Pat Cochrane on the impact of a named loan fund

Published January 15, 2020.

Pat Cochrane became a donor early, supporting an overseas foster child program when she was 16 using money saved from a part time job. Since then, she’s become actively involved in local and international charities that support public education, gender equity, and family wellness. She also served as a Calgary school board trustee for 14 years and recently joined the board for the Centre for Sexuality.

As a supporter of a named loan fund at Windmill, Pat sees the impact she’s having on our clients every day.

“To me, it’s important to focus on individuals,” she says, “because that’s what our community is built on.”

She sat down with our Annual Giving Officer, Stephanie Wong Ken, to talk about her approach to giving and where she sees philanthropy heading in 2020.

I love hearing about your journey as a donor, from giving a bit each month to supporting organizations on a local and national level. What inspired you to support a named loan fund at Windmill?

I’d heard for years about all the issues people were having with Canadian accreditation, struggling to pay these fees when they come to Canada, and the loss of human capital we experience because they face these barriers. Trying to support yourself and your family, and trying to figure out what is required to get accredited, it’s so huge. The named loan fund allows Canadians who are settled in Canada to help newcomers breathe a little bit and say, “okay, I can do this,” and then pay it back so others can benefit. I just thought it was an amazing, simple idea.

At a recent Windmill event, I met a client who got accredited in IT and now has his own IT company and is employing other people. It made me realize, wow it doesn’t take much to get on to the path to success when you are clearly committed and motivated. It warms my heart to hear these stories.

As a seasoned donor and volunteer in the community, how does your support of Windmill factor into your overall approach to philanthropy and giving?

I use two filters when I’m looking at an organization. Number one is, can my donation change a life? The second one is, I look at the program from a national level, and the impact it will have. Windmill covers both fronts, it has measurable impact and I can know how many people are effected by my support as well as how many people are achieving their goals.

In addition to your support of Windmill as a donor, you are actively involved in the Public Schools Association of Alberta and sit on the board for the Centre for Sexuality. Why did you decide to take on these roles at these organizations?

There are times when I simply give money to organizations I support, but I do like to be actively engaged and be a volunteer or on the board. I’m very committed to public education, I spent over a decade as a school board trustee, and to me, the mandate of public education is that each individual is set up to be the best person they can be. The Centre for Sexuality is similar, with a focus on supporting people with dignity and respect, acknowledging that there are all these different types of human beings and that we need to treat everyone with kindness.

What are you most excited about as a donor in 2020? Where do you see philanthropy heading in the coming years?

I’m most intrigued by the shift in generations. I’m at the tail end of the baby boomers and the way the new generation wants to give is changing. I’m curious about Patreon and Kickstarter, and this focus on wanting a personal connection to giving. I think there is a general sense that the world is in trouble and that we need to come together. My hope is that individuals will use these new tools to make some significant changes.

Windmill has such a measurable impact, and your clients have such compelling stories. As a donor, I know I am genuinely helping other people and they can then go out and help others, creating this pay it forward mentality. As Canada relies more and more on immigration for our growth and economic prosperity, I think Windmill will continue to get stronger and be even more effective in the future.

For more information about how to support Windmill Microlending with a planned gift, please contact: Sarah Stuewe – Manager, Philanthropy and Investments at (416) 360-4445 ext. 412 or

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