Top 30 social purpose newsmakers of 2022

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So much happened in 2022. New leaders have emerged, first-of-their-kind organizations have launched, and much more.

It can be hard to keep up and understand what it all means — but that’s what Future of Good is here for. 2022 was a big year for changemakers — from intense debate on the disbursement quota to major funding announcements to help charities and non-profits — finally — recover from the pandemic, and much in between.

Future of Good reporters have been busy keeping up with all the developments and headline news, not to mention the under-the-radar trends that have emerged.

In case you’ve been busy, too (and we’d bet you have), we’ve rounded up a list of the top 30 — in no particular order —newsmakers who’ve made Future of Good headlines this year.

From activists to foundation CEOs, these 30 leaders have made headlines — and change — this year

Joanna Kerr, president and CEO of MakeWay, received a major gift from MacKenzie Scott

MakeWay received its largest donation ever this year — and its most high-profile. After some elusive back-and-forth on behalf of an anonymous donor, the grantmaking organization, based on the territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh nations, got word in March that it would receive $18.9 million from none other than MacKenzie Scott — whose completely unrestricted, trust-based approach to philanthropy is making waves itself.

Senator Ratna Omidvar and Bruce MacDonald, president and CEO of Imagine Canada, headed to parliament hill to advocate for non-qualified donees 

Back in May, we got word that a group of social sector leaders were rapidly organizing to head to Parliament Hill in response to what they called a “shocking and incomprehensible” potential legislative change they said would limit foundations’ ability to give funding to non-qualified donees — groups that aren’t registered charities. In June, the group tentatively celebrated when two amendments to the Budget Implementation Act calmed their fears.

Yonis Hassan, CEO of Justice Fund, protested the “hoarding” of charitable dollars in the street

In other philanthropic dissent news, there was a protest in the streets of Toronto, the territories of the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples, this year calling on Canadian charities to “move the money” and stop “hoarding” more than $85 billion in resources. The protest, led by Justice Fund’s Yonis Hassan, came amidst a year of heated debate about the disbursement quota — the percentage of foundations’ endowments they’re required to give out to grantees each year.

Eva Friesen, president and CEO of the Calgary Foundation, announced the foundation would split with Community Foundations of Canada — over their position on endowments

The Calgary Foundation placed itself on the other side of the endowment debate this year when it announced it would leave the Community Foundations of Canada network, citing the network’s stance on endowments and perpetuity as the reason. It was a rare move. Community foundations occasionally leave the organization’s network because of a closure or a merger, but very rarely over philosophical differences.

Bruce Lourie, president of the Ivey Foundation, announced the foundation would ‘spend down’ $100 million in five years

Speaking of moving the money, just this month, the Ivey Foundation announced it would spend its entire $100 million endowment in the next five years, mostly to existing grantee organizations. “I was thrilled,” says Devika Shah, executive director of Environment Funders Canada, a network for environmental funders (of which Ivey is a member.) “I think it signals to everybody that climate change is such a serious and urgent issue that funders are taking drastic measures like these.”

Nuskmata (Jacinda Mack), ‘Cúagilákv (Jess H̓áust̓i), Marilyn Baptiste, K’aayhlt’aa Haanas (Valine Brown), Kim Hardy, and Carolynn Beaty flipped philanthropy’s power dynamic

Here’s a story many changemakers resonated with — a new organization that completely changes the relationship between philanthropy and Indigenous groups. Philanthropic organizations apply to The Right Relations Collaborative, a council of Indigenous aunties, for the ability to fund Indigenous groups the Collaborative works with. To participate, funders must submit an application — not unlike a thoughtful grant application — which is reviewed by Nuskmata and the three other aunties, ‘Cúagilákv, Baptiste, and K’aayhlt’aa Haanas.

Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, won a decades-long fight for Indigenous children’s rights

Cindy Blackstock has spent over 15 years fighting the Canadian government on behalf of First Nations children and families — whose on-reserve child and family services have been consistently underfunded compared to non-First Nations services. Early this year, the government announced it had reached a $40 billion agreement in principle to compensate the children harmed by this systemic underfunding. While Blackstock told Future of Good the move was “an important step…the reality is that even if we implement all the legal orders in this particular case, it still leaves other inequalities.”

