Giving to Support Indigenous Communities in Canada

September 16, 2022
4 min read

Caroline Dobuzinskis

Sr. Manager, Digital Marketing Content

Donors can help close gaps in giving to Indigenous-led organizations in Canada. 

To redress both recent and longstanding inequities and support Indigenous self-determination, donors can choose to give to organizations, communities, and movements implementing Indigenous-led solutions. 

The challenge for donors may sometimes be around a lack of knowledge or awareness of effective ways to provide support. We spoke to Justin Wiebe, Lead, Innovation and Strategic Growth with Mastercard Foundation and a citizen of the Métis Nation Saskatchewan, to lend insights. 

Wiebe’s work focuses on partnering with Indigenous youth and communities to transform education and employment systems in ways that reflect their values, traditions, and aspirations.

This work includes supporting the growth of Indigenous-led community foundations and funders through fundraising and organizing work to redeploy funds to communities and Indigenous-led initiatives. His start in the realm of philanthropy was with the Ontario Trillium Foundation, after career roles in urban planning, research, and consulting.  

Wiebe’s experience provides an on-the-ground perspective on the sector’s landscape. “Philanthropy continues to fail to generally show up at the scale that is necessary for Indigenous communities,” said Wiebe.  

Close the giving gap

According to a 2018 report, only about 1% of funding from foundations went to Indigenous groups, disproportionate to the 5% of the Canadian population they represent. In the United States, the portion of giving to Indigenous organizations is around 0.5% despite Indigenous peoples being 3% of the country’s population.

Wiebe says this amount is inadequate both based on demographics, as well as according to the weight of the need to eliminate inequalities. 

“There is a lot of movement but it is slow and gradual,” said Wiebe. “We’re seeing foundations and donors do more to give to Indigenous-led efforts, but I think there are still barriers to that—in terms of the relationships and knowledge non-Indigenous folks have of our communities and our organizations.”

At the organizational level, Wiebe says that Indigenous-led foundations can step in to help carry out some of the work in support of Indigenous organizations and movements. Importantly, these foundations can communicate impact and add storytelling to connect to other communities and reach donors.  

Indigenous organizations, communities, and movements exist where you live.”

Discover organizations working in a range of sectors

For their part, donors can seek out research and information on the breadth of Indigenous-led organizations. For certain groups, registering as a charity may not make sense “both from a self-determination perspective and an Indigenous value system”.

“The reality is registering to be a charity is sometimes a burdensome distraction from the work folks are trying to do,” said Wiebe. 

However, this does not translate into a dearth of qualified donees for donors to support. If donors are giving through a donor-advised fund like Charitable Impact or if receiving a tax receipt is important, they can find what they are looking for.

Registered charities led by Indigenous communities span geographic areas and sectors such as health, education, and the environment. 

This is also where intermediaries—like donor-advised funds, philanthropic advisors, and community foundations—can provide pathways to give to non-registered organizations. Canadian charitable legislation is currently evolving to enable more of these types of giving relationships.

Ultimately, Wiebe’s advice for donors is about knowing, understanding, and seeing the impact they want to have and not being limited by the status of an organization. “Whether you know them or not, Indigenous organizations, communities, and movements exist where you live,” he said. “Do some research, ask around, and don’t shy away from giving abundantly and without restrictions.”

If you feel inspired to create an impact, Charitable Impact is here for you. With our free Impact Account, you can support all of your favourite causes all from one place. Sign up for a free account today to get started.

Are you considering giving non-cash assets or making a major or transformational gift to this or another cause? Get in touch with our Philanthropic Advisory services to better understand your giving options.