RallyRound July 2017 – Special Report from Belong 2017, Canada



Belong 2017, the spectacular Community Foundations of Canada conference, gathered more than 750 delegates from 105 Canadian communities and 34 countries, to connect and learn from each other.


Remarkable for its big thinking, diversity and scope, deep diving into themes of belonging, inclusion and reconciliation; Belong 2017 is proof – if proof were needed – that community philanthropy is a global force for good, strengthening community and shifting the power around the world.

Canada’s first community foundation was established in Winnipeg in 1921. Today, there are 191 community foundations, many of which are located in small communities in rural, regional and remote areas. Notwithstanding its larger size, the Canadian and Australian community foundation sectors are remarkably alike; our Canadian counterparts are experiencing similar opportunities and challenges, the conversations around the table are the same.

Woven throughout Belong 2017’s program were stories of how Canadian community foundations are harnessing local resources and creating impact in their communities. This special edition of RallyRound, featuring highlights from Belong 2017, demonstrates, as Andrew Chunilall, CEO of Community Foundations of Canada, puts it, ‘that philanthropy is about courage, leadership and working together in common purpose.”

Watch video of the powerful plenaries and keynotes

Vital Conversation on belonging with journalist and activist Desmond Cole, Senator Ratna Omidvar and National Inuit Leader Natan Obed talking about civic engagement, inclusion and community philanthropy: Here

Plenary with Canadian award-winning philosopher, novelist and essayist John Ralston Saul: Click Here

Plenary with Cindy Blackstock, Executive Director, First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada and member of the Gitksan First Nation, talking about Reconciliation, Indigenous children’s rights and building community. Here

Closing plenary featuring a conversation about leadership in action, shifting power, and changing systems in a global world with Toronto Foundation’s Sharon Avery, MATCH International Women Fund’s Jess Tomlin and Julia Sánchez form the Canadian Council for International Cooperation. Here:


Spotlight: Aron Theatre Co-operative, Campbellford, Ontario



When the Aron Theatre was threatened with closure, Campbellford, a small rural town, looked set to lose an important social and cultural hub. In response, community members came together, restructuring the theatre as a not-for-profit co-operative which leveraged a community investment model.

The Campbellford Seymour Community Foundation provided grants to renovate and purchase much needed equipment and, over and above this, made a social investment in the newly formed co-operative, purchasing ‘Aron Bonds’. By positioning this funding as an investment, the community foundation used its reputational and its financial capital to support and validate the venture, enabling the Co-op to raise additional funds and grants needed to upgrade to digital technology.

Now operating at a ‘modest surplus’, The Aron Theatre Co-operative is a terrific example of a successful rural social enterprise borne out of a commitment to finding local solutions to local challenges.

Spotlight: Edmonton Community Foundation: Give. Grow. Transform

The Edmonton Shift Lab, supported by the Edmonton Community Foundation, is stewarding an exploration to develop potential service, policy, system and community action prototypes that will help reduce racism as it contributes to poverty.

The Lab aims to to shift ideas, attitudes, systems and shift into new ways of solution finding with community by bringing people together to co-design solutions (with the emphasis on solutions in the plural), explore and develop new services, community projects and new policy.


Using Vital Signs to build knowledge and create impact


In 2016, thirty two communities in Canada, and another 23 around the world, participated in Vital Signs, leveraging local knowledge and accessible public data to measure the vitality of their communities.

Community foundations at Belong 2017 demonstrated that the value of Vital Signs extends well beyond the report. Vital Signs is an opportunity to build, in collaboration with the community, a consensual language around important issues, to stimulate civic engagement, empower donors, inform granting and engage in an ongoing conversation with citizens and stakeholders.

For many community foundations, Vital Signs has been a catalyst for bringing local organisations and service providers together to form knowledge hubs and networks, leading to better outcomes for the community.

The Clayoquot Biosphere Trust, which encompasses 8 communities with a resident population of 5,000 and a million visitors per year, has connected their Vital Signs to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS) which will better enable them to track their progress and impact into the future.


The 17 SDGs are an interconnected universal call to action to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure that all people enjoy peace and prosperity. They represent a shared vision whilst allowing for multiple theories of change within an integrated framework. For community foundations, the SDGs represent an opportunity to connect the impact we are already enabling locally to a broader global vision.


Spotlight: Neighbourhood Small Grants, Vancouver Foundation



Vancouver Foundation’s Neighbourhood Small Grants program aims to help build community and strengthen connections right where people live – in their neighbourhood. Small grants of up to $500 are available for residents to develop projects that meet the needs of the community, for example a community clean-up, multicultural fashion show, street party.

Random Acts of Kindness

A growing number of Canadian community foundations are leading Random Acts of Kindness (RAK) Days.

RAKs are not fundraising activities but are intended as a simple way to encourage unexpected moments of kindness in the community and grow community connectedness. RAK Days tap into the ‘Pay it Forward’ movement and encourage people, or groups of people, to do something nice for someone and then, in turn, encourage the RAK beneficiary to do something nice for someone else.

Community Foundations support the day with RAK cards and information packs, including suggestions for RAK activities, which reinforces the connection between the RAK’s aims and the foundation. Click here for information on the Guelph Community Foundation’s RAK Day.


Belong 2017’s workshop program included plenty of practical advise, inspiration and information for delegates.

How to make the Ask

  • Develop a quick reference guide for Board members and volunteers (purpose of an endowment, key organisational achievements in granting, impact, fund building)
  • Take your time to build relationships and make those relationships transformational rather than transactional
  • Look for key mutually beneficial opportunities e.g. significant anniversaries for corporate donors
  • Set targets and track your progress

The Art of Convening

  • Learn from and be responsive to success and to ‘failure’
  • Be intentional with your invitations
  • Be a linker and a matchmaker – actively bring people together who can benefit from each other’s experience and expertise
  • Don’t reinvent the wheel – make use of existing resources and learn from others who are doing convening well

Join community foundation staff, trustees and directors, representatives from the broader for-purpose sector, government and philanthropy for Australia’s largest community foundation focused conference; #NCFF17 in Melbourne.

Click here for registration, program and accommodation information.