Celebrating close to 50 years of support for our Estonian Community
“We are mostly volunteers in our community,” said Eva Varangu, President of Estonian Foundation of Canada, at the recent EFC Annual Meeting of Members. “We should all be proud of how much we contribute to keep the Estonian in us alive.” For EFC, it means being a trusted charity, a community connector, and a financial pillar for cultural and heritage initiatives across Canada. For almost 50 years, EFC has provided consistent and significant funding for new and ongoing programs and projects to generations of Estonians.
On May 17, 2023, at its first Hybrid Annual Meeting of Members, President Eva Varangu welcomed attendees from across the country, including Vancouver, Montreal, and southern Ontario, as well as a number of EFC scholarship recipients, special guests and representatives of organizations who receive EFC funding. The 48th Annual Meeting of Members took place in Tartu College and online via Zoom. All online and in-person members used Election Buddy to vote, an online tool that included all proxies and ensured instant and transparent results. The President introduced EFC Directors; Vice-President Kaili Sermat-Harding, Treasurer Martin Pede, Secretary Maris-Ann Vanaselja, Co-secretary Maret Liik and Directors Mihkel Holmberg, Peeter Põldre, Lia Hess, and Raul Sinimäe. Managed by an experienced volunteer board of directors and EFC Foundation Manager, the Foundation credits its impact to its ability to adapt to changing realities and to look ahead to the future.
Varangu shared how important it is for EFC to continue to build and strengthen relationships, focus on new strategies to increase donor numbers and donations, and better recognize EFC donors, ensuring that our community understands how EFC is able to provide funding and where the funds come from. EFC knows this is an ongoing process, but work is well underway. Varangu also thanked everyone who donates to EFC and those who also remember EFC in their Estate Planning. Planned giving is more than including EFC in a Will - it is a way for people to reach their charitable giving goals while maximizing tax and other financial benefits. Donating to EFC is a way of leaving a legacy to keep our Estonian community in Canada strong. Bequests can never be relied upon but are gratefully received. The Foundation’s only income is from donations, bequests, and investment income, all of which are difficult to predict.
Varangu continued by reminding members that our community organizations and institutions face common challenges, such as changing demographics, sometimes dwindling participation, competition for the same dollars within a limited community of donors, and financial, investment and political risk. The risks are being managed for EFC, but it is a challenging time.
However, stressed Varangu, even as we face global challenges, Estonians in Canada are able to walk lockstep with Estonia, united by the pride and passion we share for our heritage. We all know that our relatively small Estonian community here continues to evolve, that institutions built by our refugee and immigrant parents need reconsideration or assistance, and that in recent years new organizations have also been created. She noted how important it was for all organizations to really understand how we can better work together here in Canada as we move forward so as not to duplicate efforts.
Varangu noted that EFC continues to be the greatest source of funding for many Estonian organizations, including Estonian summer camps such as Jõekääru and Seedrioru, language and heritage schools across Canada such as Toronto Kindergarten and Supplementary Schools and Alberta Estonian Heritage Society’s virtual language classes, Estonian Music Week, Metsaülikool and the folk dancing group Kungla. In 2022, EFC also sponsored a new initiative: the first women’s-only folk-dance camp. Organizations receive funds only after EFC’s Board of Directors has reviewed and approved their applications which must be in line with EFC’s charitable objectives. Over the past two decades alone, EFC has distributed more than Six Million Dollars to our community.
2022 was also a year of transition. After packing boxes and sorting through historical records, EFC said goodbye to the office on Broadview Avenue beside the former Estonian House in Toronto and moved to a new office at Tartu College. It was a large undertaking, and thank you to all who helped and organized the move. From the past to the future, the Board began to consider ways to celebrate EFC’s upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations. Varangu noted that EFC hopes to create an EFC 50-year community timeline using historical documents discovered during the office move as well as suitable photos and documents, hopefully, shared from other organizations, for example. Varangu emphasized, however, that the most important task is to consider what the community needs for the next 50 years.
2022 Financials and Elections
Treasurer Martin Pede presented the 2022 Financial Report for the Foundation. Donation income for 2022 was consistent with EFC’s average over the past five years. Pede noted that EFC had received an unrestricted bequest, which helped supplement EFC’s donation income. Total expenses were down; however, the Foundation disbursed financial support that exceeds revenues from donations and bequests. Therefore, with poor market performance on EFC’s investments, 2022 marked a year of loss for EFC revenue, assets, and liabilities.
EFC’s budget for 2023 assumes a normalized amount of donations, a modest 4 percent return on the investment portfolio, a higher rate of funding requests coming out of the pandemic, and other expenses to be in line with last year. EFC also received notice of an upcoming bequest, enabling Pede to predict a break-even year. As such, Pede also highlighted the impact of remembering EFC through charitable giving and estate planning.
Pede led the Auditor appointment. Thomas Koger CPA CA was elected as EFC’s auditor until the next Annual Meeting of Members. Director Mihkel Holmberg led the election of Directors, explaining that three directors are elected to the Board every year. Since Martin Pede decided not to stand for re-election, the EFC Board proposed Peter Vilde as a candidate joining Directors Lia Hess and Maris-Ann Vanaselja, who stood for re-election. No further nominations were received from the floor, and all three were acclaimed to a three-year term.
Vice President Kaili Sermat-Harding thanked EFC’s donors, without whom there would be less support to the Estonian community across Canada for activities and events as well as new initiatives needed to keep the community relevant for everyone. She spoke about In Memoriam donations made last year, including those made in memory of loved ones who passed away in 2022 and those to commemorate loved ones who continue to be held dear. Donations were also made in honour of individuals celebrating important events such as milestone birthdays and retirements.
Sermat-Harding reminded members that EFC recognizes lifetime giving through several donation categories, with donor names added annually to EFC’s Donor Recognition List.
In 2022, a number of donors achieved new giving levels:
Several donors who wished to remain anonymous also reached the Bronze and Gold categories in 2022.
Sermat-Harding thanked all donors who continue to choose to make Estonian heritage, culture and community a priority.
EFC offers a robust scholarship program due mainly to generous donors and bequests. In 2022, EFC granted scholarships to 17 students across three scholarship funds.
More information about EFC’s three scholarship funds is available on the website: www.estonianfoundation.ca .
The meeting ended as President Eva Varangu thanked the members and guests, EFC Foundation Manager Nicole Pede for organizing the AMM, and Kaisa Kasekamp, Aleks Pede, and Tomas Vilde for volunteering to assist. Special thanks were extended to Liis Teedla for her commitment and work in the EFC office. Before leaving at the end of March to pursue new adventures, Liis had been with the Foundation since 2016. Finally, Martin Pede was presented with flowers and thanked for his work as Director and EFC Treasurer. Martin effectively navigated EFC finances and consistently offered thoughtful comments and recommendations to the Board. A reception followed for the in-person members at Tartu College.
In June of this year, the Board of Directors nominated Raul Sinimäe as Treasurer and welcomed Peter Vilde as a new Director, with all other Director positions remaining the same.
Please consider becoming an EFC Donor so that the Foundation can continue to support an Estonian future in Canada. Donate today at www.estonianfoundation.ca or call the office at 416.465.5600 to learn more ways to give.