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Simon Foster, co-founder and chair of the Framework Foundation. (Deborah Baic/Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)
Simon Foster, co-founder and chair of the Framework Foundation. (Deborah Baic/Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail)

Art auctions + volunteer hours = a winning formula for this Canadian charity Add to ...

Simon Foster

Co-founder and chair, the Framework foundation, Toronto

He probably doesn’t fancy himself a matchmaker, but Simon Foster, 36, has fixed up more than 6,000 young Canadians with 400 charities through an event he co-founded with Anil Patel in 2001 called Timeraiser. Guests donate volunteer hours rather than money when bidding at this art auction. The initiative has generated more than 100,000 volunteer hours for not-for-profit organizations such as Meal Exchange and Evergreen and secured more than $500,000 for Canadian artists such as Chanda Stallman of Vancouver. Mr. Foster was honoured this year with a Business for the Arts Award.

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FIRST STEP

“There were four of us, all Queen’s grads. We sat on my deck one evening in the summer, opened a few beers and started to draw diagrams.”

THE PITCH

“The more you ask, the greater the likelihood that young people will step up and support the charitable needs of their community. We match lawyers, accountants, marketers and software programmers, etc., with the specific needs of charities and we help them build their art collection and support artists.”

YOUR HERO

“Anil Patel, executive director of Framework, the umbrella foundation over Timeraiser. Everybody who has worked with him – we are talking about hundreds of agencies – sees him as a big thinker. He is social, but he likes to up the ante, so he tells you to show up at his house at 7 p.m. on a Friday night and so you expect a party but he puts us on a bus and takes us line-dancing.”

DESCRIBE YOURSELF

“I have dreams that I'm still a camp counsellor and I wake up in a panic, even though that was one of the best jobs ever. I just have to be moving forward in life in whatever small way in order to stay happy.”

AHA! MOMENT

“I've lost the naive belief that if you're trying to do something good, that the rules are different. They're not. We're all human and we're often motivated by more than pure altruism. If you are going to appeal to young Canadians, it has to be about more than doing some good.

ADVICE

“In business, if someone is a competitor I know they are out to beat me and I am out to beat them. There is honesty about it. You know the rules. In the not-for-profit world, the competition is there but it’s hazy and navigating that haze requires a political touch. You can’t just bulldoze the way you can in business.”

NEXT STEPS

“The not-for-profit sector is too competitive and we have to reduce that. Framework foundation is working to facilitate a change in attitude through the act of sharing.” Sharesies is a new platform to encourage the sharing of information between not-for-profits, including budgets, pitches, HR information. “Is there a line we shouldn’t cross? No, I don’t think so.”



The interview has been condensed and edited.

Farah Mohamed is president of the Belinda Stronach Foundation. Send suggestions for the Action Figure to livebetter@globeandmail.com.

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