Part of the Ontario provincial government, the Ontario Trillium Foundation grants millions of dollars to Ontario businesses every year. Each grant, however, goes toward funding a project that benefits the community and/or the province in some way.

They do this by dividing their funding into 6 categories they call Action Areas: 

  • Active People
  • Connected People
  • Green People
  • Inspired People
  • Promising Young People
  • Prosperous People

This means you could qualify for an OTF grant if the project your organization proposes results in encouraging more active lifestyles, building a more inclusive or engaged community, helping people support a sustainable environment, enriching lives through arts and culture, assisting with the positive development of young people, or improving people’s economic security.

From there, they further focus their grants into 3 streams: Seed Grants, Grow Grants, and Capital Grants. Seed grants are designed to foster new ideas, Grow grants are for evidence-based programs that have a large impact on the community, and Capital grants are just that—funding for capital investments that would result in an organization’s increased ability to positively benefit their community.

So if you’re a nonprofit organization, a municipality of 20,000 or less, an Indigenous organization or library, a charitable organization, or any collaboration thereof; you offer your services in Ontario; and you can demonstrate your ability to generate additional resources from the community and other sectors, then this grant organization will be of special interest to you. Individuals, for-profits, larger municipalities, academic organizations, and provincial and federal governments aren’t eligible for any of the grants OTF offers.

Is your project aimed at trying something new? Do you want to attempt something untested but that you think has real promise even though you don’t know what the outcome will be? Will a grant help you learn something new?


Well then, that’s precisely what seed grants are for, provided your new project, despite its unknown outcome, results in positive change in the community.


Seed grants typically revolve around 4 purposes: to host a discussion about an emerging issue, conduct a feasibility study, research a new concept, or develop or pilot a new idea. The underlying theme here is that regardless of your project, the idea is to find a new or better way of doing things.


Funding for this stream could give you between $5,000 and $75,000, depending on the project. They do, however, withhold 10% of that until you submit your final report.

To apply for a seed grant, start by putting together a learning plan that includes your answers to these 3 questions:

  • What do you expect to learn from this project?
  • What key questions will you need to answer to achieve your expected learning?
  • How will you capture the learning and how will you use it?

Then make sure you have a plan for compiling and sharing what you’ve learned and create a list of your anticipated costs, including any existing quotes. Finally, determine which of the 6 Action Areas your project falls into and include that in your proposal.


Once you’ve completed all those tasks, you can send your proposal to the program to apply, and if you need additional help with the application process beyond their reference manual, FAQs, and additional resources guide, you can schedule an application coaching session online after entering your postal code, by email, or by calling 1-800-263-2887.


Unfortunately, this stream only opens to applications once a year, and it closed on February 26, 2020. Keep checking back, however, because it will open back up again. It just means you have more time to put your proposal together.

These grants are aimed at longer-term projects that result in a greater impact on the community. All projects, however, must be evidence-based, so be prepared to prove and measure your proposed outcomes.


You could use this program to launch, replicate, or adapt a program; to

scale up a program already being delivered; or to improve the quality of the program now being delivered to increase its impact.


You should expect your project to take 2 to 3 years to complete, and you can expect funding between $50,000 and $250,000, which will also cover a small percentage of capital and administration costs.


To apply for a Grow grant, which is the only stream currently accepting applications, take the time to build a strong proposal that includes your plan, all your evidence, and quotes for any goods/services required that are estimated to cost more than $10,000. Your proposal should also include what you hope to achieve, how you intend to achieve your outcome(s), and your metrics. Remember to also include which of the 6 Action Areas your project falls under.


Now before you send in the proposal, take a step back and ask yourself if it answers these questions:

  • Will it result in growth/increased impact in relation to the grant result?
  • Have you included evidence that the project can achieve the growth/increased impact in relation to the grant result?
  • Is the project ready to go? Are all partners and project components in place?
  • Is all the evidence in place?

If your metrics and evidence are strong and you’ve clearly outlined your grant result and Action Area, then you can go ahead and submit your proposal. For more information on how to make your grant proposal stronger, in-depth details on the application process, and grant expectations, download the Grow Grant Reference Manual, the FAQs, and the Grow Investment Stream Application Assessment, and check out the Additional Resources page.


Email the program or give them a call at 1-800-263-2887 to determine how they’d prefer you submit your proposal or if you have questions the other resources haven’t yet answered. As with the Seed Grant, you can also schedule an application coaching session online after entering your postal code, by email, or by calling 1-800-263-2887.

If it’s capital funding you need to increase access to community spaces, programs, activities, and services; to improve community members’ full participation in the community; enhance and build community spaces; refine the efficiency and effectiveness of your programs; or make better use of technological resources, then this is the grant stream for your organization.


Eligible capital expenditures could include equipment, new construction, renovations or repairs to community spaces, or purchasing land or buildings, and you could get between $5,000 and $150,000 in funding. As with the other streams though, 10% of this total will be withheld until you submit, and they review, your final report.


Just make sure, above all, that you identify which of the 6 Action Areas your project/need aligns with, your purpose, its impact, and the community need it will address. Your proposal will also be expected to include metrics unless your grant is primarily for equipment.


Not only that, but your proposal should show that your team members have the skills needed, include diagrams and/or photos, has a description of what needs to be done to finish the project, and includes a complete financial workbook.


When you submit your proposal, remember to also submit any quotes for products or services of more than $10,000, proof of ownership or a 5-year lease agreement for renovations or improvements, and a formal agreement for collaborative applicants.


Once your project is complete, you’ll need to submit a final report to receive the final 10% of your funding. Contact the program via email or call 1-800-263-2887 to determine how best to send your proposal.


You can get in touch with them in the same manner if you have questions that the Capital Grants FAQs don’t answer for you. This stream is currently not accepting applications, but the program deadline is generally sometime in November, so keep looking to see when it opens.

Wrapping Up

The Ontario Trillium Foundation is the perfect organization to go to if you’re a nonprofit organization with a project that will result in a healthier, more vibrant community and province. Whether your project is simply at the idea or concept stage, is a longer-term project that offers a much larger benefit to the community, or you just need to make some capital investments that increase access and improve community spaces, start your search for funding here.


In some cases, you can even apply for more than one grant. For example, if your seed grant for your idea taught you something new that you can now turn into a pilot project that will benefit your community, you can then turn around and apply for a grow grant. Or you could apply for a capital grant if you need to make some large purchases first.


The bottom line is, if your goal is positive community change and you prove a strong case and build a solid, evidence-based proposal, then the OTF will gladly give you the money you need to achieve that goal, so give it a shot!


About the author 

Maurice

Maurice (Moe) Muise learned the ins-and-outs of government while an employee of the Government of Canada in Ottawa for 10 years. His current focus is helping small businesses in Ontario to identify and maximize government grants to grow their business.
Click here to learn more about Moe's background and how he can help your business.

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