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An Update on Our Commitment to Community

34 Ways We’re Shifting and Sharing Power
Illustration of a diverse group of people smiling next to each other

It’s been almost two years since we made a commitment to shifting and sharing power with community, especially those traditionally and historically left out. Last year we shared 33 ways we’ve began living into this commitment. Since then we’ve continued to make a number of changes at Vancouver Foundation from grantmaking to creating a more inclusive workplace for staff. The impacts of extreme weather due to climate change, inequality rooted in the ongoing impacts of colonization and worsened by sociopolitical shifts, and the ever-present pandemic have made it clear there’s urgency to this work — but we’ve been guided by the importance of being intentional and reflective; listening and learning; and being willing to make changes when we’re called on to do so.

One year later, we want to share another update with you as one way to be accountable to our community. The donors who entrust us with their philanthropic wishes, the charitable and nonprofit sector we serve, the communities we have more to do to be in right relationship with, and other funders who are also exploring ways to do this work within their own organizations. 

We invite you to connect with us if this work sparks your interest or curiosity: info@vancouverfoundation.ca

Supporting Community through Granting and Community Initiatives

Guided by a trust-based approach to grantmaking, how and what we grant this year has looked different than in previous years. We’ve been using this time to prototype different ways of shifting and sharing power in our grantmaking.

To increase access to funding for equity-seeking communities:

  1. In our recent cycle of PAR grants, we prioritized projects co-led by communities who are disproportionately impacted by racism and other discriminatory behaviours and beliefs within health systems.
     
  2. We provided an operational grant to the Community Action Initiative to allow them to continue to anchor the OPEN Overdose Prevention and Education Network, a network that is developed and led by community members with lived experience.
     
  3. In response to the catastrophic flooding in the Fraser Valley and the Interior late last year, we deployed $2.3 million in urgent relief. This included $1.3 million in unrestricted operating grants for groups serving populations hit hardest by the floods such as migrant workers and land-based Indigenous nations.  

To deepen our commitment to the Philanthropic Community’s Declaration of Action:

  1. We formed an Indigenous-led team by recruiting a Director and Manager to develop a culturally safe Indigenous Priorities Strategy in collaboration with First Nation, Métis, and Inuit communities across the province. We are also currently recruiting for a Coordinator.
     
  2. We launched the Indigenous Priorities Grant Program (IPGP) and increased our funding commitment from $750,000 to approximately $6.7 million across two phases of granting in late 2021 and early 2022. This allowed us to support as many initiatives as we can to help support Indigenous communities to build solutions that are centered in their worldview.
     
  3. We’re co-designing an Indigenous-led Systems Change Granting Program which will launch in Spring 2023.
     
  4. We’ve indigenized reporting for IPGP grantees by being explicit about power dynamics and visiting communities in a way that is led by the community.
     
  5. We engaged an elder to support the LEVEL Policy Program to help centre Indigenous voices and perspectives throughout the program.

To reduce the application and reporting burden on applicants and grantees:

  1. We’ve simplified the application process for the Participatory Action Research (PAR) Convene Grants, IPGP, and LEVEL BIPOC Grants to remove administrative burden of applicants. For example, applicants were not required to include budgets and applications questions were revised with more accessible language.
     
  2. We’ve made reporting optional for Systems Change, PAR, LEVEL BIPOC, and IPGP grantees. Grantees can share as much or as little as they’d like about their grant and can also elect to have a conversation with staff instead of a written report. 

To increase transparency and accountability in our work:

  1. We now compensate Community Advisors as a recognition that they provide an essential service for Vancouver Foundation, sharing their time and expertise to ensure we deliver on our commitment to being community inspired.
     
  2. We formed an Indigenous Priorities Advisory Council, who are compensated for their time and expertise in guiding the strategic direction of the Indigenous Priorities Strategy and adjudicate IPGP.
     
  3. We’ve expanded our community engagement efforts through surveys and consultations with organizations about their needs and priorities in supporting their communities, which will inform our longer-term public policy and advocacy work.

To find new ways to unlock more funding and opportunities in community: 

  1. We’re developing a new online resource that will offer donors a list that include BIPOC-led and serving organizations in need of funding that they can learn more about and easily grant to from their fund.
     
