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Unfunded: Black Communities Overlooked by Canadian Philanthropy

November 17, 202117 November 2021

Equity, diversity, inclusion, and decolonization

Network for the Advancement of Black Communities and Carleton University’s Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership Program


Rachel Pereira, Liban Abokor, Fahad Ahmad, and Firrisaa Jamal Abdikkarim

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This report indicates that “the systemic racism and hardships faced by Black people in Canada” demonstrate both insufficient investment from philanthropic organizations and “the inadequacy of public policy in addressing the concerns” of the “1.2 million people that comprise Canada’s diverse Black communities”. The findings in the report are based on pre-pandemic quantitative and qualitative evidence, with the quantitative information drawn from “a review of the funding portfolios of 40 Canadian foundations” and the qualitative findings from “interviews with ten Black and non-Black philanthropic leaders”. While inclusive of Black-led and Black-serving arts organizations, the sources do not specifically relate to the arts sector.

The quantitative evidence shows that:

  • Black-serving and Black-led community organizations are underfunded by both public and private foundations. In 2017 and 2018, “only six of the 40 public and private foundations we reviewed funded Black-serving organizations…, and only two foundations funded Black-led organizations”.
  • “Community foundations have a better record of funding Black-serving organizations, but both Black-serving and Black-led organizations remain under-funded…. Across all community foundations we reviewed, grants to Black-serving organizations represented a meagre 0.7 percent of total grants during the 2017 and 2018 fiscal years. Grants to Black-led organizations were only 0.07 percent of total grants made in the same period.”
  • The funding that does exist “is sporadic, unsustained, and does not invest in the long-term capabilities” of Black-led and Black-serving organizations.

According to the interviews, Canada’s philanthropic sector “lacks the tools and knowledge to support Black communities effectively”. Despite a clear need for investment, “most of the interview participants indicated that philanthropic support of Black communities required drastic improvement”. Further, “there is little understanding about the needs and priorities of Black communities in philanthropic institutions. These shortcomings stem from a lack of data about the needs of Black communities, poor representation of and relationships with Black community organizations in dominant philanthropic institutions, and systemic barriers, including anti-Black racism, faced by Black communities.”

Based on these findings, the report indicates that “a dedicated Foundation for Black Communities is urgent and necessary to address the particular and complex needs of Black communities in Canada”.

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