Lili-Anna Pereša, president and CEO of the McConnell Foundation took a public stance to top up grantees in response to inflationary pressures 

Cost increases due to inflation hit all of us this year but hit some NGOs particularly hard. Asking for more money while carrying out a program is typically a difficult conversation most social purpose organizations shy away from, largely due to power dynamics and worries that they may not get funded again. It might also demonstrate that an organization didn’t manage finances well. But here’s the thing — in most cases, it’s all power dynamics messing with people’s heads. This year, McConnell was one of a handful of foundations to publicly declare a top up of seven or 10 per cent, depending on need. The McConnell Foundation is also updating its due diligence guide to ensure prospective grantees account for inflation in future funding requests.

K’aayhlt’aa Haanas (Valine Brown) launched Feast House, the first-ever by-Indigenous, for-Indigenous donations platform

K’aayhlt’aa Haanas (Valine Brown) appeared in another Future of Good story this year, too — the launch of the first-of-its-kind giving platform, Feast House. Initiated by the Circle on Philanthropy, where K’aayhlt’aa Haanas works as manager of member engagement and accountability, Feast House is aimed at creating a “clear pathway” for settler philanthropy, institutional and individual donors alike, to support Indigenous projects.

Liban Abokor, board member of the Foundation for Black Communities, called for much more money for Black-led, Black-serving organizations

Speaking of those who’ve been quoted across more than one Future of Good story, Liban Abokor has done much noteworthy work through his co-founded Foundation for Black Communities. For one, the Foundation was chosen to provide direct funding to Black-led, Black-serving organizations from the Investment Readiness Program. It’s also in the running to receive a $200 million endowment, also meant for Black-led, Black-serving charities. And Abokor shared his thoughts with us on our reporter Gabe Oatley’s investigation into how much money corporate foundations have donated to Black communities since George Floyd’s murder.

Paloma Raggo, assistant professor at Carleton University, wants to solve the problem of very little data on the charitable sector

One thing we hear consistently from people who work in the social sector is that it’s too difficult to find real-time data on who works in the charitable sector, what their salaries are, where there are skills gaps, and so much more. “Oftentimes, when that information is collected,” Raggo told us, “it takes an average of about a year and a half to be published. By the time we get that information, it’s already almost obsolete.” Raggo wants to change that through the CharityInsights Canada Project.

Niki Sharma, B.C.’s new Attorney General, launched a $34 million fund for the province’s charities and non-profits to recover from the pandemic

Before Niki Sharma became the Attorney General, she was B.C.’s Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development and Nonprofits — and under that banner, Sharma made a big move to support the non-profit sector through the pandemic and its aftermath: a $34 million Recovery and Resiliency Fund for non-profits to adapt and be stronger in the face of future crises.

Patti Pettigrew, founder and executive director of Thunder Woman Healing Lodge Society, perservered to bring this unique organization to life

Pettigrew is the founder and executive director of Thunder Woman Healing Lodge Society, a new charity working to build a 24-bed healing lodge for Indigenous women transitioning out of the criminal justice system — the first of its kind in Ontario and only the third of its kind in Canada. But 2022 was full of challenges for the Society, as Pettigrew shared with Future of Good — funding hurdles and inflation not least among them. Still, Pettigrew is determined to bring her work to communities.

Sharaf Sharafeldin, executive director of the Muslim Association of Canada, led the charge on a lawsuit against the Canada Revenue Agency

For what may be the first time ever, a charity — the Muslim Assocation of Canada — sued the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) this year over how it conducted an audit. “From the very beginning, the practices of the Audit have been both Islamophobic and dictated by systemic biases,” wrote MAC executive director Sharaf Sharafeldin in an open letter on the charity’s website from April 2022. “Had such an approach been taken with any other faith-based organization other than Islam, it would, without a doubt, be regarded as discriminatory.” But the lawsuit raises deeper questions, too, about whether the CRA even understands the Muslim definition of charity.

Fae Johnstone, co-owner of Wisdom2Action, and Tyler Boyce, executive director of Enchanté Network, spoke up about first ever Canada’s 2SLGBTQI+ Action Plan

The federal government responded to calls from the 2SLGBTQI+-serving sector this year, putting out the country’s first ever Action Plan on the inequities queer and trans communities face. “This action plan is undoubtedly a deep shift in Canadian public policy,” Boyce told us after the launch. Johnstone took a slightly less optimistic stance — she described the plan as “a mixed bag” containing some glaring gaps, particularly around trans health, public safety and anti-2SLGBTQI+ hate.

