Technology wizard combines investment advising with online

As I was wheeling out of the grocery store last week, a kindly man proffered a bunch of daffodils.

I went back to use my debit card and get the cash he needed, and it occurred to me that the Salvation Army kettles, and the Cancer Society daffodils and lots of other person-to-person campaigns are going to need hand-held swipers before long. Cash just isn’t jingling around in our pockets much anymore, unless you’re over 40.

Engaging the younger donor is difficult. They communicate largely by text message and Facebook; they don’t have cheques; they don’t have cash. If a younger donor does want to give to a charity, it’s really difficult.

Until now.

In fact, it was a project of two young students that launched the Canada Helps website. This incredible site allows anybody to give any amount of money to any organization. They can use a credit card or electronic transfer of funds.

They can buy a gift card, loaded up with whatever amount of money they want, and then they can give the gift card as a gift to someone. The recipient in turn can spend the gift card through Canada Helps and donate the money to the charity of their choice.

This incredible website – Giving Made Simple – enables donations on line and took over $20 million for Canadian charities in 2007, $1 million in December alone. You can go to the website and search out the charity you specifically want, or you can browse through lists of charities in your community or province and donate to the one you want.

You enter your credit card number and your name, snail mail address and email and an immediate tax receipt is e-mailed to you to print and file for income tax. The charity gets notified and can send a thank-you postcard virtually immediately.

There are 5,000 charities listed on this site, each with a description of what they do. You can link to their site, you’ll see the charitable registration number and you can customize your annual giving so a certain amount of money is donated every month. You can customize your gift to go to a capital campaign, a children’s camp, or for annual giving. You can buy a gift card as a gift, or as a memorial tribute.

Thanks to Melanie Smith, investment executive with ScotiaMcLeod, people can now assign their stocks and / or bonds over to charitable agencies.

Melanie has been working with the founders of canadahelps to make it possible for people who own shares to give from their investment accounts.

Melanie says it’s a great tool to avoid capital gains by donating the shares or mutual funds to a charity. The charity, in turn, retains the share and uses the interest as regular income.

“If I donate stock to a charity, I get income tax credit for the full donation and I pay no capital gain tax,” says Melanie. She’s experiencing a flurry of activity as Bell shareholders divest themselves of shares during the Ontario teachers pension fund takeover.

“As we discussed doing this, we asked ourselves how we can take this opportunity to every charity across our country,” says Melanie. Developing the electronic design was one important job and structuring the reporting for the stock or mutual fund gift was where Melanie and her colleague, Ben Lapshinoff, came in.

It was logical to link with the site, a link to which is provided.

It’s been set up so you can go to the site and click on Donate. Click on stock and enter the number of shares and the share company. Then hit submit and print out the notification of the donation. Give that to your financial advisor.

Canada Helps customizes the instruction letter by prompts. Canada Helps has a brokerage account for the charity and sends the proceeds to the selected charity. It was ScotiaMcLeod and Melanie and Ben who help set this up for any stock or mutual fund. The behind-the-scenes work on this seemingly simple initiative was huge. The value of the receipt has to be based on the sale price of the share on the day of donation. It’s taken major programming co-ordination.

Receipts are e-mailed immediately to the donor. This allows a shareholder to take some of his or her stock and split it among a few charities.

The Canada Helps programmers, now in their 30s, worked with ScotiaMcLeod’s Melanie and Ben to develop the processing of these stock gifts. Canada Helps is centred in Toronto and has evolved over time to become a huge donation data centre.

They’re right. It’s Giving Made Simple!

And now, back to the daffodils … can we order daffodils?

Thanks, Melanie. Thanks, Ben.