Funding Priorities


Public policy advocacy is a key tool for many Canadian charities. They do it because they understand that policy decisions governments make can have profound impacts – positive or negative – on the communities and causes they serve.

Max Bell Foundation makes grants to support public policy advocacy projects. Applicants should keep in mind two key things about Max Bell Foundation’s grants:

  • First, we only support projects that focus on policy changes that will, in turn, help generate the priority outcomes listed below. Our grants database contains many examples.
  • Second, our grants can support several different kinds of activity. We recognize there are many policy advocacy tactics, and that a policy advocacy project can take many shapes. Our approach to policy advocacy support is detailed in our grantmaking framework.

That framework, and everything else you need to know about applying to Max Bell Foundation for support, can be found under Apply For Funding.

Our focus is Canada. We support projects across Canada intended to inform public policy decisions made by any level of government within Canada.

Do you qualify for a grant?

This checklist will help you understand whether your project could be a fit for support from Max Bell Foundation:

  1. Is your organization a registered charity or qualified donee?
  2. Are you aiming to inform a public policy decision of some order of government in Canada?
  3. Would that policy decision help lead to improvements in the outcomes Max Bell Foundation has identified as priorities (see “Priority Outcomes” below)?
  4. Can you explain why the existing policies related to the issue you’re concerned with need changing?
  5. Is the work you’re seeking funding for a “project” in the sense that it has a clear goal, a clear set of activities, and a timeline?


If you answered “yes” to questions 1-5, there’s a good chance you meet Max Bell Foundation’s granting criteria. More details follow below.

Our working definition of public policy

To qualify for funding from Max Bell Foundation, a project must aim to inform or change a public policy choice. Public policy refers to official decisions that guide the activities of governments at the local, municipal, provincial, or federal levels. Public policy decisions can be expressed as legislation, regulations, resolutions, by-laws, appropriations, court decisions, etc. Public policy refers not only to decisions, but also to the programs and administrative practices undertaken by governments.

Priority Outcomes

We support projects designed to bring about public policy change that will in turn contribute to the following outcomes.

While not a criteria for support, we are particularly interested in opportunities to support projects related to any of the priorities listed below that also aim to improve the well-being of Indigenous individuals and communities.

Education Priorities

  1. Formal education settings in Canada enable success for all learners, especially those who face particular challenges or systemic barriers to success.
  2. The physical and mental health of learners is enhanced by their attendance at K-12 schools.
  3. Affordable high-quality early learning and child care is available to all Canadians.

Health and Wellness Priorities

  1. Supports and services leading to better mental health outcomes can be accessed by all Canadians, especially those who face particular challenges or systemic barriers.
  2. Health care systems, including long-term care, provide all Canadians with timely access to high-quality, cost-effective care.
  3. Canadians who may be vulnerable because of the social determinants of health can access supports and services that lead to improved health and wellness.

Environment Priorities

  1. Communities in Canada are better adapted to the effects of climate change.
  2. Canada has a low carbon economy.
  3. Canada conserves its biodiversity while promoting economic growth and development.

Civic Engagement & Democratic Institutions Priorities

  1. Canada’s democratic institutions are resilient and engage respectfully with civil society.
  2. Canadians, especially those who face barriers to engagement, are enabled and prepared for respectful civic engagement.
  3. The public information and media environments contribute to constructive civic engagement.

Max Bell School of Public Policy at McGill University

When he established the Foundation that bears his name, Max stipulated that 30% of all gifts the foundation ever makes will go to McGill University. Since 2015, those funds have supported the establishment and operation of the Max Bell School of Public Policy. While represented on the Advisory Board of the Max Bell School, the foundation has no governance role in relation to it.

Not within our mandate

We do not:

  • provide unrestricted or general program support (we support projects designed to inform public policy)
  • fund capital expenditures
  • provide emergency funds or deficit financing
  • fund endowments, awards, fellowships, internships, sabbaticals, scholarships, or bursaries
  • make grants to individuals, or any organization that is not a registered charity or qualified donee