Philanthropy from the throne

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If you’re among those people who’ve ever wondered just what it is about Britain’s Royal Family that has millions of Britons and royal watchers worldwide glued to their TV screens whenever the princes, duchesses and Queen Elizabeth II pop on, here’s something to consider: they’re not just about pomp and circumstance. They’re also quite charitable.


Case in point: A recent Canadian tour featuring Prince Charles and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall prompted the government to donate $100,000 and $50,000 respectively to the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur: The Canadian Forces to small business transition program, and the RCMP Foundation.

The former is one of the Prince’s fledgling Canadian charitable operations, administered through the the Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF), an organization dedicated to helping 18 to 30-year-old budding entrepreneurs get their ideas off the ground. The latter provides assistance to Mounties who volunteer their time in local communities nationwide to help youth at risk.

Amanda Sherrington, CYBF president and CEO, lauded the Prince’s Operation Entrepreneur program earlier this month while he was in the country, noting it is about “giving options” to the men and women who’ve served their country. “This program is a continuation of The Prince of Wales’s ongoing commitment to the Canadian Forces,” she said.

God save the charities

Another point of fact: Prince Charles has established one of the largest international charitable umbrella organizations in the world in the form of the The Prince's Charities, a group of nonprofit organizations of which The Prince of Wales is either patron or president.

“The group is the largest multi-cause charitable enterprise in the United Kingdom, raising over £100million (CDN$200 million) annually,” according to The Prince’s Charities website. “The charities reflect The Prince of Wales's long-term and innovative perspective, and seek to address areas of previously unmet need.”

The nonprofit is represented here via its Canuck arm, Prince’s Charities Canada, which works with nine Canadian nonprofits: Canadian Business for Social Responsibility, CYBF, The Heritage Canada Foundation, The Prince’s Foundation for Children and the Arts, The Royal Conservatory, SIFE Memorial (Students in Free Enterprise), UforChange, Yonge Street Mission, and The Wellesley Institute.

As for the CYBF and the new Operation Entrepreneur project, Nicolee Tattersall, CYBF’s media relations manager, noted that its program is a joint effort between her organization and SIFE Memorial. While no direct monetary contribution to the program was made by the Prince’s Charities, she said, it did “support the program by working with the other partners to secure funding and has formed and hosts an advisory board, made up of business leaders and former military officials, who oversee the program.”

For some historical perspective, back in 2010, the Prince also helped finance another well-known charitable initiative called the “Seeing is Believing” tour. Though in place for well over 20 years in Britain, the tour was the first of its kind in Canada (taking place initially in Toronto, before branching out to other metropolitan centres across the country) and has been administered in part by the Canadian Business for Social Responsibility (CBSR).

That program is structured around a model of business leaders, executives and various professionals who tour and engage face-to-face with downtrodden communities in order to “better understand social issues and explore business solutions to poverty, homelessness, employability and youth-at-risk,” according to CBSR.

Canadian charitable tradition continues

Back at the Prime Minister’s Office, word went out that in recent years the government’s longstanding tradition of giving gifts to the Royals whenever they visited the country has recently morphed into the act of donating to charity in honour of their trips to Canada.

On May 23, Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially declared the above-mentioned donations while hosting the visiting Royals at the RCMP Depot Division Drill Hall in Regina, Saskatchewan.

“Canada and the Royal Family have a close and enduring relationship that is founded on history and tradition,” Harper said. “Canada is honoured to be hosting The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall as part of Canadian Diamond Jubilee celebrations. We are especially pleased to contribute to these initiatives on behalf of Their Royal Highnesses, who support a wide range of charitable causes.”

The Royals toured Canada from May 20 to 23 in honour of the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen. It was the 16th time Prince Charles has visited Canada, and the second visit by Her Royal Highness, Camilla Bowes, the Duchess of Cornwall.

According to James Maunder, director of communications for the ministry of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, official governmental gifts have always been offered during royal tours however the “nature of the gift has changed over the years.”

The ministry provided the following breakdown of gifts from the government commemorating Royal tours of Canada since 2005. The are:

2005 – A $250,000 donation gift to The Queen in the form of a contribution to the Dominion Institute Memory Project.

2009 – A contribution of $250,000 to the Military Families Fund.

2010 – Contributions of $100,000 to each of three charitable foundations: The Tim Horton Children's Foundation, the True Patriot Love Foundation and the Royal Canadian Naval Benevolent Fund.

2011 – The creation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's Parks Canada Youth Ambassadors Program.

The first two youth ambassadors were scheduled begin their duties in spring 2012. “As part of this annual summer program, two youth ambassadors will travel across Canada connecting with Canadian youth in their schools, communities and at Parks Canada locations,” Maunder said.

A charitable candle in the wind

Lest one think The Queen and Prince Charles are the only two royals of a charitable bent, most people won’t soon forget the seemingly inexhaustible Princess Diana of Wales and her work with numerous charitable causes.

Chief among those was the Nobel Peace Prize-winning International Campaign to Ban Landmines, in which she was involved deeply in the year prior to her death in 1997. (In fact, the Nobel Prize was awarded to the campaign mere months after Diana’s death that year.)

And her work exposing the myths and rumours behind the AIDS virus during the 1980s helped people understand that the disease was not communicable by contact alone. Iconic images of Diana holding the hands of – and hugging people afflicted with the virus helped humanize their plight and eventually shake off the stigma attributed to them.

Princely patrons

The other high-profile royals are, of course, Princes Harry and William. The latter is the Royal Patron to the Tusk Trust and involved in numerous other philanthropic activities, including following in his mother’s footsteps with assistance to victims of AIDS and as patron of 100 Women in Hedge Funds philanthropic initiative.

Both he, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge, also run the The Foundation of Prince William and Prince Harry, which donates to multiple causes and charities “to enable The Princes to take forward their charitable ambitions,” according to the foundation’s website.

In July 2007 the royal brothers staged a charity memorial concert for their late mother, the Concert for Diana, which raised approximately $2 million for eight charities – including the Diana, Princess of Wales Memorial Fund, Centrepoint and Sentebale, a charity founded by Prince Harry and Lesotho's Prince Seeiso in 2006. It helps vulnerable children and young people in Lesotho, specifically those orphaned as a result of AIDS.

The charity Queen

And then there’s Her Majesty’s involvement with charities. As part of her regal duties, she is royally bound to support and encourage public and voluntary service in the United Kingdom and the world over (well, in the Commonwealth, at least).

The list of her patronages is legion, numbering more than 600. In Canada these include the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Red Cross Society, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Save The Children – Canada, and the Federated Women's Institutes of Canada.

Long live the charitable Queen.

Andy Levy-Ajzenkopf is president of WordLaunch professional writing services in Toronto. He can be reached at

Please note: While we ensure that all links and email addresses are accurate at their publishing date, the quick-changing nature of the web means that some links to other websites and email addresses may no longer be accurate.

Photos (from top) via; Jason Ransom via the Prime Minister’s Office. All photos used with permission.

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