Craig Senyk is a father, husband, business leader, board member, social impact investor and country music enthusiast. As chair of the board at Mawer Investments, the host of the annual Calgary Jamboree for Charity, and a board member at Theatre Calgary, Craig invests in the community in a myriad of innovative and inspiring ways.
We sat down with Craig to learn more about his approach to his personal and Mawer’s corporate giving. What’s his WHY? What makes for great partnerships? How can social profit organizations seek out the right community ‘investors’?
CHARITABLE GIVING IS A SOCIAL INVESTMENT
In most cases we might have referred to Craig as a philanthropist, but Craig doesn’t see himself that way.
“I really think of myself as an investor,” says Craig. It’s not surprising, then, that Craig approaches giving as he would any investment—he looks for organizations that are well managed, that he believes in, and that share his values.
In the corporate world, “I’ve found it so important to find really good people, get out of their way, and let them do their thing,” says Craig. “When I’m looking for charities to work with, I take the same approach: look for a good cause run by good people, give them the resources they need, and get out of their way.”
Once he has done his due diligence, Craig rarely directs donations to a specific initiative, rather, he relies on organizations he’s come to trust to direct the investments they receive where they need it most.
What does the return-on-investment look like?
After making a gift to Classroom Champions, the organization leveraged Craig’s investment to attract more individual and corporate donors from Canada and the US. From there, the organization was able to bring more athlete mentors to classrooms across North America.
“I got to peek into a classroom in Arrowwood near the Siksika Nation and see Indigenous athletes mentoring Indigenous children,” Craig reflects. “Life doesn’t really get much better than seeing moments like that as a return on your investment.”
WHAT MATTERS MOST? WHO SHARES YOUR VALUES? CRAIG’S APPROACH TO FORGING STRONG PARTNERSHIPS.
When he’s looking for charities to work with, “it really comes down to what matters to you personally and professionally,” says Craig. “I love to support anything around better outcomes for children, arts, culture, and sport.”
At Mawer, the team responsible for community giving looks for organizations helping to alleviate poverty in the communities they work and live. The three underlying pillars of the Mawer strategy are: education, with an emphasis on financial literacy and empowerment; healthcare, with an emphasis on mental health; and, basic needs, such as food and shelter.
Craig has found that partnerships can transcend the cause when they are built around shared values and culture.
“When a similar set of values is driving your behaviour, there’s a sense of serendipity,” says Craig. “The relationship then goes beyond what we’re trying to do—we come together in friendship.”
WHAT DOES AUTHENTIC, JOYFUL GIVING LOOK LIKE?
Craig will be the first to tell you that spreading good is not just about making a monetary gift. He and his wife Cara founded their annual Jamboree for Charity around their combined passions for country music, the community, and bringing people together.
“People come because they want to give to a good cause,” says Craig, “but what they don’t always realize is that we’re also giving back to the musicians.” The event gives artists exposure and opens doors to new opportunities for them. Craig adds: “The musicians do what they do because they love it. By playing for us they bring that joy to our lives.”
Every person present at the Jamboree gets to soak up that joy. “So, we’re also giving back to ourselves,” says Craig, “because we’re bringing a group of like-minded people together to have fun and build a better community.”
INTEGRATING GIVING INTO CORPORATE CULTURE & INSPIRING MORE DONORS TO PAY IT FORWARD
At Mawer, the community giving program actively helps their team members find their own meaningful ways to give—making our community stronger, one person at a time.
Giving to the community is more than a ‘nice to do’ at work.
“We don’t see our company and the social profit sector as separate entities,” Craig explains. “The community is one of our four stakeholders—the other three are our clients, our employees, and our owners. We hold ourselves accountable to successful outcomes for all our stakeholders, community included.”
Mawer backs up their value of community investment with action. Every month at Mawer, employees nominate different charities and hold a vote. The company gifts $10,000 to the winning organization.
Mawer also matches up to $3,000 annually to each employee’s charity of choice. “We recognize that not every employee can do that financially,” says Craig. “So, we offer time off for volunteerism and match dollars to the equivalent monetary value of the time they give.”
On top of that, a volunteer committee chooses organizations where Mawer employees can volunteer as a group. The company also invites organizations to come and share their story with the team.
Raising awareness and building relationships with an ever-growing number of charities has a ripple effect of goodness—both for the Mawer team and the organizations they support.
HOW CAN SOCIAL PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS ATTRACT CHARITABLE PARTNERS LIKE MAWER AND CRAIG?
Craig is a big believer in the butterfly effect—give your donors and stakeholders tools to tell your story, and new doors to unexpected opportunities will open.
“Often donors find charities to support through referrals from people they know and trust,” Craig explains. “Use your network to find new people you can tell your story to—even if you don’t get a donation, you’ve shared your story with someone who didn’t know you before. That’s how word spreads.”
Beyond leveraging your existing relationships, look for people and companies that share your values and beliefs.
ON WHY COMMUNITY GIVING MAKES US ALL WEALTHIER
“Whenever I invest, my wealth grows,” says Craig. Craig’s definition of wealth, it should be said, is about much more than money. Wealth is about richness of life, about health, safety, vibrancy, and happiness. “If I invest in myself through education, my wealth grows,” he says. “If I invest in my family, my wealth grows. And if I invest in my community, my wealth grows.”
In other words, the wealth and health of the community is good for all people who are part of it.
“If we can all get aligned around the common purpose of strengthening our community,” says Craig, “and we all have our own reasons and our own areas of interest—that’s what’s ultimately going to lead us to a higher plane as a society.”