Family Innovations Test Grant

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

Term length

Minimum 1 year, Maximum 3 years

Amount awarded (per year)

Minimum N/A

Maximum $100,000

New ways to meaningfully support families

Through the Family Innovations Stream, the Youth Opportunities Fund (YOF) recognizes the impact that healthy and resilient families have on the future success of young people.

We define a parent, guardian or caregiver as someone who is responsible for the physical, emotional, and economic wellbeing of children and youth.  Our definition of parents, guardians and caregivers is inclusive and respects diverse cultural and decolonized interpretations of these roles. 

By investing in grassroots projects that are community-led and community-designed, opportunities are created for families to develop culturally anchored solutions to issues faced by people like them, and empower parents, guardians and caregivers to improve their social and economic stability. Through shared identities, culture and traditions, families can find ways to connect and create networks of support to navigate social systems and services that present obstacles to their success through a Family Innovations Grant. 

Eligible groups can apply for a Family Innovations Test grant to support a project designed to help other parents, guardians and caregivers in your community in one of three areas:

  • Try out a new idea that has the potential to make a positive impact on the wellbeing of parents, guardians and caregivers
  • Research, learn and understand more about a specific topic or issue
  • Bring parents, guardians and caregivers together to discuss an issue and explore new approaches collectively

YOF prioritizes grassroots groups that are looking to address the experiences of Indigenous (First Nation, Métis or Inuit) and/or Black parents, guardians and caregivers who continue to face systemic barriers and oppression.

In addition to the prioritization of Black and Indigenous grassroots groups and parents, guardians and caregivers, YOF prioritizes investing in projects that positively impact parents, guardians and caregivers with the following intersecting lived experiences or identities:  

  • 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 and/or their children living with disabilities or special needs
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers and/or their children who are two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual (2SLGBTQIA+)

Important Dates and Deadlines

Step 1: Expression of Interest (EOI)

Deadline to submit EOI April 17, 2024 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.

Organizational Mentor application period March 27, 2024 to June 19, 2024

Deadline to submit the grant application, which includes the signed Organizational Mentor-Grassroots Group Collaborative Agreement.

July 10, 2024, 5 PM ET

Notification of funding decision Approximately 8 weeks after the grant application deadline
Start date for all Grants December 1, 2024

Plan your application

Completing the Expression of Interest: Step 1 of the grant application 

The purpose of the Expression of Interest is to provide OTF with the information needed to assess your proposed project. It’s the first step of a grant application. The Expression of Interest is reviewed to ensure the proposed project: 

  • Responds to a systemic issue being faced by parents, guardians and caregivers.
  • Aligns with one of YOF’s Priority Outcomes.
  • Includes a core group that has the community knowledge and experience to address the systemic issues and community needs identified. 

Groups with Expressions of Interest that are shortlisted will be invited to complete step 2 of the grant application. 

Working with an Organizational Mentor 

All applicants need to partner with an Organizational Mentor and enter into a collaborative agreement. An Organizational Mentor provides administrative support, project mentoring, and financial accountability to grant recipients and is a partner to the project. Learn more about Organizational Mentors.

Eligibility

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

Eligible groups

A grassroots group that is not registered as a charity or as an incorporated not-for-profit

  • The work of a parent, guardian and caregiver-led grassroots group is community-led and community-inspired. Grassroots group means that core group members share identities and lived experiences with the parents, guardians and caregivers who will benefit from the project.
  • If you are a grassroots group from a First Nation, you are eligible to apply. Your group cannot have more than 50% of its members as part of the band office or band council.

An organization incorporated as a not-for-profit corporation without share capital in a Canadian jurisdiction 

  • This includes a Chartered Community Council, operating under the Métis Nation of Ontario, or Inuit communities that are registered as not-for-profit corporations without share capital in Canada.  
  • The organization is required to have independently managed revenues of $50,000 or less in either of the last two years.
  • Board members and day-to-day management must also be parents, guardians and caregivers.
  • The group is led by parents, guardians and caregivers.
     

