Welcome from the Board Chair and the President & CEO
At McConnell, 2022 brought refreshing opportunities to meet and collaborate in person as we moved deeper into our work in Communities, Reconciliation and Climate. This was also a year marked by many challenges for the sector, with rising inflation, increased demand for services and a need for large-scale mobilization of capital. This is a moment for philanthropy to revisit how we work, and how we deploy our assets to better support the organizations working to create positive impact.
In recognition of the important societal and environmental changes of the past several years, our Board made the decision to approve the gradual transition of our endowment to 100% impact investing. Over approximately five years, as market conditions evolve and more investment products become available, we will deploy all $655 million of our assets in the form of both charitable funding and investing towards advancing our mission. To help ensure these investments do not work in conflict with our climate objectives, our Board has approved divesting from fossil fuel holdings by the end of 2023, as well as a commitment to achieve net-zero carbon emissions in our investment portfolio by 2050. We know this will be a learning journey, with successes and failures to come. We look forward to sharing our experience with partners as this work progresses, and hope that others will join us.
Last year also saw soaring inflation rates, with low-income individuals and families facing the harshest impacts of the rising cost of living. Organizations supporting those most impacted have faced increased demands while also needing to manage tighter budgets and reduced buying power. This prompted us to provide all active funding partners with a one-time 7-10% inflation top-up, depending on the financial pressure being experienced by the organization. We hope this additional funding helped to give our partners some breathing room to continue their important work.
In 2022, we also forged new ways of working, with a view to improve how we connect with our partners. This had implications across our organization, including our strategy and partnership work, as well as our funding and decision-making processes.
Our renewed Communities funding strategy was developed in consultation with community organizations from across the country to reflect the current needs and challenges of the sector. The strategy draws on evidence that communities know what is best for them, and prioritizes programming that supports community-driven solutions and rebalances power to equity-deserving groups.
Many social purpose organizations do not have charitable status and are defined as “non-qualified donees” (NQDs). McConnell has been supporting NQDs that play an important role in generating positive social and environmental impact in Canada since 2012. In 2022, the federal government announced a change in rules that will allow charities to fund NQDs with fewer restrictions. This change came because of advocacy from the sector. McConnell and partners such as Imagine Canada were active participants in these discussions, alongside the leadership of Senator Ratna Omidvar and the voices of many NQDs who championed this issue. We are grateful for their work and look forward to continuing to partner with high impact NQDs.
Our partnerships always begin with an application, which we know can take time and draw on much-needed resources to research, write and submit. Improving the application experience is an important element of being better partners. That’s why, at the beginning of 2022, we overhauled our application process to make applying for funding easier. Now, organizations are asked to start by submitting a short-form application. If successful, we invite them to submit a full proposal. This way, only organizations with projects that are more likely to receive funding are required to undertake the more rigorous, long-form application.
To help make our funding and decision-making more transparent, our team hosted webinars, produced detailed application resources and hosted over 350 virtual ‘Office Hours’ conversations advising organizations about potential fit. We know this new process is not yet perfect and we are regularly reviewing and revising it to improve for our partners.
Above all, our partners continue to inspire us and make us ask how to shift our ways of working to better support the amazing work being done in communities across Turtle Island. In this Year in Review, you will have the opportunity to learn about their impact. From the NWT On The Land Collaborative’s work on land-based programs in the North, to Indigenous Climate Action’s national efforts around Indigenous climate leadership, and Disability Without Poverty’s advocacy to benefit Canadians living with disabilities, we hope these stories will inspire you too.
Thank you for reading our 2022 Year in Review.
President and CEO
We envision a future in which our economy and social systems promote the thriving of all people, and in which the natural environment is stewarded for generations to come. We see all sectors working together to address climate change, to help foster reconciliation, and to unleash individual creativity and organizational resources to solve social challenges and strengthen communities.
We strive for a resilient, inclusive and sustainable society that can successfully address its complex challenges.
Introducing our new organizational values
In 2022, we formalized the Foundation’s core values and principles. These are the cultural bedrock of our organization. Our values inform how we develop strategies and make decisions, and our principles are how we put these values into action.
In addition to our organizational values, McConnell is also a signatory to the Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action. As the Declaration states: “We thank the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for inviting us into this circle that is built on the seven sacred lessons of: Truth, Humility, Honesty, Respect, Courage, Wisdom and Love. These teachings are consistent with our collective purposes, principles and missions.”
Community and equity
We seek to understand and serve the needs of communities—groups who share common needs and goals, whether defined by geography, identity, or other commonalities—with a priority placed on listening to and responding to the needs of equity-deserving groups.
Equity means fairness and justice in the way people are treated, respecting diversity and acknowledging that we do not all start from the same place and not everyone wants to arrive at the same place.
Collaboration allows everyone to create more effective solutions than we would in isolation. Effective partnerships require mutual exploration and discovery. We rely on the insight and expertise of our partners, complementing it where we are best able, to help increase their capacity and empower them to succeed.
Valuing community and equity means that we will take a collaborative approach and take steps to place power in the hands of partners.
Humility is a state of remaining respectful and open and listening to voices of lived experience. It is about how you show up.
We are fortunate to work closely with respected public, private and non-profit leaders, but always remember that while we enjoy the opportunity to think big and advance transformative change, we are never bigger than our partners and those we serve.
Listen to, respect and amplify the voices of partners in charities, non-profits and communities. Do not seek the spotlight but rather to amplify and lift up our partners and the communities they serve.
Trust that our partners are the experts in their fields, and possess knowledge based in experience that must be heard and respected. Operate with an understanding that there are people who know better than we do. True partnership is a trust-based reciprocal relationship, in which we value what community partners can bring to the table.
To possess and consistently embody a strong code of ethics and moral principles. Integrity means never compromising when it comes to core values.
Being responsible and making sure there is alignment in our ways of working, including coordination and alignment internally across departments, processes and systems. We must use all the tools at our disposal to elevate the support we can provide to our partners.
A great deal of awareness, responsibility and diligence are required in every choice we make. We must also remain coherent and consistent in our approach. Our choices must be guided by our mission, vision and values, and a sense of the impacts and potential impacts of our actions.
Courage means embracing the unknown. Learning something new sometimes requires pushing your limits and venturing into unchartered territory. In our mission to enact lasting, transformative change, we embrace the need to think boldly guided by our mission and vision—and to uncover insights in both our successes and our failures. This means having the courage to change with lessons learned, and to make tough decisions when called to do so.
Having the courage of our convictions means we must be creative, open and curious.
Creativity is the spark that turns a willingness to take risks into innovation. Openness means remaining open to change and not being stagnant. Curiosity means operating at the edge of things, and remaining ahead of the curve, a trademark of McConnell’s way of working.
We must stand firm when our mission and values demand that we do so.
We value taking the long view when it comes to impact, operations and processes. And we evolve in response to evolving needs and expanding awareness.
As part of our commitment to Truth and Reconciliation, we are committed to operate in alignment with United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and be responsible to future generations. This aligns with the Iroquois principle of the Seventh Generation, in which the decisions we make today must be sustainable for this generation and the seven generations to come.
Sustainability is at the core of McConnell’s mission. As a Foundation with a long history, to act as responsible stewards means not only environmental sustainability, but organizational durability.
For McConnell, sustainability acknowledges limitations at the individual, social and global level, and aligns human activities within environmental limits. Societies are sustainable when they protect the environment, embrace diversity, push for economic security, create fair opportunities, and aim to reduce inequalities. They are fed by their members’ active participation and sense of obligation to future generations, as applied through long-term equitable stewardship.