Investing in people, ideas, and actions to build a just, healthy, and creative society

The mission of the Metcalf Foundation is to enhance the effectiveness of people and organizations working together to help Canadians imagine and build a just, healthy, and creative society.

We create change by:

In 2022, the Metcalf Foundation invested nearly $9 million in charitable activities. The allocation of grants was as follows:
  • Inclusive Local Economies (32%)
  • Environment (30%)
  • Performing Arts (23%)
  • Special Initiatives (12%)
  • Board Discretionary (3%)

If, in a world where the needs are vast and immediate, we are to be funders who are in it for the long haul, who have chosen to husband our resources and allocate them over an indefinite time frame, then where and how we direct our small amounts of money now is crucial. Our grants must seek impact, to be both brave and wise. We should be the rare money — the support that is not otherwise available — that opens a door, draws a connection, conjures an opportunity, or creates a pause.

Sandy Houston

President and CEO, Metcalf Foundation

Our funding philosophy:
Have the courage to tackle tough issues.
Be supportive, not prescriptive.
Embrace diverse perspectives.
Be curious, respectful, and rigorous.
Share knowledge and learn collectively.
We are committed to supporting individuals in the charitable sector over the arc of their careers.
Number of Metcalf Internship and Professional Leadership development opportunities since 2001.


George Cedric Metcalf
The Metcalf Foundation was established in 1960 by George Cedric Metcalf.

The eldest of ten children, Metcalf left school at an early age to help support his family and worked as a stock boy at William Neilson’s ice cream plant. His drive and tenacity led him to work in sales, where he frequently crossed paths with Garfield Weston who was building his grocery business in Toronto. In the late 1940s, Weston persuaded Metcalf to join Loblaw as a vice-president. By 1954, Metcalf was President and Managing Director of George Weston Ltd. and Loblaw Companies. For the next fifteen years he helped turn Weston’s into a North American food empire.

In its early years, Metcalf’s philanthropy focused on social, educational, and health issues in Ontario. In the 1970s, Metcalf’s son, George Jr., a history professor, assumed responsibility for the Foundation and broadened its interests and geographic scope. Upon George Jr.’s death in 1990, his wife Johanna, and their children, worked with a board to direct the Foundation. In 1998, George Cedric Metcalf died and left his estate to the Foundation. This gift led to significant changes and the Foundation focused its resources in three areas: performing arts, environment, and poverty reduction. The Foundation views its priorities and strategies as evolving responses to the social challenges it seeks to affect.



  • The George Cedric Metcalf Charitable Foundation is established in 1960.
  • The Vicky Metcalf Award for Children’s Literature is established in 1963 in honour of George Cedric’s wife, a noted children’s author. (Presented annually, it is currently administered by the Writers’ Trust of Canada.)
  • Metcalf’s support is instrumental in the creation of the Centre for Tropical Medicine at Toronto General Hospital, now called the University Health Network.


  • The Foundation officially relocates from Charlottetown to Toronto.
  • George Jr. and Johanna Metcalf assume leadership of the Foundation and bring in Jane Conway, Herb Samuels, and Jean Wright as the first outside directors.
  • Grants are made primarily to small, grassroots organizations across Canada. The Foundation supports the operational costs of groups and as a granter plays a modest, unassuming role.


  • The third generation of family becomes more involved in the activities of the Foundation.
  • The Foundation hires its first part-time staff member.
  • Metcalf makes its earliest major grant to Casey House. Within five hours, founder June Callwood uses the pledge to confirm matching government funds and purchase their property on Isabella Street.
  • Support for the League for Human Rights for B’nai Brith creates the innovative Holocaust and Hope program for Canadian secondary school teachers.


  • Generous support for Victoria College, University of Toronto, allows the refurbishment of the E.J. Pratt Reading Room, creation of Crescam Serviando Awards, and establishment of the Kristallnacht lecture series.
  • The Foundation’s support of Frontier College helps create Beat the Street, an important literacy program in urban Toronto.
  • Metcalf is among earliest supporters of Second Harvest in Toronto.
  • The Campaign Against Child Poverty is catalyzed by significant early support from Metcalf.
  • Metcalf becomes one of earliest and largest donors to Creative Trust, enabling the growth of this innovative collaborative initiative of mid-sized performing arts organizations in Toronto.


  • Sandy Houston becomes the Foundation’s first President and CEO.
  • Metcalf launches formal funding programs in Performing Arts, Environment, and Community, hiring program directors and establishing advisory committees.
  • The Foundation develops a series of strategies including internships and renewal opportunities to support non-profit sector leaders, and introduces a range of measures including policy development, research, convening, and network building to enable social change.
  • Early, major support for the Green Arts Barns proves catalytic, prompting support for project from all levels of government.
  • Legislation establishing Ontario’s Greenbelt is passed, largely due to Metcalf’s work with a broad coalition.
  • Metcalf’s investments are formative to the creation of a number of innovative Ontario organizations including FarmStart, Local Food Plus, Ontario Nonprofit Network, and Sustain Ontario.


  • In 2010, Metcalf celebrates its 50th anniversary funding four city-building ideas. Diaspora Dialogues, East Scarborough Storefront, Sustain Ontario, and Theatre Passe Muraille receive special one-time grants.
  • The Community Program refines its poverty reduction focus, resulting in the creation of the Inclusive Local Economies Program.
  • In response to a Metcalf Food Solutions paper, the Foundation becomes an integral agent in the creation of Community Food Centres Canada.
  • The Performing Arts Program launches the Creative Strategies Incubator and Staging Change, both designed to help companies explore new strategies and innovative solutions.
  • The Environment Program shifts its focus to support climate solutions across the country, helping to build a low-carbon, resource efficient, and resilient Canada.
  • The Foundation replaces the Renewal Program with the Leading and Learning Program.
  • Metcalf introduces The Johanna Metcalf Performing Arts Prizes/Les Prix Johanna-Metcalf des Arts de la scène, a new prize launched in memory of the Foundation’s long-serving board member.