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The contribution of philanthropy to health innovation

The contribution of philanthropy to health innovations

According to the Canada Revenue Agency, 5842 philanthropic organizations are active in the field of health across the country. These fall into three broad categories (Fontan et al., 2011):

Charitable organizations (4516 organizations) focus on the achievement of charitable activities. More than 50% of their funds come from various sources namely from individuals or organizations who are independent from each other. The Autism Resource Centre Inc. is an example.

Public foundations (1034 organizations) are different from the first category in that their main activity consists in raising funds to finance charities. More than 50% of their income goes to such qualified donees. The Alberta Cancer Foundation is an example.

Private foundations (292 organizations) are different from the two previous categories in that they do charitable activities and fund other qualified donees, but « 50% or more of their directors, trustees, or like officials are not at arm’s length; and more than 50% of their funding comes from a person or group of persons that controls the charity in some way » (Canada Revenue Agency). The majority of family foundations such as the Lucie and André Chagnon Foundation and The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation falls into this category.

Philanthropy contributes significantly to the healthcare system

In this new dossier, our collaborators take a closer look at public and private foundations and examine the way they affect the development of health innovations.

In this dossier

Sylvain Lefèvre — Professor in the Department of strategies, social and environmental responsibility at UQAM — takes stock of philanthropic practices in Quebec.

Catherine Rowe — Executive Vice-president, Development at Sainte-Justine UHC Foundation — explains the role of this public foundation in the development of medical innovations.

Linsey McGoey — lecturer in the Department of Sociology at the University of Essex in the UK — clarifies the concept of "philanthrocapitalism" and explains how the largest private foundation in the world, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is reshaping the field of global health.

John Cawley — Director of Programs and Operations at the McConnell Foundation — discusses the role of this private foundation in the development and implementation of social innovations in Canada.

Chris MacDonald — Director of the Jim Pattison Ethical Leadership Program at Ryerson University — explains why corporate philanthropy makes many of us uncomfortable.

Author : Myriam Hivon, Ph.D.


Fontan J-M., Lévesque B., Charbonneau M. (2011). Les fondations privées québécoises : un champ de recherche émergent. Lien social et Politiques, 65 : 43-64.


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