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Trico Foundation Joins International Call for Improved Funding Practices

Written by: Dan Overall, Brittni Kerluke, & Ida Desmond


Catalyst 2030 is an international coalition of members and allies working to make the world a better and fairer place for everyone. Founding members include Ashoka, Echoing Green, the Schwab Foundation of the World Economic Forum, and the Skoll Foundation.

In the words of Catalyst 2030:

“We are calling on donors and funders to remodel their traditional practices to more effectively support grassroots organisations and sustainable social impact. We have co-written a letter that highlights the changes we are calling for. We invite all organisations working to improve the quality of people’s lives to sign it and join us in our open call to donors and funders.”

The letter, entitled “Shifting Funding Practices”, resonates with the efforts the Trico Charitable Foundation (TCF) is making to overcome power dynamics and utilize more impactful funding practices. In an effort to enhance TCF’s accountability on these issues and help advance this conversation within the community:

  • TCF is publishing a companion chart comparing the principles of Shifting Funding practices and TCF’s position. Click here.
  • Catalyst 2030 also created a self-assessment for funders and encourages funders to take the assessment and share their results to help advance the conversation. Click here to see TCF’s results. You can take the assessment here.

As is typical of their leadership, the Institute for Community Prosperity and the Calgary Chamber of Voluntary Organizations (CCVO) signed on to the Shifting Funding Practices initiative quite some time ago. Indeed, CCVO’s Blueprint for Community Recovery offers recommendations for funders in-line with the Catalyst 2030 goals. As such, Alberta already has considerable momentum in advancing this dialogue.

More About the Results of TCF’s Funder Self-Assessment:

The Self-Assessment is a great tool. It only takes 20 minutes and, should you choose, you can get a record of your responses, a score, tips on how to improve your score, and links to resources that could help.

TCF’s scores were as follows (scores range from “beginning”, “developing” to “advanced”):

  • On Culture specifically, you are quite ADVANCED (22 / 30) in this dimension.
  • On Strategy specifically, you are quite ADVANCED (23 / 26) in this dimension.
  • On Process specifically, you are still DEVELOPING (26 / 49) in this dimension.

TCF is marinating on how it can improve based on the feedback. For now, here are the assessment recommendations and TCF’s responses:

Assessment Recommendations

TCF response

Fund more systems change. We are supportive of organizations that have a vision for systems change. However, due to power dynamics, we do not suggest organizations pursue systems change if they have not identified that as a goal. We are also big believers in organizations starting ‘small’ and learning their way into systems change when the time is right and the desire is there.
Work more with those more closely connected to the problem. Our focus is supporting social enterprises. That means that our daily work can be somewhat removed from those closest to the problem (the groups that the social enterprise actually works with). However, our training programs for social enterprises encourage having the voices of those closest to a problem engaged in the solution. We are also looking at how the new Federal changes to charity law will enable us to fund organizations more directly connected to the problem. We will keep an eye on this.
Engage more in leveraging your connections to help those you serve.


Our team is actively involved in connecting local social enterprises to the ecosystem (we were involved in the creation of Namada, an online resource tool). Organizations we support can opt into an ‘ecosystem connection’ initiative where we share some of their details with the rest of the ecosystem to see if we can foster connections. As a result, Catalyst 2030’s recommendation was a bit of a surprise to for us. However, we will endeavor to better understand this result.
Look for grantees in other places. Historically we have issued open calls for our funding opportunities. Indeed, our grants area available any time (subject to our budget limit not being reached) so as to be more flexible in meeting the needs of social entrepreneurs. We recently embarked on a targeted pilot project rather than the open call for applications (this probably produced our lower score). We took this targeted approach to test our assumptions and learn from the participants. After this pilot it is likely that we will move back to a more open application process.
Minimize the burden of information requests. We need to do some thinking on why we received this as a recommendation as TCF strives to minimise the burden on applicants: we have a very short Idea Submission (to quickly confirm eligibility), we then ask qualifying organizations to “send us what you have” rather than asking them to create something new or complete an application, and at the end of the funding we largely rely on the reporting the organization would create for itself anyway.
Empower grantees to pivot. Again, a surprise recommendation that we need to dig-deeper into. Given that we fund experiments, we strongly support our grantees pivoting based on what they learn.
Provide more unrestricted funding.


Our only real restrictions on funding are the need for the project to be an experiment (which we heard was a need in this space) and complying with the requirements of the Canada Revenue Agency. While we explained this in our responses, it still led to a low score.
More multi-year funding. We have found:

a) an ongoing (multi-year) relationship with the groups we support,

b) with the possibility of additional funding (and other supports),

c) in an increasingly streamlined process as the relationship develops,

is preferable to multi-year agreements. That said; we will keep an eye on this issue.


TCF found value in the assessment. As Catalyst 2030 acknowledges, its approach is not a one-size fits all. We will use their principles and suggestions in a way that fits the work we do while continuing to reflect upon the assessment results, learning, and receiving ongoing feedback from the community we serve.

Alberta’s social impact organizations are encouraged to check out Catalyst 2030‘s “Shifting Funding Practices”. If any local Funders are interested in sharing learning on this journey, please email us at  If you wish to track TCF’s journey on these issues, please subscribe to our newsletter here.





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