January 8, 2021
From the President

Canadian Foundations Stepped Up in 2020. More to do in 2021!

Jean-Marc Mangin, President and CEO of Philanthropic Foundations Canada

I fully concur with Rudyard Griffiths’ assertion that “the charitable sector can and should be [I would add, is] a key player in a ‘whole of government’ approach to tackling COVID-19’s pernicious social, economic and public-health effects.” As governments, businesses and Canadians mobilize to meet these urgent needs, foundations are no exception. These unprecedented times require a Team Canada approach – and each of us is called upon to contribute our time, our talent, our networks – and our donations. As a philanthropy-serving organization, Philanthropic Foundations Canada is encouraging its members to not only give more but to give “better” as we respond to and recover from the pandemic.

A mandated increase in the disbursement quota does not however offer a sinecure for achieving impact and relevance in this hour of public need. The ‘’what’’ and ‘’how’’ of giving matters as much as the amount of giving.

Although the total of 2020 foundations giving is yet unknown, many are disbursing above 3.5% of assets required by the CRA. Nearly 70 foundations have signed onto the GIVE5 campaign pledging at least 5%. Philanthropyresponds.ca has tracked over $120 M in COVID grants. In Montreal, foundations have been key in supporting community response in some of Canada’s most COVID-affected and poorest neighbourhoods. Many foundations have made their grants more flexible, timely, and responsive.

There is no doubt that private philanthropy in Canada is undergoing major shifts in response to the pandemic. Many grant-making foundations are adapting to this crisis by adjusting their support to their partners, including making their funding more flexible, timely and responsive.

Canada provides generous tax advantages to private foundations to support the public good. Foundations are accountable not only to their respective boards but to the Canadian people, through the CRA, to ensure that they meet their charitable objectives. Charities are diverse and engaged in every area of public life – contributing to building the Canada we all want. Our members strive to become better donors, including taking the long view and staying engaged to have a meaningful impact. There are many things foundations can do right now – including improving our funding and partnering with not-for-profits led by racialized Canadians and Indigenous Peoples.

Notwithstanding these and other much-needed changes, foundations cannot replace governments in their central mandate to respond to public emergencies. We can, however, play a critical and complementary role in emergency response while also providing social risk capital for pandemic recovery, protracted problems such as climate change as well as unforeseen crises in the future. Our complex set of challenges to the public good require both short and long-term approaches to private philanthropy.

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