How BIG's in-house charity is helping vulnerable Canadians

The brokerage created BIG Hearts to assist the communities it serves

How BIG's in-house charity is helping vulnerable Canadians

Insurance News

By David Saric

With the intent to give back to the communities it serves beyond its core Niagara headquarters, Billyard Insurance Group (BIG) established the BIG Hearts charitable foundation as to help vulnerable children and families across the country and showcase the coming together of employees and its extended network.

“My husband runs a charity for people with Down syndrome here in Niagara, which initially got us thinking about getting bigger with providing aid,” said Cindy Billyard, executive director of BIG Hearts and co-owner of BIG alongside her brother.

By establishing BIG Hearts, which happened in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and was launched softly as having in-person events was still tricky, the charity ended up co-hosting its first golf tournament alongside the Big Brothers, Big Sisters organization in 2021.

“This summer, we decided to step out and do something our own,” Billyard said, noting how this fundraiser will be an annual occurrence.

With BIG Hearts, Billyard is able to tap into its various offices throughout the country to give back to the communities they serve.

“One of the great things about doing community events or fundraisers is other charities reach out and want us to help them with their initiatives,” Billyard said.

“I may not know what organizations need assistance in Halifax, or even in Sudbury. However, by doing stuff like this, we kind of find our partners who we align with for the causes we're raising money for.”

In an interview with Insurance Business, Billyard spoke about how BIG Hearts was able to put on its recent Holiday Silent Auction and what is next on the agenda for the charity.

Tapping into BIG’s resources

Wanting to make a meaningful contribution at Christmas time, Billyard her team were trying to figure out how to get all the company’s offices involved in a fundraiser that helped those in need during the holidays while also being mindful of the employees’ time and geographic location.

“We initially wanted to rent out a ballroom here in Ontario and have everyone come over, but then we decided to do something online instead, as it was more accommodating,” she said.

Reaching out to the insurance companies that BIG partners with, the executive director of BIG Hearts was able to procure nearly 80% of the donations that were eventually auctioned off.

“Our carrier partners, such as Aviva and Intact, were huge in helping get this off the ground, where we had no overhead costs in order to put on this fundraiser,” Billyard noted.

With prizes including a trip to Aruba for two and courtside Raptors seats, the magnitude and exclusivity of prizes enabled the event to raise $24,314 for charity.

In total, throughout 2023, BIG Hearts has raised over $95,000 for various organizations.

“It’s a lot of fun when you receive emails from the charities that show the firsthand impact these donations make on the families they are helping,” Billyard said.

Future plans for BIG Hearts

While BIG Hearts is gearing up for another charitable golf tournament in June and the holiday raffle in December, there are other initiatives it is helping in the meantime.

“We’re currently partnering with a business partner who is putting on a pond hockey tournament to raise money for neonatal care in February,” Billyard said.

“BIG Hearts is going to match his funds. By doing this, you're encouraging others to get involved too and shine a light on new charitable initiatives to support.”

BIG Hearts is keen on working with different organizations throughout the year to keep a continuous flow of funds to causes that really need them.

“Last August, we helped split the costs of tuition to Niagara College so a person with Down syndrome could attend, which was outside our regular fundraising,” Billyard said.

“You eventually hear their stories on how the individuals and families you had a chance to help are doing and it's really cool and rewarding to see.”


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