Collaboration between Canadian Grantmaking Foundations: The Expression of an Increasingly Ambitious and Strategic Philanthropic Sector?


  • Juniper Glass Université du Québec à Montréal; Lumière Consulting
  • Nancy Pole Université du Québec à Montréal; Co.spire Consulting



Grantmaking foundations, Canada, collaboration, philanthropy / Fondations subventionnaires, philanthropie


This article critically discusses the practice of foundation collaboration in Canada and describes the context, vehicles, and forms that it takes. It is based on data from interviews with 23 key informants and a literature review of over 100 publications from grey and scholarly literature. Over the last decade, Canadian grantmaking foundations appear to be working together more often, motivated by goals of information sharing, coordination, impact, and risk mitigation. In Canada, as elsewhere, this growing practice is closely related to the trend toward strategic philanthropy, in which foundations position themselves as agents of change. The article raises cautions and criticisms about foundation collaboration, related to considerations of strategic and cultural fit as well as to existing challenges concerning philanthropy’s power and legitimacy in society.

L’article propose de faire un examen critique des pratiques de collaboration entre fondations subventionnaires au Canada, qui représentent un domaine jusqu’ici peu exploré dans la recherche scientifique. À partir d’entretiens avec 23 informateurs clés et une recension d’écrits scientifiques et non scientifiques, l’article décrit le contexte, les chemins d’émergence et les formes que prennent ces pratiques de collaboration. Au cours de la dernière décennie, les pratiques de collaboration entre fondations subventionnaires semblent afficher une progression au Canada. Des fondations participantes indiquent être motivées par le désir de soutenir le développement des connaissances, de mieux coordonner leurs efforts, d’accroitre l’efficacité ou l’impact de leurs interventions et d’en atténuer les risques. Au Canada comme ailleurs, le développement des pratiques de collaboration entre fondations est lié à l’influence du courant de la philanthropie « stratégique » qui incite les fondations à assumer une posture plus affirmée d’agent de changement. L’article partage également des réflexions critiques au sujet de ces pratiques. Entre autres, il arrive que les organisations participantes doivent composer avec des défis de compatibilité culturelle et stratégique. De plus, ces pratiques se confrontent à des débats existants concernant le pouvoir exercé par les fondations philanthropiques et leur légitimité en tant qu’acteurs sociaux.


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Author Biography

Nancy Pole, Université du Québec à Montréal; Co.spire Consulting

Nancy Pole (MPNL, Carleton University) is an independent researcher and evaluation consultant who has worked on several mandates with PhiLab at UQÀM in Montreal. Email:


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