Black and Indigenous Futures Fund: A new program shifts paradigms

Conceived in 2020 at a time of collective racial reckoning, the Black and Indigenous Futures Fund became a reality when we reached out to several donors to explore how best to mobilize philanthropy to tackle inequality in new and creative ways. A group of seed donors committed to a new way of doing philanthropy based on a few core principles: 

  • De-centring themselves: “stepping up by stepping back” 
  • Giving up control by deferring all program design and grant decision-making to the Black and Indigenous communities 
  • Offering multi-year, unrestricted operating funding 
  • Building a pool of funding to incentivize other donors to diversify their donations 


What motivated us 

The fund is designed to support Black and Indigenous leaders, organizations and grassroots groups, who are best equipped to identify and advance solutions for their communities and push for an equitable and just recovery from the challenges of COVID-19. These communities have historically not had a say when it comes to shaping and accessing philanthropy’s funding opportunities.  

  1. A study looking at 40 public and private foundations in Canada found that 0.7% of grants in 2017 and 2018 went to Black-led organizations. (For Black Communities, 2021) 
  2. Online giving for Indigenous Peoples is only 2% of all online giving and that’s up from 1% in the years prior (The Giving Report, 2021) 

The program is an important step in our commitment to addressing systemic and institutional challenges as we build for an equitable recovery in our city. We've reflected deeply on the program principles and learnings, and will be embedding those in future grants. 


By the Numbers 

  • $300,000 offered in matching money (from 7 lead funds + 1 external donor) 
  • $600,000 granted in 2021 to 24 Black and Indigenous Futures Fund Grantees when 43 funds signed up for the match  
  • $132,000 was matched for an additional two years of steady funding (2022, 2023) 
  • 200+ groups applied. We were able to support 16 qualified donees and eight non-qualified donees 


What was new:
Non-qualified donees 

  • For the first time, Toronto Foundation piloted direct funding to non-qualified donees (for many years we’ve funded them through trustees). We are hopeful that this can continue to be part of our ongoing practice and that the federal government will allow charities to provide resources to organizations that are not qualified donees (as recommended by Bill S-216, The Effective and Accountable Charities Act). This will enable our fundholders to grant directly to non-qualified donees in the future. 

Oral and video applications 

  • They work! We had 25 organizations select this option, paving the way for us to better support organizations facing barriers and in particular those led by and serving people with disabilities 


What we’ve learned: shifting and sharing power in grant making leads to greater impact 

  • When our organization wants to make the biggest impact, we’ve learned to let the community identify its own needs and design its own solutions. Sector leaders shaped the program, identified funding criteria and recommended sector members to select the funding recipients. This is the criteria the committee used to make their decisions: 
    • local need for services and addressing gaps that are often overlooked 
    • issue areas and priorities during the pandemic 
    • project scope and sustainability 
    • intersectionality related to race, gender, income, ability, etc. 
    • neighbourhood and geographical distribution across Toronto 
  • The selection committee determined what Black-led/serving and Indigenous-led/serving meant and it embraces a broad leadership group. “Led” in this context reflects a collection of decision-makers and influencers that spans the executive leadership, senior and program staff as well as volunteers, including the board. 


What we’ve heard: 

“Everything about these grants got me excited: the sector leaders’ insights, recommended grantees and the grant matching opportunity. One plus one can be leveraged for more than two and I’m so happy to have inspired more giving.”   

- Beth Malcolm, seed donor and fundholder, Toronto Foundation


One year after the pilot was launched, grassroots groups and nonprofits (non-qualified donees) who received direct funding were asked to provide anonymous feedback on their overall experience. Everyone felt positively, citing the program as inclusive and accessible, especially since some of them had never received direct funding before engaging in the program. When asked how the program impacted grantees’ access to additional funding from other sources, several responses indicated that the pilot helped amplify their work to a broader network and in some cases, enabled them to build a case for support to other funders. 



Find a list of the grantees in the Good to Give Guide >>


Leadership Table Members  

  • Agapi Gessesse, Executive Director, CEE Centre for Young Black Professionals
  • Gillian Perera, Coordinator, Grassroots Network, Centre for Connected Communities
  • Tim Laronde, Board of Directors, Anishnawbe Health Foundation
  • Imara Rolston, Policy Development Officer, Confronting Anti Black Racism Unit, City of Toronto
  • Lindsay (Swooping Hawk) Kretschmer, Executive Director, Toronto Aboriginal Support Services Council
  • Ismail Afrah, Grassroots Leader, Local Champions Network


Selection Committee Members 

Charitable Organizations/Trustees:

  • Nancy Debassige - Anishinaabe kwe from M’Chigeeng First Nation
  • Paige Kimiksana Kreps - Program Coordinator, Toronto Inuit Association
  • Tim Laronde - National Director Indigenous Strategies, Chandos Construction
  • Anyika Mark - Project Coordinator, Black to the Future CoP, CEE Toronto Centre for Young Black Professionals
  • Melana Roberts - Policy Development Officer, City of Toronto, Confronting Anti-Black Racism Unit

Grassroots Groups:

  • Karlene Cameron – Grassroots Leader located in York Weston, Local Champions Network
  • Margaret Nelson – Grassroots Leader, Member of the North Etobicoke Resident Council, Local Champions Network
  • Joni Shawana - Wiikwemkoong Unceded Indian Reserve; Toronto Indigenous Community Member
  • Annisha Stewart – Grassroots Leader located in Rexdale, Founder of Queens Leveling Up Local Champion Network
  • Ibrahim Swaleh – Grassroots Leader, Local Champion Network
  • Emishaw Yimenu – Grassroots Leader located in South Weston, Local Champion Network