Studying philanthropy in Canada: from benevolence to impact 

Hilary Pearson and Jean-Marc Fontan

Three years ago, the two infrastructure organizations for foundation philanthropy in Canada, Philanthropic Foundations Canada (PFC) and Community Foundations of Canada (CFC) joined forces with a national partnership of scholars dedicated to creating a more substantial body of information and analysis on the catalytic role of grantmaking foundations in social change. The work of this partnership has led to a significant increase in the number of scholars engaged in the study of philanthropy.

Organized philanthropy in Canada is still a relatively recent phenomenon. We have only slightly over 5,000 private foundations, about the same number of public foundations, and the academic study of grantmaking philanthropy began only in the last 20 or so years. Much of it has focused not on grantmakers themselves, but on their grantees and on donors more generally.

Three forces, however, are catalysing more philanthropy scholarship and training in Canada today: digitization, demographics and diversity.

Through digitization, scholars and practitioners are gaining access to new and important data sets. Canada has made available in machine-readable form a huge data set on charities and foundations, through our national regulator, the Canada Revenue Agency. Digitization has also accelerated the dissemination of data on patterns of foundation granting, on the location and size of grantmakers, and on their interests. The Canadian government is opening up its database of grants and contributions in a remarkable commitment to data transparency and access.

 
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Magdalena Aninat and Steffen Bethmann