The Foundation’s grant making is guided by the founder’s vision to improve Canadian society. Specific program areas and priorities reflect choices made by the Foundation’s board of directors over the years, which have taken into consideration the operating context, the Foundation’s resources, and the opportunities available.
Early program areas (1972-1989) included Physical Fitness and Sports, Capital Grants (ranging from sports facilities and aquariums to fine arts buildings), The Media and Journalism, Theology and Religious Studies, and Oceans and Inland Waters. Between 1990 and 1997, the Foundation focused its grant making on Health Care, Veterinary Medicine and Education, and Canada and the Asian-Pacific. From 1998 to 2006, funding focussed on Health, Education, and Communication and Journalism. Since 2007, funding has been focused on Environment, Education, and Health & Wellness, supporting projects that inform and impact public policies in those areas. The priorities under each program area are revised and updated every three years based on an ongoing environment scanning and a formal review of the latest public policy issues that are on the governments’ agendas.
Each year, 30% of the amount of all grants made by the Foundation is directed to McGill University, Max Bell’s alma mater.