In 2021, the collaborative and resilient nature of community foundations has continued to be critical to responding to community needs and meeting the challenges of the pandemic. Community Foundation of Canada’s (CFC) 2021 Annual Report is an opportunity to reflect on the incredible opportunities CFC was able to deliver with the work and engagement of the network of community foundations.
Community is at the heart of our foundations. Through the network’s passionate, diligent efforts, we have become the partner of choice to deliver national granting and impact projects. This has allowed us to enter into 2022, with more opportunity to expand our good work.
As the work has expanded, so has the network. In 1921, The Winnipeg Foundation started as the first community foundation in Canada. In 2021, as they celebrated 100 years of service to their community, we took a moment to reflect back on the evolution of the network. Today, the community foundation network has grown to over 200 community foundations from coast to coast to coast. We are thrilled to welcome:
- Saanich Peninsula Community Foundation
- Quadra Island Foundation
- Cortes Island Community Foundation
In 2022 so far:
- Algoma Community Foundation
- North Peace Community Foundation
As the rate of change around the world amounts at times to overwhelm, we are not without agency. Change isn’t just happening around us, or to us, we can lead the change. Community foundations continue to be committed to the outcomes that matter most to communities—evolving governance, granting, and investing models to meet the moment.
The power of a network is our ability to collaborate, lean on and support each other. Each community foundation brings its own strengths, relationships and unique perspectives to the table. The work of social and environmental change is bigger than each organization, bigger than the network: as we repair and recover, we will pursue a future where everyone belongs.
Taking the long view
At CFC, we see “Taking the long view” as our opportunity to stretch our imaginations and use foresight to see what’s ahead while taking action now. Taking the long view is the capacity to work nimbly and collaboratively toward systemic change.
One of the tools in our toolbox as a network of foundations is our endowments. These endowments represent a powerful asset that can have an impact as invested capital, in addition to granting dollars and exponentially increasing the impact of foundations in community overall. Investing our capital is an opportunity to take the longview and invest more deeply in our futures.
Throughout the last year, many community foundations have taken the leap into investing their endowments to support their communities. Many foundations have committed a percentage of their capital to gender-lens investments, supported through the Communities for Gender Equality program and Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) screened investments catalyzed through the Climate Pledge initiative. As more foundations transition their endowments, together, we can have an immense impact on the social, economic, and environmental wellbeing of our communities.
In philanthropy, we can shift power to those who best know the needs of our communities by ensuring people representative of the community are at every table where important decisions about our future are being made.
There are many creative ways that community foundations are shifting power. Starting at the top, some are flipping their governance models to be built and focused from the ground up. Community foundations have been building boards and committees with community leaders and subject-matter experts at the centre or introducing non-hierarchical decision-making structures. As we continue to listen to community, we find new ways – or rediscover old ways – to improve how we govern organizations and serve people.
The Healthy Communities Initiative embedded equity guidance into creating review committees, and community foundations worked hard to recruit committees that were demographically diverse and had local lived experience in placemaking. Through their work, they created an opportunity to shift power to those less frequently given decision-making power.
In these ways, community foundations are acting on the principles of ‘Nothing about us, without us’.
Community foundations are anchor institutions in their communities and proved their essential role through the pandemic. Supporting all facets of community and civic life is at the core of who we are, through community data access like Vital Signs, fundraising through crises, convening civic, community and business leaders, and grantmaking.
Through the past year, community foundations have been building their knowledge and practice of trust-based philanthropy: redistributing power systemically, organizationally, and interpersonally. Through webinars and resources, participating in Healthy Communities Initiative or Communities for Gender Equality, community foundations have played an active role in this evolution. This includes unlearning some behaviours, amending policies and procedures, deepening relationships with community organizations, building participatory decision-making models, and making grants more accessible to those who need them most.
Creating opportunities through programs
Strategic Initiatives led by CFC unlock partnerships and capital that can be mobilized across the network. In 2021, community foundations ran these initiatives with their own local focus and decision-making structures:
Vital Signs is the country’s largest community-driven data program. 31 community foundations participated in the Vital Signs program last year alongside community foundations around the world.
The Healthy Communities Initiative is a $31 million investment to transform public spaces by making them more equitably accessible to communities impacted by COVID-19. Over 650 projects were funded through the Healthy Communities Initiative.
In 2021, CFC continued to support the Alliance 2030 platform, which connects community solutions to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, provides resources for foundations and frames our work in a global context.
Communities for Gender Equality is a cohort of community foundations learning and actioning feminist philanthropy. Last year, 21 community foundations participated in Communities for
Gender Equality, going above and beyond required impact investing to allocate large portions of endowments to gender-lens investments.
CFC continued to support the Queen Elizabeth Scholars program alongside Universities Canada and the Rideau Hall Foundation—activating a community of young global leaders with the support of a network of partners, including the Victor Dadahleh Foundation.
CFC continued to support the incubation of organizations integral to the transformation of the philanthropic sector. CFC provides strategic, technological and communication services to the Indigenous Peoples Resilience Fund.
In partnership with the Circle on Philanthropy and Aboriginal Peoples, Philanthropic Foundations of Canada and Environment Funders Canada, CFC co-created the Canadian Philanthropy Climate Commitment as part of an international philanthropic commitment that has over 520 signatories. In Canada, over 40 funders have signed on, including CFC and nine community foundations. Signatories work on climate action in their investments, grantmaking and operations.
Supporting the network through the Learning Institute
CFC’s Learning Institute provides virtual, in-person and experiential learning opportunities for community foundation staff and board members, covering topics from daily operations to the future of philanthropy, viewed through a lens of equity and justice. More than this, the Learning Institute nurtures personal relationships and supports leadership development across the network. To help strengthen communities from coast to coast to coast, CFC’s Learning Institute hosted 89 webinars and produced 21 new fact-sheets and guides in 2021, ranging in topics from regulatory checklists, getting started with financial management, trust-based philanthropy and best practices in board recruitment.
Building network connections through ALL IN 2021
The biennial community foundations conference is one of the largest gatherings of the philanthropic community, recognized globally for presenting renowned speakers and sector leaders. In 2021, the virtual All In Summit brought together over 900 attendees from around the world. The Summit provided an opportunity for connection, inspiration, and thought-provoking speakers and learning opportunities. Content streams included: governance, gender equity, finance, legal questions, impact investing, climate change, Francophone-led, and more. Keynote speakers included thought-leaders such as Jesse Wente, Vu Le, Zita Cobb, and Edgar Villanueva. The Summit had over 50 sessions and over 120 speakers. And for the vast majority of attendees (85%), the opportunity to connect at ALL IN 2021 met or exceeded their expectations.