Strengthening the Charitable Sector

The Muttart Foundation believes that Canada is best served through a strong, independent and interconnected voluntary sector. It also believes that foundations and other funders can help ensure the sector maintains and gains strength. For almost two decades, the Foundation has provided capacity-building funding to both individual charities and to charitable-sector infrastructure organizations – those charities that serve other charities.

The support has been available in a number of areas, ranging from technology through the support of discussions of mergers and alliances. Funding has also included start-up and core operating costs. Currently, the Foundation’s funding is aimed at moving forward three strategies:

  • To create, promote and/or support the organizational, legal and regulatory vehicles that allow the charitable sector to be full players in the development of public policy related to the sector and those it serves.
  • To encourage the development of leadership at the sectoral level.
  • To support charities that wish to restructure.

Under the Foundation’s strategic grantmaking, a concentration in the Strengthening the Charitable Sector program is in the form of core funding grants to selected organizations. These grants are meant to enhance the capacity of organizations to serve other charities. The Foundation also pays careful attention to its ability to act as a convenor. Where it believes it can be helpful, the Foundation will bring together groups of people – from charities and other parts of society – to discuss common issues and seek innovative solutions.


As charities recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and face the possibility of reduced government funding and the uncertainty of donations, they may have to look at different ways of working, or perhaps even decide it is time for the charity to stop operating.

The Foundation may be able to assist charities to undertake the changes they feel they need to make.

Charities can apply for funding under this program if they:

(a) are social-service charities that operate primarily in Alberta or Saskatchewan; or

(b) are umbrella organizations for the voluntary sector or for a subsector, and they have at least some member-organizations that operate in Alberta or Saskatchewan.

The Foundation will consider applications in the following streams:

Mergers: Where two or more charities wish to consider a formal amalgamation, the Foundation will consider applications for funding to support the initial discussions, the detailed reviews and some part of the implementation. Normally, an application will cover only one phase of the process at a time, recognizing the results of an early phase can be uncertain. Certain costs will not be considered in the implementation phase: the Foundation will not pay costs of severance payments to staff or for retirement of any debts or contracted arrangements such as leases.

Alliances: Charities may identify ways they can work differently with other charities to provide service at reduced costs, or in ways that administrative costs can be turned into programming costs. There are any number of ways that two or more charities may decide to create some form of alliance. It could involve sharing space or services, merging back-office operations, developing co-ordinated services or something else entirely. The key will be ensuring at least a maintenance of the level of service received by clients while finding ways to increase efficiencies. The Foundation will consider applications for exploration and implementation of such alliances.

Closure: Some charities may decide that they cannot continue operations, for financial reasons or otherwise. In those cases, the Foundation will consider applications so that a charity can obtain the professional assistance it requires to wrap up its operations, and to ensure clients receive the assistance they need to make the transition to another service provider. The Foundation will not consider requests for grants to pay for severance payments to staff or for debts incurred prior to the grant being awarded.

Charities wishing to apply for grants under the Restructuring program should submit an application through the Foundation’s application portal.


The Foundation has, for 25 years, provided loans to a small number of charities. Sometimes, these loans are secured by a mortgage, while in other situations, the Foundation has made available lines of credit and loans to assist a charity with cashflow.

Charities can apply for support under this program if they:

(a) are social-service charities that operate primarily in Alberta or Saskatchewan; or

(b) are umbrella organizations for the voluntary sector or for a subsector, and they have at least some member-organizations that operate in Alberta or Saskatchewan.

The terms of loans vary widely, depending on the type of loan, the Foundation’s assessment of the risk of non-repayment, and the charity’s particular circumstances. Interest charged on loans is generally below market rates and repayment terms vary depending on the type of loan.

Requests for a loan should not be submitted through the Foundation’s application portal. Instead, the request should be sent through our contact form.

Before submitting a request, a charity should review its bylaws and/or incorporating statute to ensure it has the right to borrow and who must authorize the borrowing. In some cases, the board of directors can authorize borrowing; in other cases, it may require a resolution of the membership.

After an initial review of the request, the Foundation will determine whether it will consider it formally. In that case, Foundation staff will have a series of questions for the charity, and will also ask to see certain documentation.

Applications are reviewed by the Foundation’s Investment Committee, which makes a recommendation to the Board of Directors.

Please note that the Foundation has limited resources for loans and our ability to consider an application will depend on the availability of funds.

More about our programs


If Canada’s voluntary sector is to be a full player in public policy, then it requires co-ordination, information and assistance. To help ensure that goal is achieved, the Foundation provides a core funding grant to Imagine Canada. The Foundation also works with and through Imagine Canada on various policy initiatives, usually at the federal level.

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Just as the voluntary sector requires leadership organizations at the national level, so too does it require co-ordination and support at the regional level. The Muttart Foundation was a major player behind the discussion leading to the creation of regional umbrellas such as the Edmonton Chamber of Voluntary Organizations and the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations.

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The Muttart Consultation process is an example of the Foundation’s view that it can make contributions through convening people. Since 1997, the Foundation has hosted periodic discussions to allow the sector and government to discuss regulatory issues. Topics have ranged from advocacy and business activities to the role of ethnocultural organizations and think tanks. In many cases, the topics under consideration do not relate to the Foundation’s funding interests. Rather, the Foundation’s contribution is bringing together a group of people to solve a common problem.

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