven’t been donating, maybe because they think they can’t afford to, or who haven’t been claiming tax credits – the system is even more generous for the next few years. In 2013 the federal government announced the First-Time Donor’s Super Credit, which adds an extra 25% to the charitable tax credit for eligible donors. If someone qualifies, that $446 average donation will actually only cost them anywhere from $151 to $197.

Fewer than one-quarter of Canadians cite the tax credit as a reason for donating, and fewer than one-quarter claim the tax credit. Perhaps they believe that it isn’t appropriate to be “rewarded” for doing good. But seen in a different light, the tax credit is actually a very effective tool to help people who are already supporting their communities, to direct tax dollars that they would have paid into organizations and causes that they believe are having a real impact. To calculate your own charitable tax credit, use this CanadaHelps tax calculator.

The baby boom generation – statistically the most generous donors – is retiring, which means less disposable income for many of them. This, combined with the challenges of engaging younger Canadians who have different ways of expressing their commitment to their communities – not to mention, different financial pressures than previous generations have faced – creates new challenges in ensuring that donations stay at a level that allows charities to make the enormous contributions they do to our communities and quality of life. Thinking more strategically about our giving, and about the impact that tax credits can have on our giving, is a vital piece of the puzzle.
Photo Credit: mariacasa via Compfight cc

This post originally appeared on CanadaHelps’ givinglife and Imagine Canada's blog.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ten Years of a Sister’s Love

by Catherine Ward

The year 2013 marks ten years that I have been matched with my Big Sister. In April 2003, Shannon came to my house and met me for the very first time. She has had a huge impact on the person I am today. Growing up, I never thought I would have the chance to do the things other kids got to do with their families. I did not have my mother in my life, and I only got to see my dad every second week. My grandparents had raised me, but they were unable to do the things parents would normally do with their kids because of health issues.

Shannon became my match when I was eleven years old. From the day I met her, I knew it was fate. She became someone I could look up to, and someone I wanted to be like someday. She took time out of her life and gave it to a little girl who just wanted to be a kid. We did numerous activities together, from as little as a movie at her house to as adventurous as a camping trip.

Now that I am an adult, our relationship has grown tremendously. Just over a year ago, I had the honour of being the emcee at her wedding to a man who is now like a brother to me, and only a month ago I became an aunt to her first child. Today, I do not consider her just my sister through a mentoring program; I consider her my sister.

Shannon has been one of the biggest influences in my life. She has motivated me to strive for the best and always offered her hand when I needed it. She was there for every moment in my life and will continue to be there for every moment to come.

I would just like to say thank you to Big Brothers Big Sisters Canada for giving me a mentor, a motivator, a caring hand, a listening ear, a best friend, and a sister. This program has been a hugely life-changing experience, and I would not change it for the world. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Monday, March 10, 2014

How Far Have We Come, Really?

“Of all the evils for which man has made himself responsible, none is so degrading, so shocking or so brutal as his abuse of the better half of humanity; the female sex.” – Mahatma Ghandi

When I tell my two children, boys aged 9 and 7, that there was a time when women couldn’t vote – they look at me like I have grown a second head. Some people would say that is a good thing – but I disagree.

Don’t get me wrong. I am thrilled that my kids think women should be able to vote; however, there are many key injustices that women still face today that are just as incredulous and yet are not at the forefront of public discussions.
I hope I get to see the day when the following statements will seem just as incredulous.

There was a time when:

1. Only 4.6% of the CEOs of the top companies were women and they were paid far less than their male counterparts.
2. Only 4 female directors were nominated for an academy award.
3. The movie industry would not make movies with female leads for female audiences because they didn’t think anybody would watch them.
4. Half of all murder victims in Canada were killed by a former or current intimate partner.
5. A women who was elected President of a University Student Union was subjected to jokes about rape on social media – just because she won.
6. Women earned 77 cents for every dollar a man earned.
7. Eighty percent of eighth-grade girls said they are on diets.
8. Women made up 70% of the workforce but there was no National Daycare or Flextime provided for women to manage both child-rearing and work obligations.
9. Women from dual-income households spent twice as many hours on childcare as their male partners
10. Women from dual-income households spent 1.5 times as many hours doing domestic chores than their male counterparts.

“I do not wish them [women] to have power over men; but over themselves.”
― Mary Wollstonecraft

Please share with us which statement you would like to see changed.

Jennifer Thomas
Marketing Director
Big Brothers Big Sisters of Canada

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

“Taking action is the biggest step to being a good leader”

By Sourabh Pande, participant in the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto and Thinking Forward Workshop

My dad has always told me that in the “real world” your education isn’t the only thing that matters, a person’s leadership skills and ability to communicate is what sets them apart from “the rest”. I have always kept this in mind when I tried to build and sharpen my abilities to lead a group of people. When I was presented with the opportunity to participate in the leadership work shop offered by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Toronto and Thinking Forward, I jumped for it and I’m really glad that I did.

The seminar introduced the different types of leadership - inward, outward and forward. Inward leadership is motivating yourself to take action and living with integrity even when no when is watching. I learned that to be a good leader it is important to know who you are yourself before being able to be a good leader. Outward leadership is when you think of others before yourself and to express compassion. A lot of the times we feel empathetic towards other but don’t take action, “compassion is empathy in action”. Forward leadership focuses on making a change in the future, to be a good leader it is extremely important to take action. People who take action against injustices are the changers of society.

The presenter then asked us to reflect on certain celebrities, and consider the role success has played in their happiness. Many of the celebrities we talked about were extremely successful but it seemed like they lacked happiness. This suggested that success doesn’t always lead to happiness. Materialistic people tend to be happy for short periods of time, but are unhappy in the long run. I believe success is a journey and totally agree that success does not lead to happiness, but in fact it’s the other way around. This small reflection set the tone and theme for the whole seminar.

Many people today will see something wrong taking place but don’t take any action to stop it, those who do take action are looked up to as leaders. By going the extra mile and asking someone, “how are you doing?” or “how was your day?” can really change a person’s perspective of you. It shows that you care/consider everyone. Taking action is the biggest step to being a good leader. Examples/quotes of great leaders like Nelson Mandela and Gandhi were brought up in the seminar as examples of great leaders.

Gandhi has been an inspiration to me ever since I was little, so the presentation really resonated with me. Gandhi saw an injustice taking place and did something to stop it and more remarkably he did it without violence. He used his words and actions to better the world, instead of violence. These examples were great motivators as they encouraged me to also take action against injustices. Topics such as, how to show compassion and thinking of others before yourself were discussed too. By putting others before you, not only do you become a better person but also become a better leader.

The workshop overall has made me more aware of my behaviour when in a leadership role. I’m more conscious of my actions and the effects it has on those who look up to me. These lessons I have learned will help me become a better mentor, as they’ve given me more information on the characteristics of a leader. By adapting these characteristics in the Youth School in Mentoring, I believe I can better myself and address my little in a better manner.

A point that really resonated with me was that “success doesn’t lead to happiness; happiness leads to success. That quote has really stuck with me since the workshop and I hope to apply and spread that message. Often we as humans we get so involved/focus in our goals that we spend less time with those who are important to us, which can lead to unhappiness. This has to change, and I believe Thinking Forward is doing a great job of spreading this true message and building better communities.