What We Fund


Max Bell Foundation makes grants to support projects that are designed to inform public policy. We do so across four program areas: Education; Environment; Health & Wellness; and Civic Engagement and Democratic Institutions. Our priorities for each of these programs are described below.

Details about our approach to making grants, including the criteria we apply when assessing proposals, can be found under the 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.

Our working definition of public policy

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.

Our Priorities

We support projects that will inform public policy issues that are on the public agenda. To help ensure this relevance, we conduct ongoing environment scanning. In addition, every three years we conduct a formal review that includes interviews with several dozen public policy decision makers from across the country. We ask them what the public policy priorities are today, and what they anticipate they will be in the foreseeable future. The results are reflected in our program priorities, which are detailed below.

Education Program Priorities

We are currently seeking opportunities to support projects that address the following public policy priorities in education:

(1) Preparing learners for digital citizenship and an evolving knowledge economy.

(2) Improving the mental and physical health and wellness of learners in K-12 schools.

(3) Ensuring school success among sub-populations where low levels of success persist.

Health and Wellness Program Priorities

We are currently seeking opportunities to support projects that address the following public policy priorities in health and wellness:

(1) Promoting good mental health among children and youth.

(2) Improving “value for money” in health care, especially as related to:

  • assessing and spreading innovations in health care delivery, and
  • mobilizing knowledge.

(3) Encouraging wellness and reducing illness among Canadians whose health is at risk due to age-related factors and/or social determinants of health. Of particular interest are initiatives that focus on the most vulnerable populations.

Environment Program Priorities

We are currently seeking opportunities to support projects that address the following public policy priorities in environment:

(1) Assisting communities in adapting to the effects of climate change.

(2) Assisting in the transition to a low carbon economy.

(3) Resolving conflicts between ecological integrity and growth and development of the economy.


Civic Engagement & Democratic Institutions Priorities

Working with and supporting partners with grant funding, Max Bell Foundation seeks the following broad outcomes:

(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.

Cross-Cutting Themes

While not a criteria for support, we are particularly interested in opportunities to support projects related to any of the twelve priorities listed above that also aim to:

  • Improve the well-being of Indigenous individuals and communities; and
  • Address the impacts of new technologies on the structure and function of society and the economy, and in particular on public policy decision making.

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:

  • fund ongoing work of an organization, whether service delivery, research etc.
  • provide unrestricted support
  • 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