TPW in Canada

Introducing TPW Canada

Programs in Canada   EXPLORE MEMBERSHIP

From Lisa Wolverton, President, TPW Canada

As human beings, we are facing an unprecedented set of existential global challenges, including climate change, a pandemic, gender and racial inequality, and persistent poverty. Each of these issues shows up in Canada in its own unique way. Last summer’s “heat dome” in British Columbia was the deadliest weather event in Canadian history. We have the eighth worst gender pay gap among developed countries. Indigenous women make up only 2% of our population, yet 16% of female homicide victims. More than half of Canadians are $200 away from not being able to pay their bills.

At the same time, wealth inequality is on the rise, with 20% of Canada’s wealthiest citizens owning 67% of our wealth (up 20% since just 1999). And, Canadian private philanthropy is only 0.77% of GDP, as compared to 1.44% in the U.S. Further, only 9% of our giving goes abroad and, as we know, today’s challenges don’t confine themselves to borders.

Even more dire is the amount of philanthropic funding that goes to racialized communities. Black Canadians are 3.5% of our population, but in 2018 Black-serving organizations received just 0.7% of giving, and Black-led organizations a fraction of that at 0.07%. Indigenous people are about 4.9% of our population, yet received just over 0.5% of gifted funds in 2021.

But, there is also great cause for hope.

First, 80% of Canadian businesses are family-owned and represent 60% of our GDP, which means that a large percentage of our assets are held privately. And because private money can operate in a more risk-tolerant and nimble way than government funding, Canada has unique opportunities to address social challenges quickly and meaningfully.

There is also particular promise in our next generation of donors, who are keen to not only write checks but also give their time, talent, and other resources to causes that they care about. The Canada Helps study found “66% of Millennials and 57% of Generation Z reported an act of giving in the last 12 months, such as donating money to charity, donating items or food to charity, or giving directly to someone in need.”

Further good news is that Canadian private and public foundations have already increased their giving. In just one year, total grants jumped from $7 billion to $10.4 billion in 2019.

Also, one quarter of family businesses are expected to be sold in the next five years, resulting in substantial private wealth creation.

So how do we get to a bountiful tomorrow where all Canadians are healthy, safe, and able to reach their full potential? This is where The Philanthropy Workshop (TPW) comes in.

The largest peer learning network of its kind, TPW is a global philanthropic community of 400 funders tackling today’s existential challenges through learning, community, and action. TPW’s members relentlessly focus on activating assets, accelerating impact, and igniting innovation, all rooted in 25-plus years of learning and excellence.

The TPW community seamlessly blends local, national, and global perspectives such that members meet new neighbors and collaborate around regional issues like homelessness, while learning from global members and experts about how to most effectively invest in, say, climate change or pandemic prevention.

And while TPW has always had Canadian members, the urgency of this moment calls for more. So TPW is officially putting down roots in Canada. As a TPW member and philanthropist, former Board member and Board Chair, proud Canadian and now President of TPW Canada, I am thrilled to help move Canada’s philanthropic community to a new level of impact.

For me, this is the opportunity of a lifetime and the culmination of my life’s experience to date.

I came to TPW in 2011 along with TPW member and Equality Fund Co-Founder Jess Houssian. We joined and the experience changed my life.

TPW provided me with our Foundation’s roadmap and strategy, and enabled me to dive deeper into my investment strategy. It made me think meaningfully about due diligence and how the philanthropic ecosystem operates, identifying gaps where funding could be catalytic, avoiding replication, finding the right collaborators, and a whole lot more. I was challenged by my peers while they supported me in a safe and collaborative atmosphere.

My experience with TPW has simultaneously been incredibly fun and deeply heartbreaking.

With TPW, I visited a pediatric hospital in Sierra Leone and witnessed firsthand the struggles of the nurses and doctors working with little to no infrastructure. I’ll never forget the sound of nurses tending to a small child without anesthesia in the next room as we tried to discuss concrete needs and opportunities.

With TPW, I was able to meet with a key Colombian negotiator who led the peace process between the FARC and Colombian landowners. Hearing his experience of bringing together individuals who had experienced decades of violence and trauma gave me hope that the once seemingly impossible was possible. The next day, we went to former FARC territory and heard firsthand from community leaders who had put down their arms in the name of a peaceful and prosperous future for Colombia. I wonder if future TPW members might have similar post-conflict conversations in Syria or Ukraine.

Philanthropy can be lonely, challenging work. The opportunity to be part of a community of peers who support me has transformed my doubt and insecurity into confidence in the difference I am making, with a persistent desire to do more.

My deepest hope is that this next stage of TPW’s growth in Canada will provide many more of my peers and colleagues the opportunity to experience the same on behalf of our wonderful country.

Together we can significantly increase the capital deployed across asset classes on behalf of all of our citizens. We must proceed with trust, putting those with lived experience at the center of decision-making, and reducing the barriers to capital for those working on these issues (which will of course entail doing what is, for us Canadians, deeply uncomfortable – talking about money).

We are opening this Vancouver office to grow our inclusive relationships across the country, and build a community of philanthropic families with a particular focus on catalyzing the next generation of funders, helping them create strategies to mobilize their time, talent, and treasure. TPW will bring global experiences to the Canadian ecosystem so that our members can engage locally, nationally, and globally. And we will provide local programming to help members go deep on the issues affecting their communities.

We’ve already heard that Canadian funders want to give more proactively from an established strategy with benchmarks, and that they want an integrated approach to their finances such that their philanthropic giving and investment portfolios are aligned. We’ve designed a world class series of upcoming in-person and virtual learning opportunities in Vancouver, Ottawa, and Toronto, with opportunities in Montreal coming soon.

Our time is now. Join us. 

In gratitude,


Lisa Wolverton

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