Feature Donor

A donor on her support for a toxic-free Canada and her journey in strategic philanthropy

From left to right: Elaine MacDonald, Program Director – Healthy Communities – Ecojustice; Muhannad Malas, Toxics Program Manager – Environmental Defence; Sarah Jamal, Toxics Program Coordinator- Environmental Defence; Wendy Cooper, Senior Solutions Advisor – Tides Canada; Bruce Lourie, President – Ivey Foundation; Deb Schulte, Member of Parliament for King-Vaughan; Annie Bérubé, Director of Government Relations – Équiterre; Tim Gray, Executive Director – Environmental Defence; Will Amos Member of Parliament for Pontiac; Dale Marshall, Climate Manager, Environmental Defence; Karen Ross Project Manager – Pesticides and Toxic Substances- Équiterre; Kim Perrotta, Executive Director- Canadian Association of Physicians  for the Environment (CAPE)

­Every day, Canadians are unknowingly exposed to toxic chemicals in our air, water, food, and more. From microplastics polluting our oceans and lakes to toxics found in everyday products such as baby bibs, shampoos, and cosmetics—toxics are endangering human health and the environment.

Otis is eating an organic apple that he picked on a farm in the Ottawa Valley. Photo: Heather Harding.

Otis is eating an organic apple that he picked on a farm in the Ottawa Valley.
Photo: Heather Harding

An anonymous donor who established the Dragonfly Fund at Tides Canada reflects on how she became involved in the issue of toxics in Canada.

“Initially, I funded clean energy and freshwater conservation, then started to question what is the root issue. What is polluting our waters? What are the issues with energy? I realized the fundamental issue is toxics: the poisons we are continuously putting into our air, water, and our bodies. Toxics are a huge issue for human and environmental health,” says the donor.

Like many of the donors who use Tides Canada’s philanthropic advisory services, the Dragonfly Fund donor activated a custom suite of tools, expertise, and strategy to support her vision.

Exploring ways to address her growing concern, the Dragonfly Fund donor and Tides Canada brought together people and organizations currently working on toxics from across the country. From these convenings, the donor realized that it was a critically under-funded issue, and that there is a significant opportunity to have a positive impact.

Because of these convenings, and with contributions from the Dragonfly Fund and other seed money from supportive partners, the Coalition for Action on Toxics was formed and became a project of Tides Canada’s shared platform. Made up of funder and nonprofit organizations (Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Ecojustice, Environmental Defence, Equiterre, Chisholm Thomson Family Foundation, Ivey Foundation, J.W. McConnell Foundation, Salamander Foundation, Lush Handmade Cosmetics Ltd., and Echo Foundation), the Coalition shares a vision to reduce toxic contaminants and exposure in Canada.

Although the donor is actively involved in her philanthropy with the Coalition for Action on Toxics, she chooses to give anonymously. “I’m not seeking acknowledgement or public recognition – that’s not what drives me. I’m a shy person and I don’t feel comfortable in the spotlight,” she says.

“Working with Tides Canada has allowed me to explore my own values and develop my own philanthropic vision and process. I like to step outside typical philanthropy. I’m interested in conscious evolution and long-term change for the better. I like supporting work that is under-funded. I like to fund organizations and leaders who are passionately driven to truly make a difference in their field. Tides Canada identifies gaps in environmental and social justice funding on a national scale and supports driven leaders who have that spark.”

“In the last decade working with Tides Canada, I have seen their extraordinary network of professionals engaged at the forefront of these issues. It would have taken me years to build those relationships. Tides Canada already has them in the DNA of the organization. For me it’s a privilege to support those people who want to be at the forefront and still have my privacy.”

How could legislation around toxics in Canada, including better labelling laws, help protect people and the planet?

How could legislation around toxics in Canada, including better labelling laws, help protect people and the planet?

The Coalition for Action on Toxics has ambitious goals. The project aims to realize a policy framework that takes a proactive rather than reactive approach to toxics in our environment. It aims to address immediate threats from toxics on human and environmental health. And, it aims to improve public awareness of toxics and equal access to a toxic-free environment for all Canadians, with a focus on marginalized communities.

Collaboration with partners like the Dragonfly Fund donor makes it possible for Tides Canada to create solutions for social good. Her engagement with and strategic funding of these important, complex environmental and social efforts reflects a new way of giving that many philanthropists are investing in today.

Learn more about Tides Canada’s philanthropic advisory services. You can help us tackle tough environmental, social, and economic issues by making a donation to our Uncommon Solutions Fund.

Thank you to The Dragonfly Fund and to all of our donors and fundholders. With your support, we will continue to work hard for a healthy environment, equality, and prosperity for all Canadians.