Profiles of GIA Members

Vancouver Foundation

Published in: GIA Newsletter, Vol 9, No 2 (Fall 1998)

Karen Masaki

The Vancouver Foundation, the largest community foundation in Canada, was founded in 1943. Its assets totaled approximately $515 million at the end of 1997. The Foundation supports the activities of charitable organizations throughout British Columbia (BC). Advisory committees assist with decision-making in six of the Foundation's grantmaking areas. Committee members serve for three years and have the responsibility of reviewing grantmaking goals annually.

The Foundation's arts and culture grantmaking from its discretionary funds totaled approximately $816,000 in 1997. Grants supported a wide range of projects including the Nun'wa'kola Cultural Society for a video on "The Gathering of the Musgamagw Tsawataineuk Elders," the Vancouver Society for Early Music for a summer residency program, and the Kettle River Museum Society for an exterior artifacts shelter.

As in the United States, government funding in general (including funding for the arts) has been declining in Canada. In order to assess where it might most strategically place its resources, the Foundation undertook a research project in 1997 to look at the current and future needs of the not-for-profit sector in BC. Almost 300 not-for-profit organizations as well as government and non-government funders were interviewed or engaged in focus group discussions. The research showed that the most significant need was to strengthen the capacities of BC's communities and of its not-for-profit agencies.

To address these findings, the Foundation has chosen a multi-faceted approach. It will work with Community Foundations of Canada, a national organization, to build the capacity of BC's community foundations. Capacity here is seen as both the ability to raise endowment capital and to address the needs of the community. A Youth in Philanthropy program is making leadership opportunities available to young people as well as aiding in community foundation development.
In the area of arts and culture, the Foundation is supporting the following capacity building initiatives:

  • The Foundation is a partner in the Vancouver Arts Stabilization Team, having contributed $2.5 million towards the $5.5 million cost of the stabilization effort. Other funders include the Canada Council (federal government), the British Columbia Arts Council, the City of Vancouver, and private donors and corporations. Nine of the largest arts groups in Vancouver were selected to participate in this project.
  • The Foundation provides technical assistance to arts and culture groups through its Arts Partners in Organizational Development. This $100,000 program is funded in partnership with the federal and provincial governments. It provides assistance for groups in such areas as developing strategic plans, fundraising initiatives, and working with a consultant on an organizational diagnostic.

For twenty years, the Foundation also has supported, in partnership with the provincial government and the school districts, an Arts in Education program. Government and foundation support total $600,000, with an additional $600,000 coming from the schools. Administered by Arts Starts in the Schools, the program takes artists in the performing and visual arts into the schools of British Columbia.

Karen Masaki, Hawai'i Community Foundation