Charity Spotlight: Rise
May is Leave a Legacy month and we are shining a spotlight on some of the amazing Canadian charities making the world a better place.
We spoke to Lori Smith, CEO at Rise to learn more about the charity and the impact it can have when people include Rise as part of their legacy.
What is the mission of Rise?
Rise is a national organization that empowers Canadians with mental health and addiction challenges to achieve greater economic and social inclusion through entrepreneurship training, small business loans, and custom supports.
What are some of the things your charity does to support its mission?
Ultimately, everything Rise does is in support of our mission. We provide Canadians who self-identify as experiencing mental health and addiction challenges with access to training, mentorship, micro-financing, and other customs supports that help them build the skills and access the capital they need to launch a small business.
We help our clients unleash their entrepreneurial potential through a holistic approach that respects the individual’s definition of success, is considerate of their mental health and places personal well-being at the heart of business strategy.
We believe entrepreneurship is a means of improving quality of life, enabling our clients to support themselves, their families, and their communities.
Over the last decade, Rise has benefitted from the time and talent of more than 800 volunteers who enrich our programs through mentorship, our board and other consultant roles. We have disbursed over $2 million in low-interest loans and established a variety of programs that have helped to launch 1,000+ dreams nationwide.
How does charitable giving impact your charity and how successfully it’s able to accomplish its goals?
As a charity, Rise relies on the generous support of a community of like-minded funders, partners, and donors—all who share our vision of strengthening communities by unleashing the entrepreneurial spirit of all Canadians with mental health and addiction challenges. Charitable giving provides the financial support we need to implement a variety of Rise programs that help build dreams and change lives, like our lending program.
The Rise Small Business Lending Program is comprised of business advisory and lending services. Through this program, we provide clients who have struggled to secure traditional financing with access to low-interest loans of up to $10,000. Through these loans administered by Rise and business mentorship, we help empower approximately 100 entrepreneurs a year.
Where traditional lenders rely on tangible numbers such as credit score, income level, and assets to assess an applicant’s creditworthiness, Rise looks at the full picture. As is a character-based lender, we assess a client’s character, commitment, and capacity to follow through.
We also offer several training programs, including two geared specifically towards youth. Our EnterpRISEing Youth Plus and Youth Small Business Programs combine virtual in-classroom learning with coaching and mentorship to help young people develop both their business plans and their confidence to pursue entrepreneurship.
The last year has been a unique one. How has Rise adapted during the COVID-19 crisis?
When COVID-19 struck in early-2020, like many businesses and organizations, we shifted our staff to work from home and transitioned all of our programs to online platforms for remote delivery.
Rise’s work has also taken on new urgency, as we find ourselves uniquely positioned to address two big issues caused by the global pandemic: Canadian mental health and our nation’s economic recovery.
Statistics show that 40% of Canadians report their mental health has deteriorated since the onset of the pandemic. Isolation, reduction of social networks, loss of routine, reduced access to coping activities, and financial worries are just a few sources of mental health pressures.
Meanwhile, Canadian small businesses have borne the brunt of the unprecedented economic downturn induced by COVID-19. Yet, at the heart of our communities, small businesses represent 42% of Canada’s GDP and 48% of new jobs.
Rise offers a solution to both of those challenges, and demand for our entrepreneurship supports is high. For example, from Sept. 2020 – Feb. 2021, we saw a 25% increase in the number of applications to our Lending Program, as compared to the same period pre-pandemic.
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Similarly, in the last year, our training programs have received four times (4x) as many applications as spaces available. This upward trend is aligned to the data of past economic recessions, which shows that out of both necessity and choice, self-employment tends to increase during challenging times.
What special programs have come out of this shift?
Our shift to online, remote programming has not only allowed Rise to continue supporting entrepreneurs through periods of pandemic lockdown, but virtual access has also increased our ability to reach new areas of Canada, where Rise does not yet have a physical presence.
Expanding reach means that more Canadians can access Rise resources at a time when they are needed more than ever. We are using our knowledge and experience to help individuals with mental health and addiction challenges rebuild their economic independence, which we believe, in turn, is critical to Canada’s collective recovery.
To learn more about Rise and our organizational strategy, read Rise Above: Strategic Plan 2021-2023.
What’s your best piece of advice for people contemplating planned giving as part of their philanthropic efforts?
A legacy gift to a registered charity is a powerful opportunity to have a lasting impact. Donors are often able to leave a much larger gift via their Will than they are ever able to give during their lifetime, and these gifts can be the drivers of change.
For Rise, it means being able to empower more individuals with mental health and addiction challenges towards greater social and economic inclusion through entrepreneurship.
A legacy donor can not only create a brighter, more inclusive future by helping to combat mental health stigma in business, but they are also enabling actions that will contribute to the economy, improve individual’s lives, and strengthen families and communities across Canada for generations to come.