A Bold, Steadfast Champion

Five-Year Strategic Plan, 2023-2028

In our contemporary context of change and challenge, we will be a champion, be bold, and be steadfast for gender justice and equality alongside our allies and supporters. Together we will innovate, make the right investments, and take the right risks so every woman, girl, and gender-diverse person has the power, safety, support, and rights to thrive.


The world as we know it has changed forever.

Unprecedented. Unthinkable. Unpredictable. For the last several years, these are the words we have been using to describe our times. They highlight the profound adaptations we have made to our set ways of living, working, and relating.

Since its founding in 1991, the Canadian Women’s Foundation, along with its community of partners, donors and grantees, has been at the forefront of naming the gendered impact of current events.

Our strong legacy has led to significant change in how Canadians view gender equality and gender equity, and how gender injustice entwines with and solidifies the forms of violence, racism, ableism, poverty, employment, and wellbeing that characterize our increasingly unequal world. Since 2020, we have been identifying and assessing the concurrence of several combined human rights and public health pandemics that were exacerbated by COVID-19.

We have drawn attention to the ongoing fault lines of inequality, such as the global pandemic of gender based violence; the deadly scourge of racism in Canada and beyond; the ongoing impact of colonialism on Indigenous peoples; the health and income disparities made worse for women and gender-diverse people living at the intersection of one or more identities, including: First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, Black, racialized, living with disabilities, 2SLGBTQIA+, youth as well as people who are migrants or sex workers. The role for the Canadian Women’s Foundation as a support with eyes on the critical issues of the day is more crucial than ever.

We know that emergencies including pandemics, economic downturns, and disasters, will keep coming.

We fund, support, and amplify the reach of the groups, organizations and initiatives that support those most vulnerable to these shocks. From them we know that many of the gendered impacts we’re facing can be prevented if we are bold, champion their work, and stabilize the sector to be steadfast.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation is known for our participatory grant making. We are a trusted leader that gets to the heart of what is needed. We marshal our deep knowledge to prioritize funds that focus on the strategies that are going to make a difference. We support communities who have been historically underfunded, and we are respected for not being afraid to try out new things, to take risks and learn from our actions.

Since our founding, we have been a responsive feminist movement-builder.

We marshal our effective and charismatic leadership to support local initiatives, lead public discussion and create national impact.

With this Strategic Plan, we are taking our commitment to the next level. With renewed vision, mission and organizational commitments, as well as strategic priorities to guide us over the next five years, we are coming into our own as an innovative, visionary, risk-taking foundation. This involves renewed investment in our infrastructure, people and systems.

We are thrilled to unveil the three strategic priorities that will guide our work from 2023 to 2028:

Be a Champion:
Advocate and Create Lasting Change

Be Bold:
Demonstrate our Impact

Be Steadfast:
Diversify and Invest in the Future

We invite you to join us in our compelling vision of what is possible. The Canadian Women’s Foundation will help the vision of a gender equal society that benefits everyone, become possible.


Paulette Senior

Paulette Senior
CEO and President

Laurie Young

Laurie Young
Chair, Board of Directors

The Factual Context of Our Work

  • Trans and non-binary youth experience highest rates of poverty.
    The poverty rate for transgender people aged 18-24 was 19.3% compared to those 25 years and older where the poverty rate was 11.3%; 32.5% of non-binary people aged 18-24 were living in poverty compared to 18.4% of non-binary people 25 and older (Statistics Canada, 2022).


Our Planning Process

In September 2022, the Foundation’s Strategic Planning Advisory Committee initiated a planning process to renew our foundational statements, determine our long-term direction and identify strategic priorities to guide us over the next 3 – 5 years.

An environmental scan and S.W.O.T (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) analysis process was conducted by There Management Consulting Inc., from October to December 2022. This process included:

  • Online surveys;
  • Interviews and focus groups with individuals and key stakeholders inside and outside of the organization;
  • A review of internal documents and a selection of recent literature; and
  • External research conducted by the consultants.

In February 2023, the Canadian Women’s Foundation Board of Directors and Staff participated in a strategic planning session to:

1. Confirm refreshed foundational statements; and
2. Develop strategic priorities to guide the organization over the next 3 – 5 years.

The draft strategic plan was created in February and approved in April 2023. Over the Spring, we developed an Implementation Plan to guide us in driving our mission and achieving our strategic priorities.


Advancing to the Next Level

The Canadian Women’s Foundation has grown in scope and impact since its founding. When we undertook this planning process, we were eager to gather feedback on how our vision, mission and values spoke to our current work. We wanted to infuse further clarity and accountability into everything we do.

We are delighted to present our refreshed foundational statements:


Every woman, girl, and gender-diverse person has the power, safety, support, and rights to thrive, today and tomorrow.


