Donor Profile: Nancy Lazar 

Nancy Lazar’s philanthropic journey is guided by the phrase: ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ 

Nancy Lazar’s philanthropic journey is guided by the phrase: ‘there but for the grace of God go I.’ 

That capacity to walk in someone else’s shoes acts as a charitable giving compass that aligns with the values instilled in Nancy by her mother. “My mom strongly believed in supporting women in need,” she says.  

While working as a Portfolio Manager at Bissett Investment Management, Nancy became familiar with Calgary Foundation’s role in helping donors support charitable causes they cared about. So to honour her mother’s legacy, Nancy established the Lois Jeanette Grant Memorial Fund, administered by the Calgary Foundation.  

Over the past 25 years, the Fund has distributed over $250,000 in grants to Fear is Not Love, formerly the Calgary Women’s Emergency Shelter, that assists women and children in living free from domestic violence and abuse. 

Understanding the sustainability of charities relies on long-term, secure funding, Nancy also established the Lazar Family Fund which has distributed over $185,000 in grants to The Mustard Seed since 2007.  

“Governments can’t possibly fund all the social service needs,” says Nancy. “Look at how many of our major education and health care institutions are named in recognition of the significant donations that come from successful Calgarians who make things happen.” 

More recently, the increased awareness about intergenerational trauma caused by the Indian Act and residential schools that eroded cultural practices, suppressed language and religion, and dismantled Indigenous families and communities, triggered a deeply rooted memory for Nancy.  

“As a student at U of C in the 1970s, I remember the discrimination that Indigenous students had to face. More people need to be aware of the terrible treatment of Indigenous people, it’s horrific.” she says. 

Inspired to learn more about Calgary Foundation’s reconciliation journey, Nancy met with staff including Tim Fox, VP Indigenous Relations and Equity Strategy, to gain a better understanding of the complexities of Indigenous experiences, and opportunities to provide funding. 

“Those learnings broadened my perspective and reinforced my strong belief that we can and need to do better,” says Nancy, which led her to establish the Lazar Family Donor Advised Fund (DAF) in 2018 to support Indigenous initiatives.  

“When times are tough, it’s often the women and children who pay the price, and for Indigenous women, those challenges are even greater,” says Nancy.  

For the past six years, the Lazar Family DAF has annually supported the Awo Taan Healing Lodge Society which provides shelter and services to those affected by family violence and abuse. Guided by Indigenous traditional teachings, and appropriately named Awo Taan which means ‘shield’ in the Blackfoot language, the shelter provides traditional wholistic and spiritual teachings to support women and children in the healing process. It’s also a place for them to reconnect with their Indigenous culture to continue healing after leaving the shelter.  

As a family, Nancy and her three adult children have consensus on where their charitable support will make the most impact. As Nancy puts it, “When you have the means to do so, it’s important to step up and be generous. Where would we be without philanthropy?”