Group requirements

Groups need to meet the following requirements to be eligible for funding.

1.    Reflect communities served

2.    Core group

  • The group has at least three core group members.
  • More than 50% of core group members need to be at arm’s length relationship to each other.  An ‘arm's length’ relationship means board members and group members are not married or related to each other, do not work as business partners or are otherwise in a relationship where interests may be compromised.
  • Parents, guardians and caregivers must make up more than 50% of the core group.
  • The group is based in Ontario and the work will benefit parents, guardians, and caregivers in Ontario. 
  • The group exists independently of a larger organization (other not-for-profit), charitable organization or municipality, university, school, religious institution and/or hospital.
  • The group agrees to work with an Organizational Mentor and has autonomy to choose their Organizational Mentor, design the project, identify group members, and plan for the future.  

Note

  • Groups can only apply for one Youth Opportunities Fund grant at a time.   
  • If your group has an active Youth Opportunities Fund grant, you can only apply for funding if you are in the last year of your active grant.
     

Ineligible groups

The following are not eligible to apply: 

  • Registered charities
  • Religious entities established for the observation of religious beliefs, including, but not limited to, churches, temples, mosques and synagogues.
  • Municipalities
  • Groups/projects based at an existing organization (not-for-profit or for profit)
  • 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
  • For-profit organizations or businesses
  • Individuals

Project eligibility

Your project may be eligible if it meets the assessment criteria. Ensure that your project:

  • 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

The application process involves various steps for groups and Organizational Mentors.

Prepare your application

  • Review the application deadlines.   
  • Plan ahead and use the application resources available to support you.  
  • Contact us at 1 800 263-2887 or yof@otf.ca for support. 

2. Create an OTF account   

OTF requires all grant applications to be submitted through its Granting Portal.  

  • Returning users: Sign-in to the Granting Portal when the application becomes available. 
  • New users: To access available grant applications, create an OTF account. 
    • You will need to enter the name of your group’s primary contact and their email address.  
    • An email will be sent to the primary contact to complete setting up their account. 

3. Submit the Expression of Interest 

  • Once the application portal opens, you can complete and submit the Expression of Interest by the deadline date.  
  • Late submissions of the Expression of Interest will not be accepted.  

4. Review and assessment of Expression of Interest 

  • Staff review your group’s eligibility, your readiness to do this work, the potential impact of your project, and how well you understand the needs, interests, and experiences of the beneficiaries you want to work with.  
  • As part of the assessment process, we review the online presence of all applicants to ensure they deliver direct programs and services to Ontarians and that they are not engaged in ineligible activities. This includes:  
    • The majority of group activities are for the purpose of bringing about change in law or government policy, including public policy dialogue and development. 
    • Political activities supporting or opposing any political party, elected representative, or candidate for public office. 
    • For more information about eligible and ineligible activities, review OTF’s Eligibility Policy

5. Notification of shortlisted Expressions of Interest  

  • We notify all applicants of the status of their Expression of Interest approximately 6 weeks after the deadline. 
  • Applicants with a shortlisted Expression of Interest will be invited to submit a grant application with an Organizational Mentor. Applicants are asked to start researching for potential Organizational Mentors at this stage. 

6. Connect with Organizational Mentors  

  • Applicants are required to confirm their Organizational Mentor at the grant application stage. We encourage you to start this relationship early.  
  • We will verify the eligibility of your Organizational Mentor. For more information about how we assess eligibility, review OTF’s Policies and Organizational Mentor requirements.  
  • If your selected Organizational Mentor is not eligible, we will ask them to notify your group and project leaders. The YOF team will provide support to find a new potential Organizational Mentor. 
  • Organizational Mentors need to have an OTF account to access the Organizational Mentor application through OTF’s Granting Portal.  
  • Discover the application process and eligibility requirements for Organizational Mentors.  


