Family Innovations Test Grant

Supporting families to thrive starts here. Family Innovations Test grants support parent-, guardian- or caregiver-led grassroots groups to research important issues, explore different approaches, or test new ideas.

Term length

Minimum 1 year, Maximum 3 years

Amount awarded (per year)

Minimum N/A

Maximum $85,000

Looking for new ways to meaningfully support families?

Are you a grassroots group led by parents, guardians, and caregivers? Apply for a Family Innovations Test grant for a project designed to support other parents, guardians, and caregivers in your community in one of three areas:

  • Research a new concept or issue
  • Strategize around issue(s) affecting people you want to support
  • Test a new project idea

Important Dates and Deadlines

Step 1: Expression of Interest (EOI)

Submission opens for EOI May 31, 2023
Deadline to submit EOI August 23, 2023 at 5 PM ET
Notification of status of EOI  Approximately 6 weeks after EOI deadline

Step 2: Grant application

Only applicants with a successful EOI will be invited to submit a grant application.

Deadline to submit the grant application, which includes the signed OM- Grassroots Group Collaborative Agreement 

Deadline to register the Organizational Mentor (OM)

November 15, 2023, 5 PM ET

Notification of funding decision Approximately 8 weeks after the grant application deadline
Organizational Mentor Application Open year round
Start date for all Grants March 1, 2024

Plan your application

Test grants support projects at the idea stage. A Test grant can support your group to make an impact in your community by learning something new to help drive positive change. To give your application the best chance of being successful, please read the information on this page carefully and access available supports. It will help you make sure that your group, project, and the people you want to support align with Youth Opportunities Fund (YOF) funding priorities.

Take time to consider these key questions:


Discover if your group is eligible for funding, and make sure your beneficiaries are in YOF's primary beneficiaries. Potential Organizational Mentors should also review the information in this section.

Group eligibility

YOF supports projects led by parents, guardians, and caregivers who share identities, experiences, and face the same systemic barriers as those who will benefit from the project.  This “by and for” principle is a requirement in all YOF funding streams.

We prioritize projects led by and for Indigenous and Black parents, guardians, and caregivers. Read our definition of Black- or Indigenous-led grassroots groups.

Eligible groups

Your group may be eligible if it:

  • Is led by parents, guardians, and caregivers who share identities and experiences with those they will engage in project activities 
  • Has three or more core group members 
  • Exists independent of a larger organization 
  • Is based in Ontario, and programming benefits parents, guardians and caregivers living in Ontario 
  • Core team members have a history and experience doing work together. This experience can included delivering core program model or other activities. 
  • Is an:
    • Unincorporated group or
    • Incorporated not-for-profit with independently managed revenues no higher than $50,000 in either of the last two years. Board members and day-to-day management must also meet the by and for requirements, and identify with parents, guardians and caregivers
  • Agrees to work with an Organizational Mentor (OM)

Ineligible groups

The following are not eligible to apply:

  • Groups specifically designed to serve parents, guardians, and caregivers through committees or clubs of institutions, including municipalities, universities, schools, and hospitals
  • Groups looking to design programming for children
  • Groups/projects based at an existing organization (not-for-profit or for profit)
  • Groups with charitable status  
  • For-profit businesses
  • Individuals 

Project eligibility

Your project may be eligible if it:

  • Includes all required information
  • Strongly aligns with your chosen YOF Priority Outcome
  • Complies with OTF policies. Our policy requirements define eligibility for OTF funding and outline exclusions. Funds are granted to eligible applicants delivering eligible project activities that directly align with YOF Priority Outcomes.
  • Benefits parents, guardians, and caregivers

Application process

OTF's application process involves various steps for groups and Organizational Mentors.

