Our Story

The History of Abundance Canada (Formerly the Mennonite Foundation of Canada)

Helping Canadians give generously for nearly 50 years

Abundance Canada’s purpose is rooted in our history. In the early 1970s, leaders from the Mennonite tradition were inspired by their Christian faith to make charitable giving easier for people who wanted to share their financial resources. In 1974, we opened our doors as Mennonite Foundation of Canada.

Beyond encouraging people to share their financial resources, we adopted investment policies that embraced social responsibility. The impact of socially responsible investing (Environmental, Social, Governance) made us a pioneer in ethical/responsible investing. ESG remains a hallmark of our investment policies today.

Our gift planning was ahead of its time and as the organization grew, a network of institutions and donors were attracted to both the vision of charitable giving and the benefit of our services. In 2016, we changed our name to Abundance Canada to reflect our growing and diverse donor base.
We believe generosity changes everything. Throughout our history, we have evolved and adapted, but our values remain the same.

Chapters in our story

1974
1982
1984
1994
1995
1999
2000
2009
2016
2016
2019

1974: Mennonite Foundation of Canada officially opens for business!

Founded by a network of Canadian Mennonite organizations, MFC opened its doors for business in 1974. Led by David P. Neufeld (Board Chair), Rufus Jutzi (Regional Manager of Ontario, later National Manager), and J.K. Klassen (National Manager in Winnipeg), they created a dedicated team of people to help Canadians with charitable gift planning. Below: The first staff members are welcomed during the first annual meeting of MFC members. From left to right: Milo Shantz (board vice-chair), Rufus Jutzi (regional manager for Ontario), J.K. Klassen (national manager), D.P. Neufeld (board chair).
1974

1982: First year that Mennonite Foundation of Canada’s annual charitable disbursements rise above $200,000

1982 was a milestone year for the founders. Together, they empowered Canadians to be generous with annual charitable disbursements rising above $200,000 for the first time. They were happy to share their resources and accelerate the organization’s growth.

Below: Volunteers and staff sitting outside Conrad Grebel College in Waterloo, Ontario, (today known as Conrad Grebel University College) during the first MFC annual meeting (May 4, 1974). 

 

1982

1984: Record breaking asset year for the foundation

Assets under management grew by a record $900,000 in a single year, which brought the total to more than $3.7 million. The hard work of the staff in the early days had quickly grown the organization. This led to the creation of the four offices we have today in Abbotsford, Calgary, Winnipeg, and Kitchener. Gift planning consultants, known then as ‘stewardship consultants’, would travel the country educating people about charitable giving and the services the foundation offered.

Below: Gift planning consultant Merlin Stauffer meets with clients in the early 1980s at the Calgary office.

1984

1994: Mennonite Foundation of Canada celebrates its 20th Anniversary

By the 1990s, the idea of giving from one’s assets as well as one’s income was catching on as more charities were embracing gift planning. Already well-established, MFC was considered a forerunner in this new approach to charitable giving.

Below: Rufus Jutzi, Edgar Rempel and J.K. Klassen reunite during the 20th anniversary celebration.

1994

1995: The Foundation becomes self-sustaining

Along with support from the early founders, came endorsement from the “founding conferences” (Conferences are sub-groups within the Mennonite faith that form due to varying beliefs and geographical diversity). Firmly agreeing with the mission and vision of the foundation, these founding conferences elected members to serve on the foundation’s board of directors. They also provided capital to maintain the organization’s operations in its early years. It wasn’t until 1995 that MFC became self-sustaining and distributed $10,000 to each founding conference.

Below: Staff meeting in the 1990s. From left to right: Edwin Friesen, Dave Kroeker, Bob Veitch, and Edgar Rempel.

1995

1999: Mennonite Foundation of Canada published ‘A Foundation Like No Other’

Written and researched by John Dyck, the foundation published its complete history from 1973 to 1998. The book is dedicated to John Dyck, who sadly passed away just weeks before it was published.

1999

2000: The Mennonite ‘founding conferences’ change to ‘sustaining conferences’

By the early 2000s, more conferences had joined the leadership of the foundation, causing the title to be changed to ‘sustaining conferences.’. Members from these groups were selected to serve on the foundation’s board of directors. As of 2016, the sustaining conferences were:

  • Mennonite Church Canada
  • Northwest Mennonite Conference
  • Evangelical Mennonite Conference
  • Evangelical Mennonite Mission Conference
  • Chortitzer Mennonite Conference
  • Evangelical Mission Conference of Canada
  • Evangelical Bergthaler Mennonite Conference

Below: MFC staff during the 2000 AGM. From left to right: Darren Pries-Klassen, Mike Strathdee, Pam Peters-Pries, Dave Kroeker and Edwin Friesen.

2000

2009: Darren Pries-Klassen is promoted to Executive Director of Mennonite Foundation of Canada

Before his current role, Darren worked in church ministry and was a gift planning consultant for 11 years. In 2018, the title of Executive Director was changed to CEO to better reflect the nature of the position. Today, Darren is regarded as a thought leader on generosity and charitable giving, and he speaks regularly on these topics at events across Canada. He is a bridge-builder between the faith-based community and the wider charitable sector.

2009

2016: Mennonite Foundation of Canada rebrands to Abundance Canada

In 2016, MFC rebranded to Abundance Canada to broaden its reach and offer its services to a wider audience of people. This change followed months of market and corporate analysis, survey research, and many discussions with stakeholders and clients. While still guided by biblical principles of generosity, Abundance Canada works with anyone who has charitable intent.

Below: Gift planning consultant Susan Yakabowich welcomes a client to the Winnipeg office. 

2016

2016: Abundance Canada restructures its governance model

The board restructured its governance model to reflect the foundation’s message that it serves all Canadians. Instead of finding directors solely from sustaining conferences, the model now allows board directors be anyone, irrespective of church affiliation, provided they agree with the foundation’s guiding principles.

Below: 2018 board of directors. From left to right: Allister Penner, Kaylie Tiessen, Clayton Loewen, Anita Retzlaff, Allan Reesor-McDowell, Shannon Peters and Abe Bergen (absent: Marguerite Jack). 

2016

2019: Abundance Canada breaks its own record for number of distributions to charity in a given year

In 2019, Abundance Canada distributed $28.96 million to charities and qualified donees, surpassing its previous benchmark for distributions in a given year. The foundation also receipted $55.33 million in total donations, of which $30.45 million were in-kind publicly traded securities.

Below: Gift planning consultant Brad Friesen meets with a client. 

2019