The creation of the Collective Fund for Social Equity at the Foundation of Greater Montréal is the result of a deep reflection process. Until 2019, the Foundation of Greater Montreal (FGM) distributed grants annually as part of its Community Initiatives Program. These grant recipients were charities working in various sectors across Greater Montreal who responded to a formal call for projects. The selection of recipient organizations was based, among other criteria, on demonstrating that the projects submitted were aligned with the priority Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) chosen each year by FGM.

In 2020, as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, FGM decided to suspend the Community Initiatives Program and to allocate the amount reserved for that program – and the additional contributions received from partners and other donors – into an emergency fund: the COVID-19 Collective Fund. This fund allowed for the distribution of nearly $1.6 million to 119 community organizations in the spring of 2020.

The pandemic’s impact on food security, homelessness, and mental health has led FGM to direct a significant percentage of available funds to organizations and projects addressing these issues. Particular attention was also paid to vulnerable populations and those most affected by the COVID-19 crisis, including women, seniors and children, members of the LGBTQ2S+ communities, people living with a disability, as well as Indigenous and racialized people. As part of their emergency response, FGM also aimed to simplify the organization’s calls for projects and reporting requirements. These changes sparked a larger reflection into the Foundation’s own ways of working.

A new approach

In 2021, this reflection culminated in the establishment of the Collective Fund for Social Equity, a successor to the Community Initiatives Program and the COVID-19 Collective Fund. Reasserting its commitment to the notions of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI), FGM will maintain priority funding for organizations and projects led by or serving Black, Indigenous, or People of Colour (BIPOC). Intersectional approaches targeting the other vulnerable populations mentioned above will also be prioritized. FGM’s interventions will continue to focus on the three key issues of food security, homelessness, and mental health, areas where the needs remain urgent and overwhelming. These choices are founded on discussions with community workers as well as knowledge and experience gathered over the past 18 months.

The Collective Fund for Social Equity aims to support activities and initiatives that will enable organizations to unlock their respective potential and realize their visions for a more just and transformative recovery. When selecting projects and organizations, the Fund’s process will be guided by the principles of trust-based philanthropy. Trust-based philanthropy involves drawing on the knowledge of the entire community ecosystem to offset the power dynamics inherent to the traditional philanthropic model and formal calls for proposals. FGM will therefore target the organizations it wishes to support, based on ongoing exchanges with the community as well as active listening.

The FGM team has consequently deployed a listening phase, which began in the spring of 2021, to help align the Fund with the needs and expertise identified by the community. Six listening sessions have been held in the past year and a half, which have allowed FGM to better understand the experiences and priorities of multiple front-line actors, network organizations, and other funders. The Foundation is also proactively researching organizations through conversations and direct referrals. At the end of this research cycle, procedures for project implementation, evaluation, and reporting will also be streamlined. The goal of this process is to build trusting relationships with each targeted organization that are rooted in active listening, openness, and transparency.

Timeline and partners

The community listening phase is underway and the organization selection process is expected to be completed by late December 2021. The first investments from the Collective Fund for Social Equity will then be distributed and announced in January 2022.

The Foundation of Greater Montréal would like to thank its partners for their support and confidence in the Collective Fund for Social Equity: The J. Armand Bombardier Foundation, The Echo Foundation, The McConnell Foundation, and The Trottier Family Foundation.

October 2021

Learn more about the 2021-2022 edition of the Collective Fund for Social Equity at the Foundation of Greater Montréal.