December 4, 2020
From the President

PFC President Welcomes New Report on Philanthropy and Black Communities

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

On the heels of our October 14th webinar, “Mind the Gap: the State of Philanthropy and the Black Community,” I concluded my previous blog by stating that “much remains to be done as demonstrated by the anti-racism movement in both the US and Canada. Philanthropy is not immune. PFC is creating space for conversations that can be challenging at times but also offer new avenues for collaboration and progress.”

Within that context, I want to underscore a powerful new report by the Foundation for Black Communities, Network for the Advancement of Black Communities, and Philanthropy & Nonprofit Leadership Graduate Programs at Carleton University. In the first in-depth examination of the relationship between Canadian Philanthropy and Black communities, the “Unfunded: Black Communities Overlooked by Canadian Philanthropy” report highlights severe underfunding of Black Communities by Canadian foundations and recommends that a dedicated Foundation for Black Communities be created to address the complex and pressing needs of Black communities in Canada.

Given its importance and implications for our sector and membership, I thought it’s important to directly cite some of its findings:

  • “Both public and private foundations underfund Black-serving and Black-led community organizations. Only six of the 40 public and private foundations we reviewed funded Black-serving organizations over the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years, and only two foundations funded Black-led organizations in the same timeframe;
  • Compared to private and other public foundations, community foundations have a better record of funding Black-serving organizations, but both Black-serving and Black-led organizations remain under-funded. All but one of the community foundations we reviewed funded Black-serving organizations over the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years, but only six funded Black-led organizations in the same timeframe;
  • The total amount of grant funding going to Black-serving and Black-led organizations is minuscule. Moreover, grant funding is sporadic, unsustained, and does not invest in the long-term capabilities of Black community organizations;
  • Philanthropic and nonprofit leaders see the need for and the potential of a Black-led philanthropic foundation. Such a foundation would allow for the self-determination of Black communities, build the capacity of Black community organizations, ensure collaboration with other foundations to share resources and networks, and challenge the current philanthropic paradigm that wields power overpeople with a top-down flow of resources. They assert that inadequate data, a lack of representation of Black communities in philanthropy, and systemic barriers, including anti-Black racism, have led to a severe underfunding of Black communities in Canada. This has resulted in the philanthropic sector not understanding the needs of Black communities, nor the extent to which they are being supported by the sector;
  • Despite the clear case for investment, Canadian philanthropy has largely been absent in supporting Black people in Canada.”

The report goes on to recommend the creation of a Black-led philanthropic foundation. It argues that:

  • “A dedicated Foundation for Black Communities is urgent and necessary to address the particular and complex needs of Black communities in Canada. The Foundation for Black Communities will embody a transformational model of community philanthropy that centres the self-determination of Black people in Canada, leverages community assets, and utilizes an inclusive and trust-based decision process to determine resource allocation, and community and capacity-building priorities. The Foundation for Black Communities will be a first-of-its-kind institution to invest in priority areas that will lead to a more promising future for Black people in Canada. For the Foundation for Black Communities to be successful, it needs to be sufficiently resourced so that it can provide sustained financial support to Black communities and Black community organizations.”

I urge our members and partners to read the full report. I can say with confidence that it constitutes a ground-breaking contribution to our understanding of the systemic barriers and funding challenges facing Black communities in Canada. While these challenges are not new, we can and must do better to meet the needs and aspirations of the most marginalized, and racialized, communities in our country.

The COVID crisis has been a great revealer and accelerator of the inequalities and systemic racism present in our society.  Moreover, the convergent crises facing Canada — economic, pandemic, racism, climate — require different approaches. There are nonetheless some concrete signs of progress.

Throughout 2020, PFC has engaged Canadian foundations across the country to become more inclusive funders. Our COVID monitoring indicates that 12% of foundations have made investments directly in support of racialized communities. In Montreal, a philanthropic consortium hosted at PFC is supporting community response plans in some of the most affected and diverse neighborhoods in Canada, including those from Black-led and Black serving community organizations.

Looking forward, I am inspired by the report recommendations to adapt to the Equality Fund model in order to transform the philanthropic landscape. Governments, foundations, civil society, and the private sector can collaborate in enabling equity-seeking philanthropy, for Black Canadians, for Indigenous Peoples and for communities that are still struggling to achieve basic justice.

Over the coming weeks and months, Philanthropic Foundations Canada will ramp up our efforts to engage these communities, to listen and learn, and ultimately to take bolder action. I believe this is mission-critical and fully aligned with PFC’s purpose to strengthen the role of private philanthropy — in all of its diversity — as partners for a just, equitable and sustainable world.

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