With great pleasure, the Niagara Golden Horseshoe Chapter and Awards Selection Committee celebrate Cindy Mewhinney as recipient of the 2023 Lorna Somers Legacy Giving Award of Excellence. Congratulations, Cindy!
Director of Advancement at Shaw Festival
Cindy Mewhinney is an exceptional professional who has inspired donors to invest in our communities through her dedication, volunteerism, and expertise in fundraising. Her commitment to serving the community as both a volunteer and a professional fundraiser sets her apart as a true altruist. As a long-time Rotarian for the St. Catharines Club, Cindy has demonstrated her unwavering dedication to making a positive impact on her community. Through her volunteer work, she has selflessly contributed her time, talents, and treasures to support various initiatives and projects aimed at improving the lives of individuals in the Niagara region. Her active involvement in the community has not only inspired others but has also provided her with valuable insights into the needs and aspirations of the people she serves. With over 20 years of experience in the fundraising industry, Cindy has honed her skills and developed a deep understanding of effective fundraising strategies. Her commitment to professional growth and excellence is evident in her achievement of the CFRE (Certified Fund Raising Executive) designation in 2008. By becoming an early adopter of the CFRE program, Cindy demonstrated her commitment to continuous learning and staying updated with the best practices in the field. Cindy's expertise in fundraising has been instrumental in inspiring donors to invest in our communities.
CAGP: Can you tell us a bit about your philanthropic journey?
I have always felt a calling to build community; and my career in fundraising has been a
formalized way of doing that. While wide ranging from social services, children and healthcare,
to the arts – the core aspect has always been about connecting people to causes that they are
passionate about, and to connecting people to each other to increase their level of impact. My
journey has brought me close to so many people – volunteers, colleagues, donors, recipients of
service – who are all part of this amazing journey we refer to as philanthropy. But at the end of
the day – it’s about being part of community and believing our involvement can impact change.
CAGP: What does this award mean to you?
It is humbling because of who the award is in honour of. This award means a lot to me because
it represents something I believe wholeheartedly in. Legacy giving is the ultimate compliment a
donor can give to an organization or cause they care about, because it is a true indication of
trust. Legacy gifts also are such an incredible way to live one’s values and the things we each
care deeply about.
CAGP: In your career, what has been a highlight for you when working with clients on their
future gifts to charity?
For me, the highlight is always the stories and getting to know the donors and their lifetime
journey with the causes they care so deeply about. I think of a donor, who was one of the
very first donors to United Way in St. Catharines. He had been proudly giving for 50+ years; and
his bequest was one of the very first I had the privilege to be involved with. I remember how
meaningful it was for me to have known him personally. It was never about the size of the gift,
it was what it stood for and how it expressed his deep commitment to the community. And that
commitment inspired so many others to follow in his footsteps....
CAGP: What inspires you to help people with their philanthropic planning?
I think people truly underestimate the power of legacy giving.
Someone once told me that planned giving is "the democratization of major giving", which is a
phrase that I love. Planning allows ALL donors to truly make an impact on a level that far
surpasses what they can do on an annual basis. And that is truly meaningful for the donor.
I’m excited about the potential that exists to create even more impact. It’s a privilege to be able
to share moments of connection with donors through these conversations about legacy giving,
and it’s really fulfilling to meet with donors and hear what has inspired them to give in this way.
CAGP: How does being a member of the CAGP help you in your work as Director of
As a member of a professional fundraising community, I have access to ongoing training, and
also a community of professionals who understand the pressures, the opportunities, the
struggles. I feel supported and invigorated because of this community.
CAGP: You have been a mentor to others who work in the field of gift planning. Have you had a
mentor yourself along the way?
Mentorship is an important part of the work in our field. I have had several people in my career
I have learned so much from. Being open to learning is critical to growing and keeping energy
levels fresh. I love the concept of a ‘personal board of directors’; the idea that you need
different mentors for different aspects of your life. Not surprisingly, I have also learned much
from the people I have mentored, too. It’s a great continuum of surrounding yourself with
people who share a passion and understanding for this field of work.
CAGP: What piece of advice do you have for professionals working with clients or donors who
want to make an impact on the future through a cause near and dear?
Imagine what would happen if we personally spoke about legacy giving with every donor who
has given to our cause for 10+ years? Imagine if we knew all their stories of why they started
giving and why they still give.
Pick up the phone and call them. Connect with them. Thank them. Most of all - don’t be afraid
to talk about legacy giving – and don’t wait for the ‘perfect time’. The more we normalize
legacy giving as a regular part of our philanthropic conversations, the greater impact we will
have in the lives of our own donors, in our own organizations and beyond. Let’s democratize
major giving and make it accessible to so many more donors - through legacy and planned
We have a huge opportunity in this moment in time, and collectively we can change the face of
philanthropy as we know it, simply by making legacy giving a part of every aspect of our work.
It’s contagious, and it’s exciting!
We look forward to celebrating in person with Cindy at a later date.