For shortlisted groups only 

7. Submit the grant application  

  • Groups are required to participate in a mandatory webinar to learn about the grant application and next steps. 
  • Your group needs to work with your Organizational Mentor to review the draft grant application, finalize your Organizational Mentor-Grassroots Groups Collaborative Agreement, and submit a complete grant application.  
  • You will need to upload your signed agreement with your grant application.  

8. Recommendation and selection 

  • OTF’s Board of Directors approves grant recommendations put forward by YOF’s Grant Review Committee.   

9. Notification 

  • Your group will be notified of the status of your grant application approximately 8 weeks after the deadline.  

10. Confirmation and Orientation  

  • Successful groups take part in a mandatory orientation session and trainings.  
  • Your Organizational Mentor is sent an email with the OTF Grant Contract. 
  • Your Organizational Mentor is responsible for signing and upholding the Grant Contract with OTF. 

11. After approval 

  • Start date: The start date is no earlier than December 1, 2024   
  • Reporting & monitoring: In addition to scheduled check-ins, grantees track activities, spending, and learning to complete the annual progress report and a final report. 
  • Capacity building: This is an opportunity for learning and development to enhance group skills as you deliver your project. Capacity building work will help you connect and network with other grantees by participating in YOF-led events and making the most of capacity building funds available in your project budget.  
  • Evaluation: Grantees are asked to measure their progress towards their selected Priority Outcome. Support is provided to grantees to complete the evaluation activities.   
  • Grant Completion: After a group’s Final Report is approved by OTF, the grant hold-back funds, which is the final payment for the project, are released and the grant is closed.  
  • Grantee Compliance Audit:  
    • A random sample of grants are subject to a Grantee Compliance Audit.  
    • Grants can be audited for compliance at any point within 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 implementing a new idea and evaluating the results. Three types of projects qualify for a Test grant. Choose the type that most closely aligns with your project.

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. For example: 

  • Start a new project that supports parents, guardians and caregivers to access resources and navigate social systems.
  • Adapt and pilot an idea that has been tested in other parts of the province to meet the needs of parents, guardians and caregivers in your community.
  • Establish a learning circle that supports parents, guardians and caregivers in navigating specific experiences like supporting children with disabilities, and/or to improving mental health and wellbeing.
  • Create a space that honors the cultural traditions of parents, guardians and caregivers and celebrates the sharing of knowledge or culture.

The idea your group wants to test must align with one of the Family Innovations Priority Outcomes.

Choose this project type if your group wants to learn and understand more about a specific topic or issue. For example:

  • Develop participatory research about an experience families face
  • Explore something new in your community that can be enhanced through technology or a new approach 
  • Discover how something new may impact parents, guardians and caregivers in your community

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 your group chooses this project type, the research topic must align with one of the Family Innovations Priority Outcomes.

This is an opportunity to bring parents, guardians and caregivers together to discuss an issue and explore new approaches collectively with their community. 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
  • Discover who is already working on an issue, who is joining the conversation, and who might be left out
  • Develop some common goals or strategies to respond to the issue 
  • Come up with next steps as a collective 

The focus of your group’s strategy must align with one of the Family Innovations Priority Outcomes.

Choose your Priority Outcome

Family Innovations Priority Outcomes reflect the changes YOF is investing in. While many of the outcomes focus on key priority populations or experiences, we continue to prioritize Indigenous and Black parents, guardians and caregivers as part of our ongoing commitment to address 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.

  • 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
  • Create opportunities for Indigenous and/or Black parents, guardians and caregivers to help families build strong community and cultural connections, strengthen relationships, and heal from trauma.

Choose your Beneficiaries

As your group completes your application, align your Test project with the primary beneficiaries named in the YOF Priority Outcome you have selected. We recognize that your beneficiaries may hold other identities and experiences that are critical to the design and delivery of your project.

In your application, identify the primary beneficiaries of your project and their intersecting identities and lived experiences. Your core group members should share the identities and lived experiences of your beneficiaries.
 