Key dates and Expression of Interest (EOI) submission
Create a user profile
  • Start your application by logging in or creating a new user profile in our application portal
  • If you are creating a new user profile, please enter the name of your group’s primary contact with their email address. We will email this person a user ID, temporary password, and instructions on how to access the online Expression of Interest (EOI).
Notification of shortlisting and grant application submission
  • We will tell you the status of your EOI around 4-6 weeks after the EOI deadline
  • Begin to research potential Organizational Mentors (OM)
  • If your group is shortlisted, you will be invited to submit a grant application
Notification of grant application status
  • Your group will receive news on the status of your grant application around 6-7 weeks after the grant application deadline
  • If your application has been recommended for funding by the YOF Grant Review Committee (GRC), we will ask you to submit information about your OM. This includes:
OM application and assessment (OMs only)
  • Review relevant deadlines for the OM application
  • Is your organization new to OTF? If yes, Register online once the OM application is live
  • Is your organization already registered with the OTF? Once the OM application is live, you will Log in to apply online. Look for Applications (YOF) in the top right corner. Click to access OM Application
  • The YOF team will verify your organization’s eligibility (review OTF policies)
  • If your organization is not eligible, we will ask you to notify the relevant groups and project leaders impacted by this decision, and the YOF team will provide supports to find a new potential OM.
Recommendation and selection
  • The volunteer YOF Grant Review Committee (GRC) will finalize funding recommendations following the submission of OM information
  • OTF’s Board of Directors approve these recommendations
Notification of funding approval
After approval
  • Start date: The start date is no earlier than March 1, 2024
  • Reporting & monitoring: In addition to scheduled touch points, grantees track activities, spending, and learning to complete the annual progress report and a final report.
  • Capacity building: Learn and connect with other YOF grantees by participating in YOF led events and making the most of capacity building funds available in your project budget.
  • Evaluation: Grantees must work with a YOF external evaluation partner to evaluate progress towards the chosen YOF Priority Outcome.
  • Completion: After OTF staff approve a final report, the grant hold-back funds, which is the final payment for the project, are released and the grant is closed.
  • Grantee compliance: A random sample of grants are subject to a grantee compliance audit. Grant files can be audited for compliance at any point during the grant's life, or after the grant has been closed.

Choose your project type

Test grants aim to drive positive change in your community by helping your group research new ideas and concepts, strategize on actions your group can take, build evidence that something works, or develop or pilot an idea or approach. Three types of projects qualify for a Test grant. Choose the one that most closely aligns with your project.

Choose this project type if you want your group to learn and understand more about a specific topic or issue. Consider:

  • How your group will conduct the research
  • How much time this work will take, and
  • How your group will share what you learn. For example, through a research paper, report, website, or presentation.

If you choose this type of Test grant, the research topic must align with one of the Family Innovations Priority Outcomes.

Choose this project type if your group wants to bring parents, guardians, and caregivers together to discuss an issue, as a first step in coming up with community inspired solutions. Depending on your group's aims and the stage of the discussion, what you learn could include:

  • Understanding an issue and its impact on your community
  • Discovering who is already working on an issue, who is joining the conversation, and who might be left out
  • Developing some common goals or strategies to respond to the issue
  • Coming up with next steps as a collective

The focus of your group's strategizing work must align with one of the Family Innovations Priority Outcomes.

This type of project focuses on trying out a new idea that has the potential to make a positive impact on the lives of parents, guardians, and caregivers. The idea your group wants to test should align with one of the Family Innovations Priority Outcomes.

Choose your Priority Outcome

Family Innovations Priority Outcomes reflect the changes YOF is investing in. All approved projects must advance one of these outcomes through project activities. While one outcome focuses on key priority populations, we will prioritize Indigenous and Black parents, guardians and caregivers as part of our ongoing commitments to addressing systemic barriers to economic and social wellbeing. The one Priority Outcome your group chooses identifies the impact your project will have.

When choosing your YOF Priority Outcome, think about:

  • Why your group is  doing this project
  • What difference your group hopes to make through this  work
  • What change and impact your group plans to have on parents, guardians, and caregivers who engage in this project  

As you fill out your application, you should align your answers to the YOF Priority Outcome your project will achieve.

