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CEO Update | January 2023


Read our latest CEO Update, as originally published in our Winter 2023 newsletter.

As someone who never makes resolutions, the start of the new year began as most other days in the still kind-of-but-not-really pandemic haze that has changed my sense of time. The bigger barometer of the passage of time had always been the kids; but even that changed over the past three years as a global catastrophe has affected their ability to navigate the world with any sense of certainty.

Many steps forwards, several steps backwards in this clumsy dance towards something called normal. Thankfully, the progression at work has been much more linear.

In mid-December, the Board approved an increase to our granting budget for 2023, despite the fact that our assets—like everyone else’s—are shrinking due to market volatility. However, the Foundation believes that this is not the time to hold back as the threat of a recession and high inflation are very real for grantees. The concern over inflation was also top of mind as we closed out 2022. Inspirit, along with several other foundations, proactively distributed a top-up.

In 2022, we distributed over $2 million to new and existing grantees. This year, our granting budget has grown by an additional $500,000 to further our work in the emerging and complex ecosystems of community-led journalism, as well as supporting those who are leading change in the arts and screen-based industries. We will also develop a second phase of our Narrative Change Lab and build on the experiences and insights of last year’s phenomenal cohort of Muslim creatives.

The sector is also in the midst of a shift in how to grant most effectively to organizations that are not registered charities or non-qualified donees. Within Indigenous, Black, and racialized communities, this is the majority of organizations; the equity implications around who has access to foundation grants are significant. New rules will make it easier to work with non-qualified donees, and move away from charity mandated direction and control of these funds.  It’s not perfect, and as Liban Abokor, of the Foundation for Black Communities’ board said during a recent webinar, it’s not a magic wand, but fertile soil. At Inspirit, we embrace this approach—43% of our 2022 funding went to non-qualified donees, and we hope to plant new seeds in 2023.

As of January 1, the increase in the disbursement quota—the minimum amount of money that charities must spend in a year—is welcome news for Inspirit. While the minimum jumped from 3.5% to 5%, we closed out 2022 with a disbursement quota around 7.5%.  And we are projecting the 2023 spend to be closer to 10%.  So, while raising the required minimum spend makes little difference in our day-to-day work, it is important in the bigger conversation about foundations and how we use our assets. After all, foundations benefit from charitable tax status and have a unique role and responsibility to contribute to the common good.

This past year we completed the transition of our assets to 100% impact, a commitment we first made back in 2016. While we’re proud to have achieved this milestone, we’re pushing ourselves further. We’re already exploring ways to iterate and deepen the impact of the portfolio; we’re now in the middle of a search for a global equities mandate that generates more social and environmental value.

Those values around social and environmental impact are so central to my personal beliefs; and while I don’t do New Year’s resolutions, I do believe in long-term commitments based on values. This not-quite-pandemic reality hasn’t changed that.


Sadia Zaman, CEO