  2. We introduced a new policy that requires annual granting from Donor Advised Funds (DAFs). While most DAFs at Vancouver Foundation are active with granting, this policy maximizes the amount of granting made available through DAFs.
     
  3. Through our public policy and advocacy efforts, we partnered with the Government of BC and United Way to mobilize $34 million of new multi-year unrestricted funding that will support the recovery and resiliency of the non-profit sector. This includes $5 million specifically earmarked for distribution through the New Relationship Trust, an Indigenous-led and serving organization.
     
  4. We created paid positions within the LEVEL Youth Policy Program, hiring and building the capacity of past program participants and other Indigenous and racialized migrant young people.
     
  5. For any events we sponsor, we work to ensure there is diverse representation when it comes to race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, class, and other equity-denied groups.
     
  6. We advertised to recruit for new board members to increase transparency and diversity by no longer relying on networks of existing board members which can perpetuate the same membership profile.

Improving Accessibility

Our website and online platforms are integral ways in which people access information about our work and important web services such as the Donor Portal. Over the last year, we’ve put a lot of effort into finding ways we can make these tools and the content we share more accessible.

  1. We completed formal training in digital accessibility best practices to eventually develop a formal organization-wide accessibility policy and to implement across all our platforms.
     
  2. We conducted accessibility audits of our website and Donor Portal and extensive user experience (UX) research from diverse users of our web services to learn where there are accessibility gaps and how we can best address them from the users themselves.
     
  3. We’re in the process of rewriting some of the content on our website that will prioritize accessibility. Part of this involves working with writers who specialize in writing with a Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion lens, involving allies from equity-seeking communities, and writing in plain language to make it as inclusive as possible.

Creating an Inclusive Workplace

As part of our continued commitment to creating a more inclusive workplace, we’ve built on the work we shared in our last update by examining how and where else we can shift systems and center equity within the organization. 

  1. We introduced a personal leave of absence policy that gives staff up to 90 days of unpaid leave in addition to any vacation days and personal/sick days they have. 
     
  2. We now list the exact salary for all job postings instead of a salary band. This removes any bias around compensation and provides full transparency to job applicants from the very beginning of the hiring process.
     
  3. Our interview panels include staff at all levels and across all departments to ensure a diverse perspective and further collapse organizational hierarchy. 
     
  4. We’ve begun to share some interview questions with candidates prior to an interview and in some cases, we’ve invited them to choose which questions they’d like to answer based on where they believe they can best highlight their strengths and qualifications for the role. 
     
  5. The JEDI (Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion) Committee made up of staff from various departments and roles, is bringing forward the results of a recent staff survey on learning and recommendations for the organization to support staff learning.
     
  6. Staff were invited to participate in learning cohorts called PurposePhil to build their capacity for collaborative learning by engaging and unpacking together different concepts and ideas related to philanthropy.
     
  7. We prioritize creating an internal culture that centres relationships, collaboration, and care. For example, we engage all team members (regardless of title or roles) to contribute to or co-design programs and processes and share in decision making. 
     
  8. We held mandatory all-staff training on Territorial Acknowledgments with Nahanee Creative to learn more about ways to authentically honour and connect to the land we live and work on.
     
  9. We offered an interactive workshop on gender diversity with TransFocus to better understand learn about the spectrum of gender identities and expressions and how to create a supportive environment for transgender people in the workplace.

Investing our Endowment

  1. As part of our commitment to Communities for Gender Equality, a national initiative launched by Community Foundations of Canada, we invested $640,000 in gender-lens investments, which aim to invest in companies that exhibit a commitment towards gender diversity among their board of directors and executive leadership positions.
     
  2. We partnered with the Shareholder Association for Research and Education (SHARE) to advance shareholder engagement addressing ESG issues such as climate change, reconciliation, and human rights. 
     
  3. We transitioned one of our investment funds so we can exclude tobacco, armaments, cannabis, and gaming to better align our investments with our values.

We’re grateful to those who have followed our journey, especially those who have taken the time and energy to keep us accountable. This work continues to evolve as we get clarity on what our purpose is, and we know this wouldn’t be possible without those who have helped us along the way. We know we may not always get it right or we may be unsure of what to do but we’re confident in our commitment to do and be better. 

 


Image source: Freepik