  • Creating safe spaces for Indigenous and/or Black parents, guardians, and caregivers to strengthen relationships, build strong community and cultural connections, and heal from trauma
  • Supporting parents, guardians, and caregivers to navigate and access resources for economic stability
  • Supporting parents, guardians and caregivers to effectively navigate, access, and influence systems that affect family well-being

Choose your Beneficiaries

Who do you want to benefit from your project activities? YOF invests in projects led by and for parents, guardians, and caregivers who face systemic barriers to wellbeing. If you see members of your core group and the people you want to engage through your project reflected in the list below, it's likely that your group is eligible.

  • Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, or Inuit) parents, guardians, and caregivers 
  • Black parents, guardians, and caregivers 
  • Racialized parents, guardians, and caregivers 
  • Newcomer parents, guardians, and caregivers 
  • Francophone parents, guardians, and caregivers 
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers and/or their children who are two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual (2SLGBTQIA+). 
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers and/or their children living with disabilities or special needs 
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers and/or their children living with mental health needs and/or addiction   
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers living in rural, remote and/or Northern communities 
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers and/or their children in conflict or at risk of being in conflict with the law 
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers at risk of contact or in contact with child welfare services 
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers whose children are at-risk of dropping out or have dropped out of school 
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers in low income situations 
  • Parents, guardians and caregivers who are homeless or at risk of being homeless
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers whose children are not engaged or are at risk of not being engaged with education programs, employment programs, or training programs 


What is a parent, guardian and caregiver?

Someone, or one of the people, responsible for the physical, emotional, and economic wellbeing of a child or young person. This includes a legal and decolonized/culturally rooted understanding of guardians and caregivers. A parent, guardian, or caregiver is different from a caring adult or a mentor.

What is a "culturally anchored" project?

A project informed by the context of the lived experiences, culture of the participants and shared experiences of the community. The project should fit with the needs of the community, and have a cultural context.

What is a grassroots group?

The work of a grassroots group is community-led and community-inspired. Grassroots group means that your core group members share identities and lived experiences with the people who will benefit.

Not sure if you are eligible? Reach out to us at

Eligible and ineligible project expenses

  • Staffing (with considerations for Mandatory Employee Required Costs (MERC) of 20%)
    • As you consider the roles and responsibilities of project staff, ensure your Budget includes livable wages for staff who support your program delivery
  • Transportation 
  • Honorarium (participants, volunteers) 
  • Support Services (translation, interpretation, child-minding) 
  • Project supplies and materials 
  • Project equipment (rental or purchase) 
  • Food 
  • Communications (website, promotions)
  • Fees (for services delivered by experts, facilitators)
  • Contingency (maximum of 10% per year) 

Mandatory Expenses that need to be included in every Test grant application:

  • Administrative Support Costs (OM): 15% of total Budget   
  • Capacity Building: up to $4,000 per year (Capacity building is optional for the family innovation stream)
  • Capital infrastructure expenses (renovations to space) 
  • Expenses related to political or religious activities 
  • General or ongoing operating expenses (unrelated to the project) 
  • Bursaries, scholarships, sponsorships or individual requests (including regranting funds to other projects or people)
  • Fundraising campaigns

For a full list of ineligible expenses, review OTF’s Eligibility Policy.

Expression of Interest (EOI) assessment

How are Test EOIs assessed?

  • Your Test EOI is assessed based on three areas of the application: Group Eligibility, People, and Strategy. See EOI Test Questions and Scorecard for more details.
  • At the EOI stage, the Project Plan and Budget will be reviewed by a YOF Program Manager but not assessed.
  • If your group is invited to submit a Grant Application, a YOF Program Manager will reach out to share feedback on the Project Plan and Budget before the Grant Application deadline.
  • The Project and Budget will only be assessed at the Grant Application stage of the application process.
An outdoor family portrait with two parents and two kids.

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