When Successful Businesses Pay Charitable Dividends   

In the world of investing, there are variables that change in an instant, such as the numbers arrayed in rows on flickering screens.

In philanthropy, the focus is on fundamentals, basic principles. The essential guide is a moral compass, and the core belief is in the promise and power of people.

At the highest professional levels, the realms of finance and philanthropy intersect. When this happens, an extraordinary outpouring of charity is the result, transforming communities, lives and destinies.

At the pinnacle of success, or on their way to the top, many successful individuals want to give back to the society or institutions that lifted them up. Many begin to ponder their legacy.

Man has been thinking about legacies for a long, long time. Pericles taught: “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” In our own time, businessman and philanthropist Peter Strople wrote: “Legacy is not leaving something for people. It’s leaving something in people.”

By contemplating one’s legacy, a wealthy entrepreneur or investor gains something priceless: a rich new perspective on life.

The idea of a legacy is at once forward-looking and retrospective; compelling a person to look far into the future, and from that distant vantage point to reflect back upon how one’s name, achievements and generosity will one day be viewed. Like the teacher in the well-known Henry Adams quote, a philanthropist “affects eternity” and “can never tell where his influence stops.”

A philanthropic legacy is something deeply personal, as the National Center for Family Philanthropy noted in a recent report: “Legacy … begins at home — it’s within your power to define. The way that the world will view you and your philanthropy is a mirror of what you set out for yourself. Step back and explore what motivates you. There is something so powerful about coming together as a family to explore the work you choose to do, whether you’re the first generation creating the effort or subsequent generations.”

The Center found: “A common thread in giving families is their rootedness in shared values. While the particular giving focus and structure may change with the times and with different family engagement, values anchor the family. At times, these values are tethered to a particular faith or shared belief system; just as often, they are simply connected to a family’s modeling and explicit recognition of what is important to them based on their own journey.”

In Canada, a prime example of this is the Toronto-based Moez and Marissa Kassam Foundation. Established by Anson Funds co-founder Moez Kassam and his wife, the foundation stays true to the family’s journey by seeking out organizations that align with the family’s values.

As successful immigrants, the couple is particularly interested in helping others who have come to Canada to achieve their dreams. That is why the foundation is a National Building Circle Donor for the Institute for Canadian Citizenship (ICC).

The ICC works to create opportunities to connect and encourage active citizenship. The ICC operates the free mobile app known as Canoo, which lets new Canadian Citizens celebrate their citizenship through free virtual and in-person admission to museums, art galleries, and historic sites across Canada. The foundation also partners with Windmill Microlending, which helps immigrants and refugees to leverage their education, skills and expertise to launch successful professional careers in Canada.

Another centerpiece of the foundation’s work has been support for the Sinai Health Foundation, including a $2.5 million donation that provides resources for Sinai to extend its women’s and infants program to communities in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka via the creation of a fellowship program.

The talented international participants selected for this fellowship program receive focused training from experts in the Frances Bloomberg Centre for Women’s and Infants’ Health at Sinai Health in Toronto, giving them the skills they need to improve neonatal healthcare when they return to their home countries.

These and a range of other deserving institutions benefit from the success of Anson Funds, which has grown into a leading Canadian hedge fund with an investment portfolio of approximately $1.7 billion.

Moez Kassam is an optimist about the ways targeted philanthropy can lift disadvantaged individuals and marginalized communities. In Kassam’s view, the complex challenges of today’s world are interconnected, and require collective approaches to succeed. Philanthropy plays a central role, but cannot do it alone. Intractable problems require an all-hands-on-deck approach that mobilizes talent, energy and commitment across communities, organizations and economic sectors.

This is where Anson Funds’ network of top professionals from a wide range of financial, economic, political and cultural fields plays a key role. Just as Moez Kassam works with an array of stakeholders to achieve investment wins for Anson Funds’ clients, he engages respected leaders to multiply the impact of the foundation’s work. Innovators, entrepreneurs, academics, writers and artists are some of the accomplished individuals the foundation seeks out for inclusion in its important missions.

It’s a model for success: talented individuals working together to change lives and transform communities; leaving a powerful legacy in their wake.