A Letter to Canadian Philanthropy
Dear Philanthropic Leader,
As leaders within philanthropy, we are often approached for funds. Sometimes, a particular moment in time, requires of us to also think about shifting power. This is that moment, and we would like your help. We are deeply encouraged by the federal government’s commitment to a Black-led endowment fund, and we have all made our own commitments to the Foundation for Black Communities. We are writing this letter in the hope that we can begin a conversation with you, a conversation that will spur Canadian philanthropy to further address systemic racism.
Black people in this country are continually marginalized, economically disadvantaged, and subjected to unequal treatment in Canadian systems; whether it be in education, labour, healthcare or criminal justice. The Canadian philanthropy sector is, unfortunately, not exempt from this kind of discrimination. The Unfunded Report, a systematic, empirical examination of how the Canadian philanthropy sector supports Black communities, has put forth data making it clear the extent to which Black-led and Black-serving organizations have been chronically underfunded.
The findings of the Unfunded Report, alongside proven systemic maintenance of racial injustice and the disproportionate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Black communities, brings to light just some of the long-standing inequities faced by Black people in Canada. Current grants to Black-led and Black-serving organizations are disproportionate not only to Black representation in Canada, with Black Canadians comprising 3.5% of the total population, but also to the greater needs of Black communities as a result of systemic marginalization.
The Foundation for Black Communities is poised to create real change for Black communities, stewarded by a working group of Black professionals with a specific mandate to meet the unique needs of Black Canadians. As a Black community-led foundation, the Foundation for Black Communities will not only be better positioned to respond to the needs of Black communities, but will also create a pathway for Black leaders within Canadian philanthropy so that the sector can increasingly reflect the changing face of Canada.
The Foundation for Black Communities requires a stable financial base from which to operate, a fund of its own, which will give Black communities greater power over funding the decisions that affect them. Black Canadians need the agency to create their own change, and this is where we are calling on you to act.
The Inspirit Foundation, the Laidlaw Foundation, and the MLSE Foundation have all made significant transfers to provide funding towards the Foundation for Black Communities’ goal of establishing a $300-million-dollar endowment. A transfer of capital represents a permanent shift in the current dynamic, a transfer of power that gives agency to Black communities to allocate and prioritize resources based on the actual lived experiences of Black Canadians.
Yesterday’s federal budget announcement of $200M to establish a Black-led philanthropic endowment fund goes a long way towards that vision. The government has stepped in to address the gap in support by Canadian philanthropy, but this should not be seen as the end of the story. As welcome as this funding is, it is not a substitute for the role that the philanthropic sector should play in addressing the very real needs of Canada’s Black communities.
It is time for Canadian philanthropy to take action to empower Black-led and Black-serving organizations with the resources needed to dismantle the barriers that are not being addressed by current systems. We ask that you join us in encouraging Canadian philanthropy to invest in this change.
We know that this change will not come all at once, and that there is a need for conversations to help understand and address the questions that boards may have. At the very least, we want to help Canadian philanthropy make as an informed decision as possible.
As representatives of foundations that have already made the leap, we’d like you to join us on an upcoming webinar, hosted by the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Foundation on May 6th at 1 PM, EST. We will discuss trust based philanthropy, and the redistribution of power. You can register for the webinar here, and please feel free to invite others who may be interested. We look forward to seeing you, and in the meantime, please feel free to reach out to any one of us with any questions about our individual commitments to Black-led philanthropy.
Sadia Zaman, CEO, Inspirit Foundation
Jehad Aliweiwi, Executive Director, Laidlaw Foundation
Tanya Mruck, Executive Director, MLSE Foundation
 Some of the findings from the Unfunded Report: Black-serving and Black-led organizations received 0.70% and 0.07% of grants, respectively, from community organizations. Black-serving and Black-led organizations received 0.13% and 0.03% of grants, respectively, from public and private foundations.