The Association of Fundraising Professionals (AFP) will honor Bell Canada as the year’s most exemplary philanthropic company with the 2012 Freeman Philanthropic Services Award for Outstanding Corporation for its Bell Let’s Talk Initiative in support of mental health.
The award honors a corporation that demonstrates outstanding commitment to important causes through financial support and encouragement, as well as the company’s ability to motivate others to take on leadership roles in their communities. Bell Canada will receive the honor on March 31, 2012, at a special Celebration of Philanthropy ceremony during AFP’s 49th International Conference on Fundraising in Vancouver, the largest gathering of fundraisers in the world.
“Bell Canada is to be commended not only for its extraordinary charitable efforts, but also for its courage and compassion in addressing an issue that is neither well-known nor discussed—mental health,” said Andrew Watt, FInstF, president and CEO of AFP. “The corporation has shown tremendous philanthropic leadership, and Bell is more than deserving of being our 2012 Outstanding Corporation.”
While Bell Canada, the country’s largest communications company, has a long history of charitable giving, it recently took an extraordinary leadership role in addressing one of the most pervasive yet underfunded health issues facing Canada by launching that country’s largest corporate support program for mental health.
The Bell Let’s Talk Initiative is a five-year, $50 million program in support of mental health. The initiative is based on four key pillars: anti-stigma, care and access, research, and workplace best practices. In addition to significant funding for hospitals, universities and community groups across the country, the company is supporting its mental health initiative through workplace leadership, employee engagement and encouraging other organizations and the public to get involved.
“Bell Let’s Talk is dedicated to growing the national conversation about mental illness, reducing the pervasive stigma around the disease as we fund the leading care and research organizations that are making real progress in promoting Canadian mental health,” said George Cope, President and CEO of Bell Canada. “The Bell team is grateful for an international honour of this calibre, one that helps highlight and further de-stigmatize a health concern too long misunderstood and marginalized. The AFP’s recognition is another important step in raising awareness about the impact of mental illness on our society and economy, and how we can all make a positive difference.”
Through its national Let’s Talk anti-stigma campaign, Bell Canada contributed five cents for every long distance calls and text message its customers made on Bell Let’s Talk Day on Feb. 9, 2011 to further fund mental health initiatives. The campaign featured Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes, who spoke about her own experience with depression. More than 66 million calls and texts that day resulted in more than $3 million in additional funds for Canadian mental health. The next Bell Let’s Talk Day is scheduled for February 8, 2012.
As part of its program to support leading care and research hospitals across Canada, Bell Canada made the largest corporate gift to mental health ever in Canada last May, a $10 million contribution to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Foundation. The donation is funding new care and research initiatives and redevelopment of facilities, including a new Bell Gateway Building that will serve as a central hub at the hospital’s campus. In addition, the $1 million Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund recently distributed grants from $5,000 to $50,000 to 49 community-based groups across the country.
“Bell Canada has gone beyond just giving and has created a comprehensive campaign that brings to bear so many resources to address this important issue,” said Gail Freeman, president of Freeman Philanthropic Services, which sponsors the honor. “That’s what being an outstanding corporate philanthropic role model is all about, and we’re proud to join with AFP in honoring Bell with this award.”
Bell Canada is also working with corporations across Canada and the health care community to develop and adopt mental health best practices in the workplace. In July, the company pledged to help fund the creation of the first national standards to help improve the psychological health and safety of employees at corporations across the country