Giving Now and Giving Later
Wismer Fund for the Arts
(Field of Interest Fund)

Sally and John WismerIn setting up the Wismer Fund for the Arts at the Guelph Community Foundation, and at the same time making provisions in their wills for a future bequest to that fund, John and Sally Wismer (photo left) wanted to give back to the community in which they have lived and worked for almost 50 years.

The Wismers moved to Guelph in 1964 after John had finished his Masters of Social Work at the University of Toronto and Sally had spent two years as editorial assistant at the U of T Press.  Having both come from smaller cities where they grew up feeling a sense of community, they chose Guelph as a comfortably-sized city where they could raise a family and enjoy being involved in community activities.  John put his social work degree to the test at the local Children’s Aid Society (now Family and Children Services) where he worked for nineteen years.  Sally joined the Board of Guelph Arts Council in 1981 and then transitioned to a staff role with that organization, first as bookkeeper in 1986, and then executive director from 1988 until her retirement in 2010.

Throughout these years living in Guelph, John and Sally have been keen supporters and audience members for many local artistic offerings. Over the course of all these involvements, they became acutely aware of the challenges facing local not-for-profit organizations, especially those in the cultural sphere.  Sally recalls, “We’ve witnessed first-hand the struggles these groups endured to make financial ends meet and still retain their artistic vitality.” 

When John and Sally sold their family home in mid-2012, they began to look at ways they could invest in their community.  They zeroed in on the cultural community, initiating discussions with the Foundation and their lawyer about how best to support and help maintain a vibrant and sustainable arts, culture and heritage scene in Guelph. 

The result is the Wismer Fund for the Arts to support local arts, culture and heritage activities.  Sally and John remark: “Our fund will start out very modestly, but will grow over the years to the point where its impact makes a lasting difference.  We hope we can spur other community advocates to think about their own personal legacy and help to stimulate other philanthropic investments in our community.”