We are Canada’s public foundation for gender justice and equality. We advance this by growing support for grassroots feminist action, partnering with communities and organizations to improve conditions, and building diverse leadership and knowledge for sustainable change.

Our Commitment

We are a leader in feminist philanthropy. We mobilize, steward, and grant funds. We engage partners and donors and encourage them on their journey to feminist philanthropy. We generate and share knowledge on the root causes of and solutions to gender injustice.

We champion a spirit of shared responsibility for progressive change, restorative action, truth and reconciliation, and an end to systemic discrimination.

We fund, support, amplify, and participate in intersectional feminist movements. We engage a national network of community-based experts in pressing issues that affect women, girls, and gender-diverse people, with a focus on those who face multiple barriers, including First Nations, Inuit, and Métis communities, Black and racialized communities, youth, people living with disabilities, 2SLGBTQIA+ people, newcomers, migrants, and sex workers.

We ensure impactful investments to organizations and groups and promote systemic change that will enable women, girls, and gender-diverse people to:

  1. Be leaders and build the next generation of leaders
  2. Break free from violence and poverty, and housing and food insecurity
  3. Gain economic independence and security
  4. Promote health, wellbeing, and healing
  5. Address gendered impacts of climate crisis and injustice

The organizations we work with:

  1. Address the social conditions that cause harm
  2. Develop urgent and emergent initiatives
  3. Have a strong track record of lasting impact
  4. Address barriers faced in mainstream social services
  5. Co-create and co-lead with affected communities
  6. Forge strong partnerships with other organizations and community leaders


Strategic Priorities

As the Foundation moves to actualize its vision, we have developed the following strategic priorities to guide us along the way.


Be a Champion:
Advocate and Create Lasting Change

The Canadian Women’s Foundation is a bold voice that does not shy away from hard truths. Achieving gender justice means advocating so that all women, girls and Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary people get the full rights, support, and respect they deserve. It means that we work towards ensuring that communities have maximum control over the resources they need to be self-determined. The Canadian Women’s Foundation re-commits to supporting and championing the groups, organizations and initiatives that support the women, girls and gender-diverse people who are most excluded from the conversation about how the future should look, and what structural change that requires.

In granting and public policy advocacy alike, we will continue to strengthen our partnerships with women and gender-diverse people living at the intersection of one or more identities, such as being: First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples, Black, racialized, living with disabilities, 2SLGBTQI+, youth, migrants and sex workers. Community consultation, deep relationship-building and consultative partnership models will continue to be more formalized, intentional and transparent, engaging, wherever practicable, the scaffolding of Truth and Reconciliation, UNDRIP, the Calls for Justice, the National Action Plan on Gender Based Violence, and related community-based research initiatives, such as the Black Health Alliance. This may include developing a proactive national partnership strategy to align efforts and to devise thoughtful actions on current issues and challenges for the sector.

We will refine and focus our advocacy on where we expect to effect change and specify the corresponding activities. We will continue to scale down activities that no longer align with our strategic direction and scale up activities that support our new strategic priorities. The Foundation will further define and communicate the way we approach activities such as community engagement, policy engagement, and granting. We will align our activities, organizational approach, and methodology for working with communities with our systems-level focus, as well as our mission and commitments.

In partnership with community, academic and Foundation experts, we will share knowledge, develop policy, and champion sector sustainability. We will build on our expertise in community-driven research, community engagement, and convening. We will strengthen and expand our niche as a gender knowledge and policy hub. We will incubate high quality research, data collection and analysis, and evidence on key indicators of gender justice. We will further develop and share accessible, timely and digestible findings from our work with policymakers through targeted publications. We will continue to leverage our reputation for excellent, timely and high-quality community-based research into sector trends.

We will initiate ground-breaking culture change campaigns and nationally focused advocacy to mobilize people in Canada to support systems change. Mobilizing our research, policy acumen and connection to direct service providers, we will tackle critical obstacles to gender justice through advocacy campaigns that align with our strategic priorities in a timed and timely manner. These will be thoughtful, well-researched, succinct, well-communicated efforts to reach a broader audience with the purpose of engaging a groundswell demand for changes in attitudes, norms, and beliefs that will have a measurable impact on our key zones of change.

To greet the challenges brought on by multiple pandemics, we will review our granting processes, streams and criteria to ensure ongoing alignment with maximum impact in priority areas. In keeping with our history, changes in the field, and our commitment to donor education, we will continue to move in the direction of trust-based philanthropy, ensuring those most in need of stable funding and decreased administrative burden benefit from our de-colonizing, intersectional approach to gender justice granting. Not losing sight of the Canadian Womenʼs Foundation support for flexible, innovative, and emerging needs, innovation grants will continue to address emerging, critical and local matters as well as community-based research or networks that the Foundation may want to convene, encourage and be an active partner in.

