How does philanthropy adapt to the dark realities of 2020?
As a product of the post Quiet Revolution Quebec education system, I am not much inclined to religious symbolism. Nonetheless, one can be forgiven to fear that the new decade has begun with the rumbling sound coming from the four horsemen of the apocalypse. (The four riders on white, red, black, and pale horses as harbingers of pestilence, war, famine, and death).
- An Ebola outbreak still raging in the Congo, a possible new SARS-like virus from China and closer to home, an opioid crisis that silently kills many of our citizens in back alleys and homes across the country.
- A Middle East shaken by assassinations, vicious civil wars (Syria, Libya) and terrorism that contributed into in a planeload of civilians -most of whom were travelling to Canada— being tragically shot down by a trigger-happy and fearful Gilead-lite regime.
- Record-breaking fires in Australia burning large swaths of the country, destroying livelihoods and wildlife, and, in early January, transforming the air quality of Canberra, into one of the worst in the world.
- Away from the world’s attention, millions, mostly in Africa, are at risk of famine due to the combination of climate crisis, conflict and poor governance.
What does this have to do with philanthropy? Everything.
More than ever, philanthropy cannot remain on the sidelines. Many PFC members are already engaged in community health programs, climate change initiatives, food security projects internationally and in Canada. Some are even quietly supporting efforts to keep peace and tolerance alive in the Middle East and to address the hideous resurgence of anti-semitism, islamophobia and racism in our own country.
Yet, from my conversations with many PFC members, we realize that much more needs to be done in addressing the convergence of crises currently shaking our world.
Foundations need to make tough decisions on what and how to offer support. Foundations need to collaborate more effectively, with each other, with governments, with the private sector, and with civil society. And foundations need to keep learning from their successes and failures. PFC is uniquely positioned to help Canadian foundations in their strategic journey of learning and collaboration. And, as many of you have told me, we all need to do better, including PFC.
For PFC, 2020 will be a year of transition as we develop our new strategic directions in conjunction with our members and partners. As part of this transition, we are already rolling out some new pilot programs and initiatives and delving deeper with some of our current programming. PFC will need increased support and engagement from its members in order to become:
- A stronger national voice as PFC engages governments, partners and Canadians on our collective contributions to the public good. This engagement will be based on updated research and data on Canadian foundations. With the recruitment of a Director of Policy and Communications, we will amplify that research through our renewed communications platforms and through our extensive networks to encourage the new parliament to modernize the regulatory framework for the charitable sector.
- An enhanced platform to support capacity-building for our members, including both volunteer boards and staff. PFC will organize a 3-day conference in Québec City on October 20-22, 2020 on democracy and philanthropy, online and in-person learning and networking events and tools on responsible investing, data and evidence, reconciliation, DEI, NextGen philanthropists and the art of grantmaking practices.
- A greater support for membership by offering tools to facilitate collaboration and learning. Opportunities to join more communities of practice (i.e. affinity groups) will be offered as well as improving PFC’s support to existing groups.
- A more responsive organization that provides essential services to its membership. By analyzing the results of our 2020 pilot projects and the input garnered from our ongoing consultative process with members, we will have a clearer roadmap towards achieving common goals.
These priorities have been endorsed by the PFC Board at our meeting in late November. I have recently sent to each PFC member more details on our 2020 programs and how they can participate and support them.
As the sense of urgency increases around the world, the philanthropic community does not have the luxury of despair. Our members have the ability to act quickly, independently, and with conviction and commitment. By listening closely to our partners and collaborating, we can put our financial, intellectual and network resources to work for the greater good.
By doing so, we can contribute in keeping at bay the four horsemen of the apocalypse and in building a more humane world.