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One-to-one with John Bromley


Welcome to the latest installment of Q&A, our regular series of one-to-ones with some of Greater Vancouver's leading business figures.

This time, our subject is Charitable Impact Founder and CEO John Bromley.

What inspires you?

People who are actively creating change in the world around them inspire me. Helping change something you care about takes courage and imagination. I admire people who do something that they enjoy and also benefit others and the community around them.

How do you balance work and maintaining a personal life?

Work and family life have blended into one during the pandemic, but generally, I try to be conscious of who and what is happening around me. If my kids are around, I try to connect with them, and if I'm alone, I focus on work or rest. Regardless, because I love my work and because so much of it just happens in my head, it's hard to differentiate between work and play.

What was your first job?

A paper route. I delivered the Real Estate Weekly starting in grade 3 and moved to the Courier in grade 4! I delivered papers until grade 7 or so. I worked through my high school years in other jobs. My parents were pretty strict about having a job if we wanted money to spend. Those years formed the basis of my financial literacy as well as my sense of responsibility and accountability at an early age.

What's your most prized possession and why?

My family and friends because I don't ever tire of them, the way I do with favourite material possessions.

What keeps you awake at night?

I'm a good sleeper, but if something were to keep me awake at night, it's excitement. When I can't get something off my mind, I have to work through it in order to get it out of my mind.

Who do you most admire and why?

People who dedicate their lives to something meaningful; those that find something they want to create change for and do it. Of that crowd, those who achieve great things without sacrificing their personal or family life are those I admire the most. These are the everyday heroes I look to for mentorship and inspiration.

What is the biggest challenge you've faced in your career?

The lack of literacy around charitable giving. It isn't easy to find professionals with experience in the charitable sector, leading to challenges. And sadly, that lack of literacy trickles down to people and how they express their generosity.

What is the biggest challenge facing Greater Vancouver?

Affordability. It's challenging to have a well-rounded community when everyone who lives there has to be wealthy. Increasingly, this will lead to a lack of diversity and impact basic community structures and dynamics. In particular, for youth staying and living in the city.

What do you like most about doing business in Greater Vancouver?

The people. Vancouver is a beautiful place to live —if you can afford it. People seem to be genuinely happy about being here, which naturally translates into warmer business relationships. Working with happy people makes things much more fun.

Where do you see untapped potential in Greater Vancouver?

Youth: I think about high schools and post-secondary institutions in particular.

Youth today have unprecedented access to information and can use technology to create progress. In many ways, those that use the benefits of technology to advance their knowledge, understanding, and engagement with ideas seem to be ahead of where my generation was at the same point in our lives. However, I also have concerns about youth today who get too lost in all the meaningless content online because they are likely behind in many ways.

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement to date?

My greatest achievement is having the courage (and naivety?) to start and stick with our vision at Charitable Impact. Often people think about the achievements and successes during the journey, but I always go back to starting the journey because, without that, the successes along the way wouldn't have been possible.

What is the most important lesson, business or otherwise, life has taught you?

You'll never achieve anything if you don't try. Setting out to do something and being persistent about it is critical. While competency and knowledge are essential, you have to have something to apply them to. If you never take that first step and get started, you can't achieve goals. Failing along the way is part of the journey, so learn to appreciate all that is wonderful about failures.

What do you think makes a great leader?

I think about clear vision coupled with the persistence and courage to get over all the hurdles that end up getting in the way along the road to "success." Empathy and emotional intelligence are also really critical. Lastly, the willingness to take responsibility for and talk openly about failure.

Where is your favourite place in Vancouver?

Wherever the people I love are at.

What do you think Greater Vancouver needs more of?

Arts, theatre, and dance culture.

What do you think Greater Vancouver needs less of?

Apathy. All of us want something changed in the world, and I'd like to see more people take small but regular steps towards addressing that change. Our Impact Account is built to help people take easy steps into getting more active with charitable giving.

Who has helped you most in your career?

My dad. While I was raised in a family that made charity a part of our values, my dad - one of the world's foremost experts in charity law - has played the most substantive role in developing my subject matter expertise and fluency on matters of giving and charity. He's also empowered and enabled me to pursue my ideas, such as Charitable Impact.

What do you do when you aren't working?

I'm hanging out with my kids who are part way through elementary school. These days, we play a lot of soccer together.

What might (someone) be surprised to know about you?

Between the ages of 18 and 22, I spent several months each year in Asia. When I was working in Cambodia as an 18-year-old, I got caught in the middle of a military coup and was evacuated overland to Thailand by the Australian military.

If you could leave one professional legacy behind, what would it be?

Every year, fewer Canadians are giving charitably. At Charitable Impact, our tools and services help people become more regularly engaged in giving back. The legacy I'd like to be part of leaving behind is reversing the tide from declining participation to the development of larger numbers of donors who make charitable giving a part of their budget and their life.

Charitable Impact is an online giving platform that makes it easy to support any registered charity in Canada, raise money through crowdfunding, track impact over time and send charitable dollars to individuals. In short, an Impact Account helps people manage their charitable giving and create the change they want to see in the world. All from one place. Charitable Impact has already helped over 146,000 Canadians donate more than $775 million to thousands of charities nationwide.

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