Priority I

Be Bold:
Demonstrate Our Impact

Harnessing our unique national reach into all parts of Canada, the Foundation will be a bold home base for donors and corporate citizens who wish to “be the change and see the change” that reflects their values. Becoming an obvious choice for donors today and for future generations requires investment in communications, marketing, and donor cultivation strategies. The Canadian Womenʼs Foundation will expand donor-focused and strategically segmented communication, engagement and cultivation strategies that foreground the positive impact our support and leadership has with and for affected communities. We will communicate this to donors, policy makers and the public.

We will develop a communication strategy that raises awareness of our work as a funder and highlights our herstory, achievements, and successes as a partner to the sector, while creating and maintaining a consistent and recognizable visual identity. We will track, document, and communicate the impact of the Foundationʼs work on gender justice in Canada over time.

We will strengthen our identity awareness, focussing on advancing our regional recognition, such as in Quebec and Western Canada. We will develop metrics to track; reach; quality and usefulness; uptake and; use of our communications products and activities, and devise responsive adjustments to our communications planning and products as we are able.

As a go-to partner and a national voice for women and gender-diverse people, we will ensure a measurable increase in earned media and precision government relations that advance sector-wide goals of gender justice in the national conversation as evidenced by tangible public policy influence.

Priority II

Be Steadfast:
Diversify and Invest in our Future

Building from our herstory of strong performance, the Foundation will grow into our outsized role, strengthening our capacity to meet the challenges and priorities we identify. Ensuring a healthy balance of government support, philanthropic engagement, and investment revenue, we will retool our organization to ensure we are a resilient partner in the gender justice sector and for change-leaders and supporters who wish to be part of our work.

By significantly increasing our fundraising income and continuing to cultivate government investment, we will strengthen our capacity to respond to applications for support. Critically, we will develop and execute a fund development strategy that ensures a diversified stream of revenue and multi-year funding commitments to stabilize and sustain core operations of the Foundation itself, as well as the goals of this Strategic Plan. A Board-approved multi-year investment will allow us to build the capacity for long term sustainability and diversification, with an end-goal of balanced budgeting by the Planʼs end.

We will review, renew, and tailor donor communication strategies to advance new streams of revenue and engage supporters where their interests lie. We will demonstrate the immediate impact donors have on the pressing and critical issues they care about, such as poverty, violence, homelessness, food security, mental health and well-being, economic independence, and feminist climate justice. We will feature those we fund in the communities that do not otherwise receive credit for their successes. While doing so we will ensure alignment between our long-term social change and sustainability goals, and our immediate communication and campaign needs.

We will review our structures, systems, departmental and team configurations to establish we have the right complement and distribution of human resources. We will ensure additional strength is added to support the priorities of this plan. We will develop and implement back-bone systems where we require them (HR, finance systems; monitoring, evaluation, and learning; internal and external communication systems; invest in technology and training to ensure we have adequate tools to support growth, adaptability, and the realities of hybrid work) to support current and future operational needs.

As we strengthen our internal resources, we will focus on both structural and cultural change to support our staff teams and the work of the organization, fostering wellness through a supportive intersectional feminist environment of mutual accomplishment, care, and accountability. We will review the work of the organization to re-calibrate staff responsibilities and workloads and ensure compensation remains in line with industry standards and maintain high levels of employee engagement.

We will continue to strengthen and diversify the composition of the Board of Directors. We will ensure that the Board is fostering the development of new and emerging leaders from across the country and at the intersections of multiple identities. We will continue to attract, engage, and retain diverse board leaders, youth, volunteers and representatives of the communities that we work with through an intentional organizational succession-planning, development and renewal strategy with targets that match our strategic priorities.

We will build an evaluation/quality assurance framework which includes data collection tools and supporting systems with minimal implied burden to grantees. We will build out policy development capacity with appropriate technical skills, software, as well as academic links.

Priority III

Our Thanks

We would like to thank everyone in all our communities who generously gave their time and energy to help us chart a course for the future of the Canadian Womenʼs Foundation. We especially acknowledge the donors and grantees who participated in this process for their insightful contributions – their ideas and opinions were incredibly valuable to the process and have shaped what we are sharing with you here.

The Strategic Planning Committee led the planning process under a mandate from the Foundationʼs Board of Directors and with support from There Management Consulting Inc. This work was made possible because of their immense dedication and unwavering support of the process. We offer a special thank you to There Management Consulting Inc. for going above and beyond.

In addition, we want to express our sincere gratitude to our entire staff and management team and praise the steadfast leadership of our CEO & President in bringing this project to completion. This team has repeatedly demonstrated their unwavering commitment to the work and their ability to work together, adapt and innovate even in challenging conditions. We are exceptionally lucky to have you!

To our allies, donors, funders, volunteers, and partners: Thank you! Your generous and consistent support has made us what we are today, and what we commit to becoming.

Thank you