Shawn Mendes Foundation Nears 1st Birthday

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Shawn Mendes is celebrating two birthdays this month – his 22nd on Aug. 8 and the 1st for the Shawn Mendes Foundation (SMF).

So, how is SMF doing in its inaugural year? If something big is happening (oh whoa oh oh oh), the Canadian star is apparently not eager to talk about it. While the foundation has already inspired thousands of Mendes' fans, highlighted important social issues and provided funds to charitable causes, most fans still know surprisingly little about it.

A request for comment from the singer about the foundation that bears his name was declined and publicist Dvora Vener Englefield refused to answer specific questions, including how much has SMF raised and how much has it given away? (To be clear, there is no suggestion of anything untoward or of any wrongdoing.)

Here's what we do know.

THE MONEY

When it launched, SMF was flush with cash. According to an Aug. 28, 2019 press release, the foundation had already collected $1 million U.S. through “partnerships and donations.” And, based on social media posts, fans were quick to get onboard. Within hours of announcing the launch, a tweet from SMF read: “Thank you for the overwhelming support. Our website has crashed…” A Sept. 9 post on its Facebook page read: “Thank you all for the incredible support with our launch. We are so inspired by the response.”

What many of Mendes’ fans who went online to contribute to his foundation might not have realized is that SMF is not a registered charity in the U.S. or Canada. (Englefield declined to say if the foundation is in the process of being registered, or plans to do so.)

As such, donations to SMF made in Canada go directly to the Toronto-based SickKids Charitable Giving Fund. Half of these donations are kept by SickKids and the other half "may be given to qualified donation recipients" chosen by the foundation.

Donations to SMF made in countries other than Canada are collected by Social Impact Fund, a Los Angeles-based charity that “provides a legal structure under which charitable programs may operate,” according to its website. Social Impact Fund keeps a percentage of donations for its services.

So, how much has the foundation distributed to charitable causes in its first year – and which ones? Englefield would not say but forwarded an Aug. 4th press release about a partnership with Fender that read: “SMF recently partnered with Global Citizen Year to launch the Global Citizen Academy, a first-of-its kind leadership experience for 2020 high school graduates from around the world to learn powerful and practical skills for a lifetime of social impact. Most recently, SMF provided $250,000 in need-based scholarships to ensure that tuition is not a barrier to entry and students of all economic backgrounds can participate in the Academy."

It added: "The Foundation has worked with Forests Ontario to plant seven acres of trees outside of Ontario, Canada.”

Asked how much it received from SMF, Forests Ontario spokesperson MJ Kettleborough told iHeartRadio.ca: “Unfortunately, we cannot give that information out. What we can say is that it is enough for us to plant seven acres of trees that will grow into a forest.”

In March, SickKids Foundation announced it received a $175,000 CAD donation from SMF for the purchase of equipment and supplies needed to handle the COVID-19 crisis. SickKids Foundation – which reported $1.2 billion in assets last year – backs the SickKids Charitable Giving Fund, which collects all Canadian donations to SMF and keeps half.

In March, Mendes declared on social media that “for the next month, all donations to The Shawn Mendes Foundation will go towards SickKids Hospital & relief efforts around the world by the [World Health Organization].”

THE STRUCTURE

Who, besides Mendes, is involved in SMF and from where does it operate? No address is listed on the foundation’s website but a mailing address buried in the Privacy Policy is for a condo building in Brooklyn, New York. Similarly, the SMF domain name was registered to someone in New York on Aug. 2, 2019.

According to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, a rep for Mendes did not file an application to trademark “Shawn Mendes Foundation” until Sept. 27 2019 – a month after launch. The Canadian Trademarks Database indicates an application was submitted on Sept. 23, 2019.

According to public records, a trademark has not yet been granted to SMF in either country.

THE FOCUS

For a foundation in its infancy, SMF appears to have made impressive charitable contributions. Perhaps Mendes doesn't want to brag? (He's Canadian, so it isn't in his blood.)

It's worth noting that when he launched his foundation last August, Mendes didn’t put an emphasis on cash.

“For a long time, I’ve wanted to find a way to amplify the causes that my fans care deeply about, and to further help them make their voices heard,” he wrote in a message that was shared on social media and included in a press release. “Our generation has the power to change the future of our planet, and to help carry that change forward for so many generations to follow.”

Indeed, SMF has used its social media platforms to amplify dozens of charities and community organizations, to highlight social causes and to promote advocacy. Currently, SMF has 278k Instagram followers, 44.2k on Twitter and 30k on Facebook. (Mendes himself has 25.5 million Twitter followers and 56 million on Instagram.)

