“The report makes apparent that the needs of Black people in Canada are both specific and urgent. Despite the clear case for investment, Canadian philanthropy has largely been absent in supporting Black people in Canada.” – “Unfunded

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, the Network for the Advancement of Black Communities and Carleton University’s Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership program released the “Unfunded: Black Communities Overlooked by Canadian Philanthropy” report providing the first in-depth examination of the relationship between Canadian Philanthropy and Black communities.

The report provides an analysis of Canadian philanthropic institutions through a combination of secondary research on the social context of Black people in Canada, qualitative findings from interviews with Black and non-Black philanthropic and nonprofit leaders, and a quantitative empirical analysis of funding portfolios of 40 public, private and community foundations over the fiscal years beginning in 2017 and 2018. 

Among the extensive findings, the research indicates that despite accounting for 3.5 percent of Canada’s population, Black communities receive a marginal amount of support from Canadian foundations. Black-led and Black-serving community organizations have been severely underfunded, with Black-led groups receiving only 0.03 percent of funds in the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years, and Black-serving organizations receiving only 0.15 percent of funds in the same timeframe. Some funders have noted that existing support to non-Black-led community organizations can often serve a broad range of communities, including Black communities, while true, this does not negate the importance nor need for direct and specific support to Black-led and Black-serving organizations themselves.

In addition, the research disseminates findings from interviews with community foundation stakeholders in Canada. All interview participants mentioned the need for collaboration among foundations, as well as the need to better listen to and support existing Black communities. 

Interviewees believe a Black-led philanthropic foundation is needed to focus on the priorities of Black communities in Canada, and to foster sector collaboration capacity building and long-term funding. Participants noted that support for the Black community is not the responsibility of a Black-led foundation alone, but is one significant step in creating the strategic leadership needed for sector-wide change.

Among the research findings, the co-authors of the report identify the urgent and pressing need for a dedicated foundation that addresses the particular needs of Black communities in Canada. The Foundation for Black Communities (FFBC) will be a first-of-its-kind institution to invest in priority areas that will lead towards a more promising future for Black people in Canada. 

Throughout the course of the pandemic, Canadians have been forced to confront the realities of systemic racism in our communities. As an organization, it has been difficult to find the right words, and more importantly, the right actions, to respond to this urgent need in a meaningful and proactive way. As noted in the report, several foundations have launched statements and initiatives in response to systemic discrimination and marginalization facing Black communities. In all cases, these initiatives are more reactive than proactive, do not commit to specific amounts and priorities for funding, and do not have specific mandates for improving the long-term well-being of Black communities.

With the creation of a dedicated Black-led and Black-serving foundation, as well as the additional recommendations from the report, we have an opportunity now to address critical gaps in Canada’s just recovery and ensure every Black person in Canada can thrive and that Black communities have agency in defining their own future. Community Foundations of Canada supports the establishment of the Foundation for Black Communities. In order to better support Black-led and Black-serving organizations, collaboration will be needed across foundations, nonprofits, and leaders in the sector.

We look forward to working alongside the Network for the Advancement of Black Communities and Carleton University’s Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership program, as well as the newly formed FFBC and other Black-led and Black-serving initiatives to progress equity not just through a seat at the table, but through meaningful community philanthropy that places power directly in the hands of those most affected.

The Unfunded report has provided a critical analysis of an often ignored data set around race and demographics. If we wish to progress equity in Canada, we must continue to examine this data, and show up for historically overlooked and underfunded communities.