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There are countless examples of Canadian business families stepping up their efforts during the coronavirus pandemic. Some kept their employees on payroll despite closures; some shifted production to manufacture personal protective equipment. And many increased their philanthropic contributions to help vulnerable community members.

The recognition that family enterprises are important to the fabric of our society inspires the efforts of the Family Enterprise Foundation (FEF) and its “community of communities,” according to Jim Burton, the foundation’s board chair.

“Our mandate is to create knowledge and educational resources, and to promote the success and sustainability of entrepreneurial families and their enterprises to ensure intergenerational longevity,” he says. “When family enterprises thrive, everybody benefits, since caring for their communities and giving back is part of the DNA of business families.”

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Creating favourable conditions for family enterprises includes providing opportunities to share and learn from each other – offered through both the Family Business Network Canada (FBN-C) and Family Enterprise Xchange (FEX) communities – as well as promoting and advancing family enterprise-centred advice, states Mr. Burton. “Family businesses have very unique needs and dynamics, and our Family Enterprise Advisor (FEA) designation program gives advisers the tools and knowledge to take these complexities into account.”

The recent sale of his business of 41 years allowed Mr. Burton to seed a family foundation, and he is working with two certified FEAs on moving this philanthropic endeavour forward, he says. “We see working with advisers who specialize in family enterprise as an important asset.”

Margaret-Jean Mannix, chair, FBN Canada, says that while philanthropy is an important part of her family’s endeavours, it is separate from the purview of the operating companies.

“I appreciate the interconnectedness [between business and philanthropy] as both efforts stem from shared core family values that provide guidance and inform decision-making,” she says, adding that keeping the entities separate allows the family to support “people who are experts in philanthropy working on the philanthropic front.”

Both components are key for advancing the family legacy. “Respecting an individual’s journey into philanthropy is really important,” says Ms. Mannix. “If it sings to your heart, let’s encourage [you] to do it.”

Such dedication is evident as Mr. Burton describes the family foundation he runs with his wife and children. “We are very fortunate to have this opportunity to come together, think about our higher purpose and hopefully create a lasting legacy by supporting causes we are passionate about,” he says. “And our family is not alone in having these goals. Every year, several billions of dollars are given due to family enterprise philanthropy.”

While the desire to have a positive impact is common among family enterprises, these pillars of community also need the support of their customers, partners and peers, adds Mr. Burton. “Now more than ever, it is important for all business families to be a part of a connected peer community. Now is the time to reach out and help one another.”

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Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.

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