Something clicked in 2023. Our novel research on loneliness the year prior drove our galvanizing campaign on the Power of Us, bringing fresh focus, energy and momentum, and informing all our future work. (More on that in a minute.) But feeling confident about looking forward is only possible because we’re proud of our progress as we close out our five-year strategic plan.  

The plan cemented in 2019 was an ambitious one: pursue progressive philanthropy, find a way to create impact despite our comparatively small discretionary granting options and be a force for change. For the first time, Toronto Foundation embraced a very clear purpose for our work in the city. At the centre of it was a commitment to changing ourselves, philanthropy and the world around us. Reflecting on 2023, we’ve grown in leaps and bounds from when we first set out on this course. 


Adopting an equity lens was a new way to approach our granting. What we realized mid-way through the plan, during the global social justice reckoning of 2020, was that we also had to turn inwards to affect change.

DEI is a practice, not a project. 

Where we’ve landed at the end of the plan is with a mindset that DEI is a practice, not a project. That shows up in our DEI policy, staff DEI team, as well as a committee for Black, Indigenous and racialized board members. Last year marked our third annual staff DEI pulse survey, conducted with the help of our DEI consultant, Mending the Chasm, second DEI policy review, and a full screen of our recruitment and onboarding practices. Amidst a year where intense international conflict brought local fallout, we’re steadfast in our commitment to equity, denouncing antisemitism and Islamophobia, and ensuring that our policies, programs and actions do no harm. 

What was at one time a novel concept of centring equity, is now mainstream. While equity remains a priority, it must keep evolving both inside and outside the organization.  


Despite the immense wealth in Toronto, we’ve always known that the lion’s share of donations is going to well-resourced, big brand charitable organizations. Recent research alludes to how lopsided giving is: 78% of charitable organizations in this country are small. That means they operate with $500,000 or less annually. We know these are notoriously the most underfunded organizations in the charitable sector.

Mobilizing the grassroots to come together in mutual support must be at the heart of our solutions now and in the future. 

With all the external pressures facing vulnerable Torontonians, more and more are relying on charities for their essential needs. And we know that local, neighbourhood organizations are highly trusted by those with nowhere else to go. Mobilizing the grassroots to come together in mutual support must be at the heart of our solutions now and in the future. 

For the first time our Toronto’s Vital Signs Grants were dedicated to smaller organizations. Within the program we reserved nine grants for groups doing charitable work, but without the official status. Those smaller organizations and incorporated nonprofits are the sole features of the 2024 online Good to Give Guide. While there’s no way for our fundholders to grant to non-charitable groups directly, you can contribute to our Community-Led Change Fund to add to the collective impact of such a pool. 

It’s these same vulnerable folks we tend to think of when it comes to the harshest impact of a changing climate. We continue to do the internal work to advance our environmental practices while remaining an active signatory to the Canadian Philanthropic Commitment on Climate Change and humbly learn from the findings of the first year’s report back. 

Having signed the Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action on Reconciliation in 2017, we’re deepening our relationship with the coalition of Indigenous-led and serving organizations in Toronto. In 2023 we piloted a variation of our Deacon Legacy Grants, essentially handing Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council (TASSC) the funding designated for Indigenous organizations, to administer as they saw fit, as one way to further their self-determination. We’re keen to meet with TASSC and reflect on what did and didn’t work about the approach. 


Actively listening, learning and connecting in community is a hallmark of our approach to philanthropy whether through our ongoing donor education sessions or peer learning. Last year we were fortunate enough to host hundreds of community foundation colleagues for the first in-person national conference since COVID.  It was a joy and it was energizing. 

What we felt in real, tangible terms is what we knew intellectually after our 2022 Toronto Social Capital Study: that connecting matters—a lot. This resonated more deeply with the findings of the 2023 Toronto’s Vital Signs Report research.  

When our research showed us the extent to which our basic connections to one another had become frayed, we asked ourselves how we could play a bigger role beyond just the world of philanthropy. 

Torontonians are desperately lonely and seeking connection. There’s a vicious cycle as residents face economic and housing hardships, withdraw and then find themselves socially isolated. Mental health is no better than it was at the worst of COVID. 

When our research showed us the extent to which our basic connections to one another had become frayed, we asked ourselves how we could play a bigger role beyond just the world of philanthropy. 

We knew we couldn’t just put out another doom and gloom report. We had to offer Torontonians a way out of this mess. We had to spark some civic optimism 

We issued a 150-day challenge to Torontonians that straddled 2023-2024: Reconnect with each other and recommit to our city. Thirty organizations stood up as early believers, offering commitments as inspirations to others. As another motivator, Toronto Foundation teamed up with Volunteer Toronto, with funding from United Way Toronto, CAMH, Environics Institute, Northcrest and Toronto Zoo Wildlife Conservancy, to offer Torontonians $1000 to kickstart their idea to reconnect locally. With over 275 applications, clearly there are sparks of civic optimism across the city. Add to that a supportive mayor and city champion in Councillor Alejandra Bravo, ongoing conversations with Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen de Villa and a vested interest from the City Clerk’s office, and it feels as though civic engagement and social capital can be reignited in this city. 


Partnering with government is not new for us and we aim to do more of it. With the Government of Canada, we’ve been the four-year fiduciary partner of the largest international fund for gender equality. Provincially we’re exploring the creation of an unclaimed property society to unlock dormant money that currently exists, offering a means to provide urgent support directly to Ontarians and local communities.

For the first time since its inception, our social impact investment fund has now committed more money to investees than we started with in our original pool.  

In our main investment pool, almost $100M is now invested responsibly (up to 29% of the entire pool in 2023 from 22.5% in 2022). Our portfolio’s exposure to non-renewable energy and utility companies has decreased to less than 4% and the exposure to alcohol, tobacco and firearms (ATFs) to less than 1%.   

Fundholders are looking for creative ways to use their philanthropy to accelerate change and we’re continuously working with our world-renowned Outsourced Chief Investment Officer, RockCreek, to deliver. Later in 2024 expect to see a deeper report back on the social impact of our main investments. 


It all comes back to the power of us. 

With resounding responses from people in the public, private and nonprofit sectors, it’s clear the Power of Us Campaign has become more than our annual research reveal. In fact, the real power of us is hope: a collective hope for something better and a personal sense of agency that a different future is possible. 

How do we influence a broader agenda on the importance of social connection? We’re a community foundation in the biggest city in Canada where people are unbearably lonely. We’re still surrounded by wealth as inequalities deepen and donors expect their dollars to go farther. As we craft our next strategic plan, we’ll be looking at all the levers of power we can pull to affect change and bring us together again.