Jayne Engle and Tanya Chung-Tiam-Fook, published their first book, ‘Sacred Civics: Building Seven Generation Cities’ arguing that societal transformation requires that spirituality and sacred values are essential to reimagining how we live, organize and govern ourselves

When the social impact world was just getting comfortable with the notion of smart cities, Engle and Chung-Tiam-Fook introduced ‘sacred cities’ to changemakers. The book draws extraordinary wisdom from ancient Indigenous traditions; to social and political movements like Black Lives Matter, the commons, and wellbeing economies. “Part of the bridging worlds is recognizing that so many of the institutions, so many of the practices and policies we have today need to die, need to be hospiced. We’re hospicing so much of the old world as we open up space for new worlds to emerge,” said Engle and Chung-Tiam-Fook in an in-depth interview with Future of Good. The book has become an instant hit.

Jane Ricciardelli, acting CEO of CanadaHelps, announced the platform would now accept crypto donations on behalf of charities

Canada’s largest donation and fundraising platform announced in May it would now accept cryptocurrency donations for any of the country’s 86,000 registered charities, a move it hopes will close a ‘giving gap’ between older and younger donors. “There are some select charities who are a bit ahead of the curve, but not at the scale that we’re going to be doing this,” Ricciardelli told Future of Good in an interview.

Chip Wilson, founder of lululemon and the Wilson 5 Foundation, made the biggest donation to B.C. Parks in history — potentially signaling a wider shift in philanthropy, too

Canada has seen donations of this size before – just not in the field of conservation or climate protection. Future of Good reporter, Shannon VanRaes, spoke to experts who said this could be part of an emerging trend where donors with biological heirs choose causes that don’t specifically benefit their offspring but rather benefit the entire generation their children belong to, along with future generations.

Kendell Joiner, executive director of Native Clan, and Damon Johnson, president of the Aboriginal Council of Winnipeg, rang alarm bells about a grant to a non-Indigenous organization for Indigenous programming

Indigenous leaders Kendell Joiner and Damon Johnson called for answers in October after being “blindsided” by Manitoba’s decision to grant a non-Indigenous organization — one with ties to the Catholic Church — funding to develop Indigenous justice programming. “Hurt, I think that’s what people are feeling right now,” said Joiner, who runs Native Clan, a non-profit agency that assists Indigenous people in exiting the justice system. “Especially, when there are Indigenous organizations in the field that are equipped to take something like this on.”

Reeta Roy, CEO of the Mastercard Foundation, made a giant donation to Indigenous communities

In October, the Mastercard Foundation, Canada’s only ‘mega foundation’, pledged $500 million to support Indigenous education, employment and entrepreneurship initiatives across the country. Sharon Redsky, a fundraising consultant and researcher says the donation commitment is a “great step forward” for the foundation and will offer much-needed support to Indigenous-led organizations that have been under-resourced by settler-led foundations in Canada.

Dan Clement, Andrew Chunilall, Andrea Dicks, and Conrad Sauvé administered two big charitable sector funds

In November, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Karina Gould announced the launch of the $400 million Community Services Recovery Fund and the three organizations selected to deliver it. The selected national funders are United Way Centraide Canada, Community Foundations of Canada and Canadian Red Cross — led by Clement, Chunilall, Dicks, and Sauvé respectively — the same three charities the government partnered with to deliver the $350 million Emergency Community Support Fund during the first two years of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meseret Haileyesus, founder and executive director of the Canadian Centre for Women’s Empowerment made history by launching Canada’s first ever women’s economic abuse and injustice summit

Let’s take a look at the numbers: 93 per cent of women’s abusers withheld money they needed for food, clothes, and other necessities. Now, that should compel you to act. The inaugural summit’s 350 attendees were made up of local and federal government workers, consumer lawyers, diverse financial institutions, credit collectors, social workers, frontline workers, private stakeholders and economic abuse survivors.

Manvi Bhalla, executive director of Shake Up the Establishment, launched a fellowship program for activists of colour to rest — and do nothing else

A story we published early this year got quite a bit of buzz — because it was the first time many had heard of a fellowship program that only requires fellows to rest. The Rest, Recovery, and Resistance program was designed for activists of colour, to help fight burnout and provide a space for recovering from the effects of systemic racism. Bhalla told Future of Good in December that the program ended early — it “needed more work in its design,” Bhalla said — and will relaunch in summer 2023.

