Are Canadian foundations afraid of death?

In Canada, philanthropic perpetuity is the norm, but some are bucking the trend

Why It Matters

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to exacerbate inequality, several non-profit and grassroots leaders are calling on Canadian donors to spend down — distributing all of their foundation assets within a defined term — in order to free up capital for community impact. Some are responding, but analysis shows that systemic orientation toward perpetuity in the philanthropic sector in Canada may be preventing other philanthropists from following suit.

This is the first story in the Future of Good editorial fellowship covering the social impact world’s rapidly changing funding models, supported by Community Foundations of Canada and United Way Centraide Canada. 

In 2016, the pitfalls of the ‘perpetual’ family foundation hit Kerny Korchinski like a wind storm ripping across the prairies. 

In November of that year, Korchinski and his daughter Corinne Korchinski-Fisher were at a Philanthropic Foundations of Canada conference in Vancouver. It was time for break-out sessions, and Korchinski, a polo-shirt-wearing, white haired gentleman in his seventies, opted for a session about “spending down” — the practice of distributing all of a foundation’s money to charity and closing up shop for good. It wasn’t an approach he knew

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