  • Indigenous (First Nations, Métis, or Inuit) parents, guardians, and caregivers 
    • When selecting Indigenous (First Nations, Métis or Inuit), beneficiaries can be from urban, rural and on reserve communities.
  • 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 in low-income situations
  • Parents, guardians and caregivers who are homeless or at risk of being homeless
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers whose children are at-risk of dropping out or have dropped out of school
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers whose children are not engaged or are at risk of not being engaged with education, employment, and training programs

Eligible and ineligible project expenses

  • Staffing (including 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 grant application:

  • Administrative Support Costs (OM): 15% of total Budget  
  • Capacity Building:  Minimum of $2,000 per year required and up to a maximum of $4,000 per year
  • Capital infrastructure expenses (renovations to space) 
  • Expenses related to political or religious activities 
  • General or ongoing operating expenses (unrelated to the project) 
  • Personal one-on-one professional services (including expenses related to direct therapy, counselling/ legal and/or accounting advice)
  • Expenses related to paying for participant groceries, household supplies, or equipment
  • Bursaries, scholarships, sponsorships or individual requests (including regranting funds to other projects or people)
  • Fundraising campaigns

Review all ineligible activities.

Expression of Interest assessment

Your Expression of Interest is assessed based on three sections of the application: Group Eligibility, People, and Strategy.

The Project Plan and Budget will not be assessed with the Expression of Interest. However, if your Expression of Interest is shortlisted, it will be reviewed by a Program Manager at the grant application stage. A Program Manager will contact you to share feedback on the Project Plan and Budget prior to the grant application deadline.

If your Expression of Interest is shortlisted, you’ll be invited to submit a grant application with an Organizational Mentor.

Group Eligibility

The eligibility of the group is reviewed and assessed as either eligible or not eligible. If the group does not meet requirements, their Expression of Interest will not proceed for a full review. Assessment criteria includes:

  • Core group members (including board members, where applicable) reflect the identities and experiences of the YOF parents, guardians, and caregivers they are working with and for. 
  • The application is complete and contains clear and detailed responses. 
  • Parents, guardians, and caregivers are the clear and direct beneficiaries of the project. 
  • The group exists independently of a larger organization (other not-for-profit), charitable organization or municipality, university, school, and/or hospital. 
  • The group is based in Ontario and the work will benefit parents, guardians, and caregivers in Ontario. 
  • The group has at least three core group members. 
  • Parents, guardians and caregivers must make up more than 50% of the core group.
  • More than 50% of core group members are at arm’s length relationship to each other. An ‘arm's length’ relationship means board members and group members are not married or related to each other, do not work as business partners or are otherwise in a relationship where interests may be compromised.
  • The group is not a registered Charity. 
  • The Board of Directors table is complete and board members reflect the identities and experiences of the parents, guardians and caregivers being served. (for registered not-for-profits only)
  • The project complies with OTF Policies
  • The group is in compliance with advocacy requirements of OTF’s Eligibility Policy.
  • The group is either an unincorporated group or an incorporated not-for-profit corporation, with independently managed revenues of $50,000 or less in either of the last two years. 

People

Assessment weight: 40%

Strong Grassroots Leadership 

  • The group demonstrates that collectively they have the right mix of knowledge, skills, and experience to deliver this project.
  • The group has connections to the issues and knowledge of the community they are looking to serve.

Strategy 

Assessment weight: 60%

Setting the Context (Issue & idea)

  • The group has fully and clearly described the idea they want to test, or the research they will conduct, or the strategy work they will lead. 
  • The need, issue or opportunity connects to systemic barriers that YOF parents, guardians, or caregivers face.   
  • The idea is an effective response to the need, issue or opportunity the group is addressing.   
  • The proposed idea is culturally anchored and has been designed to respond to the experiences, needs and assets of YOF parents, guardians, and caregivers.

Potential for Impact (Idea & impact)

  • YOF parents, guardians and caregivers are clear and direct beneficiaries of the project. 
  • The changes the group hopes to make can be achieved through their project. 
  • The changes or impacts the group hopes to make aligns with their chosen YOF Priority Outcome.
An outdoor family portrait with two parents and two kids.

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