Charles Bronfman, son of Seagram Company founder and philanthropist Samuel Bronfman, has followed in his father’s footsteps in many ways, while also forging his own paths. Like his father, he has held many leadership roles; he was Co-Chairman of Seagram prior to 2000 and was principal owner of Canada's first Major League Baseball team, the Montreal Expos, from 1968 to 1990, to name just a few.
Also like his father, Charles has taken an active role in philanthropy. Active for many years, in 1985, he and his wife founded The Andrea & Charles Bronfman Philanthropies to set aside money for the causes they really cared about: instilling Canadian national pride and fostering Jewish unity.
As Bronfman has worked towards those goals, he has applied a consistent approach: pilot an idea, prove that it works, and then partner with others to grow it. He did this first with the Canadian film series Heritage Minutes, starting it with thirteen films and growing it to over seventy-five today funded primarily by the Canadian government. Using this same approach, he has since placed an even bigger bet on Taglit-Birthright Israel, a joint project with Michael Steinhardt that sponsors Jewish young adults for 10-day visits to Israel. The initiative, which has been proven to strengthen attendees’ Jewish identity, has sent nearly 300,000 Jewish young adults to Israel since its inception in 1999 and has proudly established a successful funding partnership with the Israeli government.
With most of his major initiatives now growing with the funds of others, Bronfman is winding down his formal philanthropic efforts. He plans to close the doors on The Andrea & Charles Bronfman Philanthropies in 2016 with no regrets, believing that they’ve “accomplished everything that any reasonable foundation can ever hope to.”More Remarkable Givers
- 5x Growth: Charles Bronfman partners with the Israeli government to grow his foundation’s education program
- Attracting government funding: Charles Bronfman focuses on building a “better mousetrap”
- Building a portfolio of giving: Charles Bronfman starts his foundation to give effectively to causes he cares about
- Charles Bronfman’s advice to new philanthropists: Go all in and don’t give up
- Creating space for risk: Charles Bronfman advises allocating 5-10% of ones’ giving to risky ventures
- Cross-sector collaboration: Charles Bronfman describes the key to a successful society
- Cutting your losses: Charles Bronfman advises philanthropists on how to respond to failure
- “Do what I do”: How Charles Bronfman’s actions influenced his children to become involved in philanthropy
- Following one’s passions vs. honoring one’s parents: Charles Bronfman takes a year to decide
- Giving as a couple: Charles and Andrea Bronfman allowed each other to pursue their individual philantrhopic interests
- “It’s all people”: Charles Bronfman explains the importance and characteristics of strong foundation leadership
- Learning from a hiring mistake: Charles Bronfman realized the importance of having staff who are aligned with his vision
- Outliving his spend-down foundation: Charles Bronfman “has no regrets” about the decision to close his foundation
- Philanthropy in the DNA: Charles Bronfman grew up with a tradition of giving
- Rejecting three-year grant limits: Why Charles Bronfman sticks with successful grantees and initiatives
- Saying “no:” How Charles Bronfman keeps the majority of his resources focused on core projects
- The power of evaluation: How Charles Bronfman turned naysayers into supporters
- Working with other donors: How Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt raised funds for Birthright