January 16, 2018 From the President

Canadian Philanthropy: The Year Ahead

This is the time of year for forecasts. The philanthropy world is no exception. Forecasts abound, some of them off the wall, some fairly conservative. So why not jump in and add a Canadian perspective? We have made a few predictions below. At the end you’ll find links to forecasts made by other observers of the philanthropic scene in other countries. Put it all together and I think we could be optimistic?

Our predictions for Canadian philanthropy, some bold, some not so much. We’ll look back at the end of 2018 and check the track record.

Mega-Givers Emerge in Canada:  January saw the announcement of a $100 million anonymous gift to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto.  An extraordinary single gift, unusual for Canada. Will we see more of these multi-million gifts? I think it’s likely, as mega-givers emerge and breakthroughs seem possible, especially in health. Will these transformational gifts be focused on the big research institutions? Or will we see more of them in the areas of climate change, or support for refugees and immigrants, or human rights or homelessness reduction? That’s less clear.

Philanthropy Pivots More Strongly Towards Indigenous Issues: Momentum has gathered, not faltered, since the close of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in 2015. Indigenous leadership, especially Indigenous youth, is keeping the question of reconciliation on the front burner. Funders are going to want to make some big bets on young Indigenous people, the fastest growing demographic in the country.

“Collaborative” and “Participatory” Become Buzzwords: Foundations are going to experiment more with ways to engage in participatory grantmaking; and more funder affinity groups and collective funder groups are going to emerge or grow in 2018.

….But Diversity Does Not: Organized philanthropy in Canada is notably undiversified demographically. The gap is evident between those who dominate organized philanthropy and their beneficiaries, especially in our larger Canadian urban centres. There are still few examples of foundations adopting strategies to get more diversified voices at their tables. Will we see a big change in 2018? In awareness, yes…in action, not clear.

The Federal Government Commits to Modernizing the Tax Regime for Charities: Although the federal government made news in late 2015 about modernizing the Income Tax Act with regard to charities, there hasn’t been much action since then. The sector has continued to press hard for change and we will see more noise from charities and opinion leaders as 2018 unfolds. Will the government stick to its promise? I am going to be bold and say that it will.

Impact Investing Is Still a Minority Choice: Although there are many more direct investment opportunities in the Canadian and global market, and governments (notably Ontario) are signalling that it is not “imprudent” for foundations to engage in impact investing, this will remain unexplored ground for many foundations.

Donor-advised Fund Foundation Assets Will Grow Quickly: Beyond the donor-advised fund options offered by community foundations, this option offered by public foundations linked to commercial financial institutions or other wealth firms will lead to rapid asset accumulation in these foundations. Will they have enough discretion to become new players in the foundation community in Canada on collective projects? Or does this represent the growth of essentially reactive or passive philanthropy, in contradiction to more engaged philanthropy?

Direct Giving Will Become More Common: Direct giving mediated through digital connections enables individuals to give directly to others or to organizations elsewhere. It’s difficult to track them and the tax system doesn’t capture them through receipts or reports. So how do we know it’s growing? We can surmise, based on the popularity of smart phones, the extent of online platforms and social media, and the temptation to give in the moment, that this will be an important trend in Canada. Combined with the idea that giving cash is actually the most effective way to give, this could be the trend of the year. Proving it? Difficult.

Some out of the box areas where we hope there will be more Canadian funder action: fintech and financial solutions for marginalized people; funding in the Arctic and across northern Canada; directed funding for offshore education of refugee children; defense against closing of international civil society space

A wildcard: we see a significant major collaboration between foundations and corporations to achieve results in an area where governments can’t or wont focus: water and food security? Public interest journalism?

Do you have predictions to share for Canadian philanthropy in 2018? Let us know

For more 2018 philanthropy forecasts:

David Callahan, Inside Philanthropy

Lucy Bernholz, Blueprint 2018

Predict-A-Palooza: Civil Society Forecast 2018

1 Comment

  • Joy Calkin
    on February 1, 2018 Reply

    Dear Madame President: We are so fortunate to have your thoughtful leadership in our world. I do miss hearing your thoughts regularly – hence I enjoy reading these regularly. I send warm thoughts and hopes for a life in which you not only give (as always!) but one in which you find spaces of interesting thought and quiet joy.
    Joy (still learning….)

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