Éric St-Pierre, executive director of the Trottier Family Foundation broke new ground by hosting The Great Canadian ESG Challenge — and “send a message” that portfolios have to align with impact

It’s not everyday that fund managers publicly pitch to philanthropic foundations in a “Dragon’s Den” style competition to demonstrate that their investment approach isn’t greenwashing. The Great Canadian ESG Championship is a first-of-its-kind event in Canada. This spring, more than 60 asset managers applied to participate in the competition, including large asset managers like RBC Global Asset Management and smaller, impact investing firms, like Rally Assets. The six competition sponsors have collectively committed up to $45 million, for a total competition purse of $90 million.

Raine Liliefeldt, interim CEO of the YWCA announced Canada’s first national immediate financial support fund for survivors of domestic violence

More than half of survivor shelters in Canada reported an increased need for their services in 2022. In order to help address this problem, the YWCA is taking a trauma-informed approach to providing funds by believing and trusting survivors, and not making the process to apply for money invasive. Over the next four years, 12 YWCA member organizations across various Canadian provinces will provide 1,500 grants and interest-free loans ranging from $500 to $1,200.

Katie Gibson, Amy Sample Ward, Victor Beausoleil and other changemakers mobilized to co-found the first-ever Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience

A digitally-enabled non-profit sector is essential for people and families who rely on programs and services, we’ve found in our reporting this year. Decades of lack of funding digital infrastructure and capacity, and of de-prioritizing the use of data become all too apparent when the whole sector had to pivot when the pandemic hit. Co-founded by the CIO Strategy Council, Imagine Canada, NTEN, SETSI, and the Tamarack Institute, with more than 85 advisors from across the sector, the Canadian Centre for Nonprofit Digital Resilience (CCNDR) has a vision to “a digitally-enabled non-profit sector, where Canada’s diverse non-profits use data and tech to advance their mission and multiply their impact.”

Brandon Lee, director general at Global Affairs Canada, launched the largest-ever overhaul of the ministry’s $6 billion grants and contributions system

Global Affairs distributes billions of dollars each year in the name of international advocacy and diplomacy, from small grants supporting overseas Pride events to Canada’s $75 million budgetary contribution to the United Nations. But it just wasn’t working — it hasn’t worked smoothly for decades, and civil society organizations had been pressuring Global Affairs Canada for change. Global Affairs Canada will now drastically change how it manages grants and contributions over the next half decade, working to move away from processes many in the global cooperation and aid sector have described as “too complex, too time consuming and too costly.”

Megan Conway, president and CEO of Volunteer Canada, called for a National Voluntary Action Strategy

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that Canada is a country of volunteers. Twenty-four million people volunteer every year; they coach teams, mentor youth, cook meals for sick relatives, donate their time to front-line organizations and loads more. However, unlike other G20 countries, Canada lacks a national voluntary action strategy. This is an area worth following, as volunteers are the backbone of social change. We intend to continue to pay attention to this call to action in 2023.

Kirstin Beardsley, CEO of Food Banks Canada pushed for massive systemic change with the release of their signature research report HungerCount 2022

More Canadians now rely on food banks than at any other time in Canadian history, according to Food Banks Canada’s annual Hunger Report. Think about that for a minute — more than the 2008 financial crisis, the 1981-82 recession and any other crisis you can remember. Food inflation reached a 41-year high in 2022. “Canada’s food banks are facing uncharted challenges as turbulent economic conditions continue to exacerbate and deepen systemic inequities, especially for employed people earning low incomes, students and seniors on fixed incomes,” said Beardsley.

Julia Anderson, CEO of the Canadian Partnership for Women and Children’s Health (CanWaCH) curated Equal Futures 2022: A Gender Equality Summit

From exploring intersectional perspectives on the gender equality movement to building solidarity with Indigenous communities, this first ever Gender Equality Summit was a breakthrough event for changemakers from diverse sectors. With a mission to facilitate connections and strengthen collaboration among Canadian organizations to drive progress around gender equality from coast to coast to coast, Equal Futures Network acts as an innovative platform to share resources, shape agendas and strengthen collective work. Guess what? Equal futures 2023 is happening.

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