Examining the COVID-19 Response of Canadian Grantmaking Foundations: Possibilities, Tensions, and Long-Term Implications





Grantmaking foundations; COVID-19; Canadian philanthropic sector; Equity and social justice; Organizational change / Fondations subventionnaires; COVID-19; Secteur philanthropique canadien; Équité et justice sociale; Changement organisationnel


This article explores how Canadian philanthropic foundations with social justice mandates responded to the social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic by loosening restrictions for grantees; collaborating on new initiatives; elevating grassroots knowledge; and balancing short- and long-term priorities. This response, however, revealed a series of tensions in the dominant pre-COVID-19 philanthropic model—specifically, as a mechanism to address the social, econ- omic, and ecological crises that predate COVID-19. The early pandemic response of grantmaking foundations can there- fore serve as a model for what a more democratic, agile, collaborative, and justice-oriented philanthropic sector can look like.


Cet article examine la réponse de fondations philanthropiques canadiennes aux enjeux de justice sociale pendant la pandémie de COVID-19. Elles l’ont fait en assouplissant les exigences exigées aux donataires; en collaborant autour de nouvelles initiatives; en priorisant l’expertise des communautés; et en équilibrant les priorités à long et à court terme. Cette réponse révèle les tensions inhérentes au modèle classique de l’action philanthropique, particulièrement dans les façons de répondre aux crises sociales, économiques et écologiques. La réponse actuelle fournit des bases solides pour repenser le modèle d’action du secteur philanthropique subventionnaire afin qu’il soit plus démocratique, plus collaboratif et plus axé sur la justice.


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Author Biographies

Adam Saifer, Université du Québec à Montréal

Adam Saifer is a Postdoctoral Fellow in Sociology at Université du Québec à Montréal, 1255, St-Denis,
Montréal, QC H2X 3R9. Email: saifer.adam@courrier.uqam.ca

Isidora G. Sidorovska, University of Waterloo

Isidora G. Sidorovska is a PhD candidate at the School of Planning, University of Waterloo, 200 University Ave W, Waterloo, ON N2L 3G1. Email: igievski@uwaterloo.ca

Manuel Litalien, Nipissing University

Manuel Litalien, Codirector Ontario PhiLab; Chair, Department of Social Welfare and Social Development, Nipissing University, 100 College Drive, Box 5002, North Bay, Ontario, P1B8L7. manuell@nipissingu.ca 

Fontan Jean-Marc, Université du Québec à Montréal

Jean-Marc Fontan is Professor of Sociology at Université du Québec à Montréal, Case Postale 8888, succursale centre-ville, Montréal (Québec) H3C 3P8. Email: fontan.jean-marc@uqam.ca


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