Life at Ajah consists of data, data, and more data.

As we go about our work, we often run into areas where information is scarce. Private foundations are probably the most common areas where we encounter an information deficit. Approximately 50% of the registered foundations in Canada are private foundations and they are an important segment of funders for non-profits. However, the fact that many of them are very humble and like to keep a low profile is a problem for organizations looking to approach them for support.

The difference between private and public foundations is, first, the source of the foundation’s money, and secondly, the nature of the board of directors. Private foundations have assets that are primarily contributed by an individual or a family, and the board is not at “arm’s-length” from each other. Their operations can be very similar, however, there are key differences for organizations who wish to approach them for funding. The fact the wealth of a private foundations comes from an individual means that most often they do not seek donations from the public. Therefore they have little reason to publicize information on their granting practices or interests. As a consequence, private foundations often don’t have online presence. Out of the 4842 private foundations registered with the CRA, only a little over 600 have websites.

The key to assessing whether these foundations would be good matches is their granting history. Our own researchers sort and categorize each funding opportunity in Fundtracker, and for the organizations that don’t have websites, this is done by using the granting history of each organization. The data we present in Fundtracker includes previous grant recipients for this reason; if you want to determine a foundation’s area of interest, then their grant recipients offer the most accurate evidence. In some cases, we even see granting history that actually contradicts information on a public foundation’s website, and it is the granting history that is often the best indicator of fit.

Not only is it hard to find information about these funders, but often people don’t actually know of them at all. Without websites or a public presence, private foundations often don’t even show up on the radar. As an example of some of the interesting data available in Fundtracker, and to highlight a few untapped funding opportunities, here is a list of the ten largest private foundations in Canada without websites:

The Buckingham Charitable Foundation

La Fondation Marcelle et Jean Coutu

Stewart & Marilyn Blusson Foundation

The Molson Foundation / La Fondation Molson

The Joseph Lebovic Charitable Foundation

Riddell Family Charitable Foundation

Sherman Foundation

The Gerald Schwartz and Heather Reisman Foundation

J. P. Bickell Foundation

The Wolf Lebovic Charitable Foundation

You can view their profiles, complete with their granting history, contact information, on the demo version of Fundtracker. Feel free to take this opportunity to learn a bit about some of the biggest funders philanthropists in Canada (spoiler: grizzly bear wrestling is involved).

Good Luck!