The former charity arm of the Ottawa Senators is joining forces with the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group in a move it says will help it better serve the community in an increasingly competitive fundraising landscape.
The Ottawa-Gatineau Youth Foundation, formerly known as the Ottawa Senators Foundation, said Wednesday it is transferring its cash and assets to the OSEG Foundation and will cease to exist as an independent entity.
Founded in 1998, the youth foundation raises money to help young people in the Ottawa area play sports, attend summer camps and access education opportunities. After splitting from the Senators last year, the charity rebranded itself and said it planned to continue its fundraising efforts on behalf of local youth.
But the pandemic scuttled in-person events that typically financed much of the organization’s activities, and the charity’s board launched a strategic review earlier this year to chart a new path amid a growing financial squeeze.
“We saw that there was an evolution taking place in the philanthropic world,” board chair Ian Sherman said, adding the organization consulted more than 100 community members and found that many wanted “reduced competition and increased collaboration” among local charities.
After looking at a number of potential partners, the board unanimously chose to work with the OSEG Foundation due to the groups’ common goals, he said.
“We just felt it was a great fit for our organization,” Sherman said. “This is best for the youth of our community.”
OSEG Foundation chair Roger Greenberg said the move makes sense for both organizations.
“The past year has been difficult for all small charities in the Ottawa-Carleton region to be able to generate cash,” he told OBJ on Wednesday, noting the two charities share a “similar vision” to help disadvantaged youth.
“We have an opportunity to further our goals working with a fine organization … and so it just came together. Sometimes when organizations are struggling a little bit, coming together is the best way to move forward. This better allows us to (fulfil) the mandate that we have.”
"Sometimes when organizations are struggling a little bit, coming together is the best way to move forward."
The youth foundation has raised nearly $40 million for more than 300 charities since its inception.
Over the years, the organization built a high profile in the Ottawa region, thanks to glitzy fundraisers such as the annual Sens Soirée and its work with endeavours such as Roger Neilson House, a hospice for pediatric palliative care at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. The charity also helped provide free sports programming at 16 arenas across the region.
The foundation has strong ties to the local business community, including through high-profile board members such as Sherman, a former partner in EY’s Ottawa office and the chair of the Ottawa Board of Trade, and former chair Goldy Hyder, president and CEO of the Business Council of Canada. Sherman said Wednesday he hopes to take on a role in the OSEG Foundation.
Meanwhile, Danielle Robinson, who’s been part of the foundation since 2006 and served as president and CEO for the past 13 years, will see her long tenure with the charity come to an end on Thursday.
“I’m really proud of everything that we’ve been able to achieve over the last 15 years,” she said.
“The way that I always saw it, we were a conduit to be able to rally people together around different causes to ensure that young people could thrive in our community and that we could collectively break down barriers. I’ve been surrounded by really good people, and collectively we’ve been able to really do a lot of great work within our community. I’m really proud of the legacy that we’re leaving behind.”
Sherman praised Robinson for her tireless philanthropic efforts.
“I can’t thank her enough,” he said. “This community should be very grateful for her leadership.”