From the little we know about SMF, it appears there is quite a bit to celebrate on its first birthday.

How does the Shawn Mendes Foundation compare to more established foundations created by some of Mendes’ fellow Canadians? Here's a look:

Jon Kopaloff / Getty Images

AVRIL LAVIGNE FOUNDATION

Created: 2010

Home Base: Thousand Oaks, California

Mission: “The Avril Lavigne Foundation supports individuals with Lyme disease, serious illnesses and disabilities,” reads a description on its website. “Through programs and grants, we provide funding, education and encouragement for our beneficiaries to follow their dreams, no matter what their circumstances. Our vision is to lead and inspire a community including, fans, friends, families, advocates and partners who can come together to provide unity and support for those in need.”

Registered Charity In Canada? No

Registered Charity In the U.S.? Yes

Who’s Involved? According to filings with the U.S. government, the foundation’s board of directors consists of Avril Lavigne, her sister-in-law Amie Lavigne, her musical collaborator Evan Taubenfield and lawyer Daniel A. Danielson.

How Can I Donate? The foundation’s website accepts donations via PayPal, which keeps a small percentage of every contribution. Donors can also mail cheques to Danyliw & Mann Professional Corporation, an accounting firm in Burlington, Ont.

Show Me the Money! According to public filings, between 2010 and 2018 the foundation had revenues of $1,460,170 (all figures U.S.) but gave only $496,249 – roughly 34 percent – to charitable causes. Easter Seals, which runs camps for disabled children in the U.S. and Canada, received the bulk of the cash ($321,441) and the rest went to the Lymelight Foundation, Special Olympics, Mercy Corps and UCLA Development.

Most of the funds raised by the foundation – at least $846,275 (a figure for 2016 is not available) – went to Global Philanthropy Group in Santa Monica, California for “consulting services.”

A telephone number for the Avril Lavigne Foundation is not publicly listed and no one responded to an email request for more information.

 

SIMPLE PLAN FOUNDATION

Created: 2006

Home Base: Montreal, Quebec

Mission: “The foundation’s aim is to help young people in need, by easing their difficult passage to adulthood and by supporting the victims of life threatening illnesses,” reads a description on the website. “The foundation also believes that the practice of music can be a privileged tool to help them find a passion in life, keeping them away from street gangs and criminality, and preventing school dropping.”

Registered Charity in Canada? Yes

Registered Charity in U.S.? No

Who’s Involved? According to public filings for the year ended 2018, the foundation’s board of directors was made up of Simple Plan members Charles-André “Chuck” Comeau and Jean-François “Jeff” Stinco; RBC Wealth Management VP André Prud’Homme; Catherine Sharp, director of business development and operations in the Montreal office of Stikeman Elliott; and Montreal lawyer Anne-Valérie Ménard.

How Can I Donate? One way the foundation raises money is through online donations via CanadaHelps, which keeps up to 4 percent of every donation.

Show Me the Money! According to Canada Revenue Agency filings, the foundation has raised $2,484,838 from 2006 to 2018 and donated $2,305,779 to a long list of Canadian charities and programs – an impressive 92.8 per cent of its revenues.

Last year, the Simple Plan Foundation said it distributed $225,000 to more than 30 charitable organizations.

 

Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

SHANIA KIDS CAN FOUNDATION

Created: 2010 (Canada); 2012 (U.S.)

Home Base: Toronto and New York City

Mission: “The purpose of the organization is to educate, inspire and empower children to achieve their full potential, increasing their chances of equality and opportunities for success,” reads a description on its website. “The organization aims to help children in especially difficult situations.”

Registered Charity in Canada? Yes

Registered Charity in U.S.? Yes

Who’s Involved? According to public filings for the year ended 2018, the foundation’s board of directors was made up of Shania Twain; her husband Frederic Thiebaud, a former Nestlé executive; her business manager William Zysblat of RZO; and Swiss finance expert Thomas Steinmann.

Donations: Americans can donate via a PayPal link on the foundation’s website. (PayPal keeps a small percentage of every donation.) Donors in Canada can make an online donation via CanadaHelps, which keeps up to 4 percent of every donation.

Show Me the Money! According to filings with the Canada Revenue Agency, Shania Kids Can raised $2,511,760 from 2010 to 2018 and distributed $1,550,252 – or about 62 percent of its revenues – to programs at schools in four provinces.

South of the border, it’s a different story. Shania Kids Can U.S. Ltd. raised $1,123,388 U.S. between 2012 and 2018, according to public filings, and gave only $178,065 – about 16 percent of its revenues – to the Public Education Foundation in Las Vegas.

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