About Us / The Giving Pledge

On September 18, 2012, Charles R. Bronfman, a longtime and prominent philanthropist and Chairman of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, committed to giving the majority of his wealth to charity by signing the Giving Pledge. Initiated by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates in June 2010, the Giving Pledge is a long-term initiative to increase charitable giving in the United States and to advance and promote philanthropy. The wealthiest American individuals and families pledge to give more than half of their wealth to philanthropy or charitable causes during or after their lifetimes.

PdfGiving Pledge Press Release/Giving Pledge Website

Charles Bronfman’s Letter to Giving Pledge:

Philanthropy is in the DNA of my family. My parents were both active participants in Jewish, local Montreal and Canadian charities. The dining table conversation was a place for discussing what was important to them in that world.

I'll never forget we four siblings knitting (yes, the 2 boys also) squares for blankets to be sent to the troops overseas during World War II! An inspiration from Mother! It is no surprise then, that each of us has contributed to society, each in his or her own way.

I began soliciting money for the United Jewish Appeal when I was 17 years old! I collected fifty cents from twenty peers in a poor Jewish area of Montreal. While I knew I could easily pay the 10 dollars myself and claim it came from them, I relished meeting those who were in lesser circumstances and yet still wanted to participate in helping others.

In 1986 my late wife Andy, z”l, and I established a Foundation. It purposely had its own ground rules and was administered separately from our "normal" contributions. Our goal was to use informal education to help young Canadians and young Jewish adults relish their heritage. We also wished to ease some of the burden of Israeli youngsters who were deprived of a rounded education by again using the informal education route within their school system.

Thus our Foundation was born with three principles:

  1. the enhancement of Canadianism
  2. The Unity of the Jewish People, whose soul is in Jerusalem
  3. improvement of the quality of life in Montreal, New York and Israel, the three communities in which we have offices.

We have never been “risk” averse. In fact, we've continuously experimented with “outside the box” programming. Our family of private operating foundations has played different roles in the lives of our grantees, not only financially but in terms of governance, evaluation, quality assurance and partnership.

We have taken risk capital to initiate programs, then incubate them and, after indicating successful potential, sought partners in each. As that project learned to stand on its own feet, we lowered our financial input, and our guidance until each could be completely independent. There are roughly a dozen examples of this kind of successful initiative.

Perhaps we are best known for, in Canada, the Heritage Project, which began by showing one minute made-for-TV, movie quality, shorts of Canadian successes about which most citizens were unaware.

In the United States, Birthright Israel, which we co-founded, has become the first Jewish educational program with a waiting list! Its success has fostered a waiting list bigger than the number of applicants who actually are able to participate in this ten day, all expense paid live and learn experience in Israel. Over 310,000 young adults, 18 - 26 have, in 13 years, taken this incredibly effective journey.

Eleven years ago, my children gave me the best present a father could receive. They created an annual prize, in my name, that celebrates the vision and humanitarian endeavor of a person or group, under the age of 50, who has contributed significantly to the betterment of the world. It is through these dynamic innovators whose Jewish values infuse their humanitarian accomplishments, are providing inspiration to their peers and to the generations that follow. Thus my children returned to me values that have been so precious to me these many years.

Our foundation will close, by design in 2016. My children have their own foundations and philanthropic interests, as it should be. And I had and have no intent to "rule from the grave". My philanthropy will continue on a personal basis. On the road to closure our colleagues and programmes are finding homes that will continue to grow.

I congratulate Melinda and Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett, on a brilliant initiative and I am more than pleased to join with those who have and will become part of the Giving Pledge.

Charles Bronfman