A New Report on Philanthropic Funding for Documentaries

Toronto, ON (September 16, 2015) — Today, at TIFF’s Doc Conference, the Documentary Organization of Canada released the results of their new research study “PHILANTHROPIC FUNDING FOR DOCUMENTARIES IN CANADA: TOWARDS AN INDUSTRY-WIDE STRATEGY.”  The report indicates that the philanthropic sector has some interest in documentaries that are based on a wide variety of social issues. The full report is now available for download by clicking here

The report was made possible thanks to the support of the Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC), the Canada Media Fund (CMF), Telefilm Canada, the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), and the National Film Board of Canada (NFB).

The study examines innovative initiatives that have been successfully introduced in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States to engage the philanthropic sector to support the production and dissemination of documentaries.  Initiatives examined in the report include BRITDOC, the Documentary Australia Foundation (DAF), the Fledgling Fund, JustFilms, the Chicago Media Project, the International Documentary Association’s Fiscal Sponsorship program, and Impact Partners. 

“It would be difficult to find two sectors with more shared common purpose than those of philanthropy and documentary,” said DOC’s Interim Executive Director, Pepita Ferrari. “As De Rosa and Burgess demonstrate in their report, this remains a surprisingly unexplored terrain in Canada and certainly one that offers considerable benefit to all parties. It is timely to build new partnerships and collaborations between these two sectors, to achieve their shared common goal of addressing social issues,” she added. “The advantage of this type of partnership is not just financial for the filmmaker, and increasing awareness for a foundation’s given issue, but it provides a means for filmmakers to find audiences that can more actively engage with their content.”

The findings show that compared to these other jurisdictions, Canada is behind in leveraging funding from the philanthropic sector. The Canadian sector, including grant making foundations, corporate and individual donors, represents a significant untapped resource for the documentary community. 


Trends examined in the report point to a number of indicators that the future is a promising one for philanthropic giving to social issue documentaries:

  • There are approximately 10,500 private and public foundations in Canada, and their number has grown significantly over the past 20 years. 
  • The number of private foundations grew by 76% from 1994 to 2014, and currently stands at over 5,300. 
  • The number of public foundations increased by 69% to over 5,100. 
  • In 2013 Canadian public and private foundations held combined assets of $55 billion and made $4.6 billion in grants. 
  • In the future, foundations are likely to become more proactive in their grant making and to support social causes.
  • Funder affinity groups and giving circles reflect the growing tendency to pool knowledge and resources to support social causes. 
  • Social finance and the civic tech movement, such as crowdfunding, also point to an evolving philanthropic sector. Currently, there are approximately 1,250 crowdfunding platforms globally.
  • Increasingly, charitable foundations are measuring the impact of their charitable giving. 

About the Canada Media Fund
The Canada Media Fund (CMF) fosters, develops, finances and promotes the production of Canadian content and applications for all audiovisual media platforms.  The CMF guides Canadian content towards a competitive global environment by fostering industry innovation, rewarding success, enabling a diversity of voice and promoting access to content through public and private sector partnerships. The CMF receives financial contributions from the Government of Canada and Canada’s cable, satellite and IPTV distributors. Please visit www.cmf-fmc.ca.

About DOC
The Documentary Organization of Canada |l’Association des documentaristes du Canada (DOC) is a bilingual national arts service organization of over 650 members dedicated to supporting the art of independent documentary filmmaking in Canada. DOC members believe that documentaries play an essential role in Canadian society by promoting the expression of diverse viewpoints on social, political, and cultural realities, thus fostering reflection and debate. DOC advocates on behalf of its members to foster an environment conducive to documentary production and strives to strengthen the sector within the broader film production industry. DOC offers services including professional development and networking events. 

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Media Contact:

For further information, interviews with Pepita Ferrari (Documentary Organization of Canada), please contact:

Anna Maria Muccilli
A.M. Public Relations
(416) 969-9930   
[email protected]

Pierre Campeau
Communications Manager
Canada Media Fund
[email protected]