With a mission of catalyzing scalable outcomes for underserved and underinvested communities in Canada, the Northpine Foundation is committed to propelling outcome-centered innovation in the country. Though it’s been around a long time, you may hear its name a lot more these days due to it being significantly scaled up in January 2021.
SEE Change spoke with its CEO Aatif Baskanderi about the impactful vision that has underscored the foundation’s contributions, both past and present. He discussed the organization’s unique model – one focused as much on returns as on building relationships (all impact managers have lived experience in their focus areas, for example). And how the foundation is establishing itself as “one of Canada’s most contributing private philanthropic organizations.”
When did the foundation launch and by whom? What is its mission?
The Northpine Foundation was founded by John and Cathy Phillips. John is a retired angel investor, and Cathy is a retired psychologist who specialized in helping cancer patients manage stress and live meaningfully.
Set up as a private family foundation, Northpine has been around for more than 20 years, but was significantly scaled up in January 2021, becoming one of Canada’s most contributing private philanthropic organizations.
We focus on investing in underserved and underinvested communities across Canada, with a mission to catalyze scalable outcomes for these communities.
What are your focus areas? Why were those areas chosen?
There are scores of underserved, underfunded areas across Canada that need investments. As a foundation operating under a start-up model, we decided to start with five areas of focus where we felt our investments could catalyze significant change.
Two of our portfolios support populations across Canada — refugees and formerly incarcerated persons. Two of our portfolios are place-based: one of these locations is Scarborough, in the east end of Toronto. Our other place-based portfolio focuses on rural and remote Newfoundland and Labrador. Finally, we have a climate, carbon and nature portfolio which focuses on enabling pathways to accelerate success for Canada in the fight against climate change and the social impact of nature.
What type of investments do you focus on and why? What is your approach to venture philanthropy?
At the Northpine Foundation, we invest risk capital to catalyze scalable outcomes for underserved and underinvested communities. We define risk capital as tailored financing, which could be a mixture of grants, donations, loans, equity investments, or a hybrid of all the above.
An important part of all our investments is the consideration for non-financial supports offered, which together with the financial investment should help catalyze change for the community and move the impact area from point A – pre-investment – to a set target at point B after our involvement. At this point, we hope that our investment has now opened more opportunities for financing and scaling.
We do not offer multi-year and/or renewable funding as we do not operate under a sustainable endowment. We focus on tailored financing to scale impact, where we have an exit strategy before funding any organization, with the aim of scaling the impact beyond us.
What impact have you had so far?
Since January 2021, we have been doing a lot of work. Speaking strictly in financial terms, we have deployed over $70 million into a variety of initiatives with more than 80 organizations.
But we think that our true impact is so much more, and that comes from how we build relationships. All our impact managers have lived experience in their focus areas; they are the innovators and leaders who are truly attuned to the needs of their community.
We encourage sector leaders to ask bigger questions of themselves, strengthen their relationships with end beneficiaries and be more audacious in their visions for their communities. When we work with potential investees, members of our team collaborate alongside investees to brainstorm new ideas and initiatives, and exchange knowledge.
Very often, our catalytic investment provided the organizations with leverage to secure additional funding and support, bringing other funding partners to the table to fund successful initiatives across Canadian communities.
How can people get involved?
We are building relationships across the globe to find organizations and transformational leaders who we can work together with to serve our common focus areas. For organizations interested in joining us on this journey, we encourage you to visit our website to learn more about the work we do, and kickstart a conversation by answering a short questionnaire telling us about your ideas.
This questionnaire is not a conventional application form but is just a tool for our impact managers and the rest of the team to be better prepared for a conversation with you. Our aim is to reach out to everyone who completes the questionnaire and set up a meeting with the right impact manager within a few weeks.
We have also recently started hosting monthly virtual Open Houses where we welcome leaders and change-makers from around the world to join us, network, share stories, ideas and build valuable connections.
Our next Open House is on 15 December 2022, at 2 PM EST. Visit this link for more info on this event and all future Open Houses.