From coast to coast to coast, Canadian community foundations have emerged as world leaders in data-driven philanthropy, increasing their local impact through Vital Signs.

By hosting important Vital Conversations and publishing Vital Signs reports, community foundations are able to provide their communities with locally relevant and up-to-date data. That information can then be used by community foundations and other local actors to address their most urgent community needs.

The insights gained from Vital Signs also help foundations forge new multi-sectoral partnerships and access new revenue streams. Incorporating the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a framework for community data further leverages this opportunity by situating local issues within a global context, opening doors to collaboration with communities and organizations worldwide.

Read on for more from community foundation leaders who have transformed their work using Vital Signs:

As a basis for internal granting guidelines:

We have aligned our granting guidelines with our Vital Signs program using both the data and community feedback we have gathered from our Vital Signs survey as well as our Vital Conversations. This past year, for example, we incorporated questions about access to oral health care in our Vital Signs survey based on a program we were facilitating with Green Shield Canada. Having aligned Vital Signs data collection with our granting from the beginning, we were better able to target community needs by modifying our granting applications to match community identified needs and priorities.

— Lisa Kolody, Executive Director, WindsorEssex Community Foundation

As a means of achieving maximum leverage of resources 

To promote collective and sustainable leadership, the Foundation of Greater Montreal supports organizations who play a key role in the development and coordination of concrete solutions to issues raised by our Vital Signs report as well as the SDGs. We help those who, through their networks and organizational capacity, are able to connect and mobilize others, and are able to leverage the resources we offer them to do so.

— Yvan Gauthier, President & CEO, Foundation of Greater Montreal

As a mechanism for generating new revenue streams

Results from our second Vital Signs report in 2013 led directly to the creation of the Youth Engagement Strategy (YES) Project, a community development initiative of the Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen. The YES Project generated more than $2 million in donations to the foundation over the next 6 years and culminated in the foundation’s purchase of a 21,000 square foot building that is leased out to 5 youth-serving agencies. Penticton now has a self-sustaining youth services hub.

— Aaron McRann, Executive Director, Community Foundation of the South Okanagan Similkameen

As a means of becoming an established local hub for knowledge and conversations

London Community Foundation (LCF) has used its Vital Signs report as a catalyst to spark public debate and community conversations around London’s most pressing issues. Over the years, Vital Signs has established LCF as a leader in community knowledge and the report is widely used by leaders in local government, non-profit organizations as well as private industry as a reference for strategic planning, advocacy and the creation of evidence-based policy. In addition, our Vital Conversations have been used as a platform to mobilize our community around the UN’s SDGs.

— Martha Powell, President & CEO, London Community Foundation

As a means of unlocking partnerships, using the SDGs

In engaging with the SDGs, the first thing we did was to take stock of all the work that was already happening in our community, and we were thrilled to see so many people already working hard to make change — in effect, already working towards the goals. The powerful thing about integrating the SDGs with Vital Signs is that individuals and organizations can see how the important work they’re already doing contributes to larger, global issues. In a rural area such as ours, this helps us connect with other organizations, donors and foundations to support one another in solving problems at a much larger scale.

— Tracey Vavrek, CEO, Community Foundation of Northwestern Alberta

For more information

For any questions regarding Vital Signs, please contact Alison Sidney, Manager of Strategic Initatives.