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.
Minimum 1 year, Maximum 3 years
Amount awarded (per year)
Looking for new ways to meaningfully support families?
Through the Family Innovations Stream, the Youth Opportunities Fund recognizes the impact that healthy and resilient families have on the future success of young people. We also acknowledge that parents, guardians and caregivers can look different for different families. We define them as someone, or one of the people, responsible for the physical, emotional, and economic wellbeing of children and youth. We acknowledge both legal and decolonized/culturally rooted understandings of guardians and caregivers.
By investing in grassroots groups that are community-led and community-inspired, opportunities can be 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. Funded projects can create access to safe spaces to gather, strengthen language skills and share decolonized knowledge.
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, or
- Bring parents, guardians and caregivers together to discuss an issue and explore new approaches collectively.
Important Dates and Deadlines
Step 1: Expression of Interest (EOI)
|Deadline to submit EOI||August 23, 2023 at 5 PM ET (Closed)|
|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 or creating easier ways to access services and supports to drive positive change.
To give your application the best chance of being successful, please read the information on this page carefully and access available support provided by our team. It will help you make sure that your group, project, and the people you want to support align with Youth Opportunities Fund funding priorities.
All grassroots groups applying for a grant must 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. Learn more about requirements for Organizational Mentors.
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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 “by and for” principle is a requirement in all funding streams.
Discover if your group is eligible for funding, and make sure the people who will benefit are in YOF's priority beneficiaries. Potential Organizational Mentors (OMs) should also review the information in this section.
Groups that apply for a Family Innovations grant need to meet the following requirements:
- The group is led by parents, guardians and caregivers.
- The group has at least three core group members.
- More than 50% of core group members are at arm’s length relationship to each other.
- Core group members (including board members, where applicable) reflect the identities and experiences of the parents, guardians and caregivers they are working with and for.
- The group demonstrates that collectively they have the right mix of knowledge, skills and experience to deliver this project.
- The group is based 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.
- 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.
The work of a parents, 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.
Applicants that meet the group requirements must also be one of the following:
- A grassroots group that is not registered as a charity or as an incorporated not-for-profit
- 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 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.
- 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 businesses
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
OTF's application process involves various steps for groups and Organizational Mentors.
- Review the application deadlines
- Plan ahead and read the Expression of Interest Questions
- You will need to complete and submit a Project Plan and Budget Worksheet as part of the Expression of Interest
- Connect with our team and use our application supports:
2. Register your group
- Once the application portal opens, create your user profile to register your group
- You will need to enter the name of your group’s primary contact and their email address.
- We will email the primary contact a user ID, temporary password and instructions on how to access the online Expression of Interest application.
- If your group is already registered with OTF, log in using your current user ID and password.
3. Submit the Expression of Interest
- The purpose of the Expression of Interest is to equip our staff with the information needed to assess your project idea, group and potential for impact. This is the first step of a Youth Opportunities Fund grant application.
- Once the application portal opens, you can complete and submit the Expression of Interest by the deadline date. Please note that any late submissions of the Expression of Interest will not be accepted.
4. Review and assessment of Expression of Interest
- Using the assessment criteria, our 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 parents, guardians and caregivers 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 groups
- We notify all applicants of the status of their Expression of Interest approximately 6 weeks after the deadline.
- If your Expression of Interest is successful, your group will be shortlisted and invited to submit a grant application with an Organizational Mentor.
- For shortlisted groups, begin to research potential Organizational Mentors
- For shortlisted groups, begin to research potential Organizational Mentors
6. About Organizational Mentor
- Groups 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.
- Is your Organizational Mentor new to OTF? The organization is required to be registered with OTF. Once OTF’s application portal opens, your Organizational Mentor can create a user profile to register their organization.
- Is your Organizational Mentor already registered with OTF? Once OTF’s application portal opens, your Organizational Mentor can log in to complete the online application. Look for the button called Applications (YOF) in the top right corner of the portal. Then, click on the tab called Begin New Application Org Mentor.
7. Submit the grant application (for shortlisted groups only)
- Work with your Organizational Mentor to review the draft grant application before submitting it.
- Finalize your Organizational Mentor-Grassroots Groups Collaborative Agreement. You will need to upload your signed agreement with your grant application.
8. Recommendation and selection
- YOF’s volunteer Grant Review Committee review grant applications and recommends a list of applications to be approved by OTF’s Board of Directors.
- OTF’s Board of Directors approves grant recommendations put forward by the Grant Review Committee.
- Your group will be notified on 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
- 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 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: This is an opportunity 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 must work with YOF’s external evaluation partner, Students Commission of Canada, to evaluate progress towards the chosen YOF Priority Outcome
- Completion: After our 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. Three types of projects qualify for a Test grant. Choose the types 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 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:
- Understand 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. 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 parents, guardians, and caregivers (i.e., First Nations, Métis, Inuit)
- 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 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 of school or have dropped out of school.
- Parents, guardians, and caregivers and/or their children living with mental health needs and/or addictions
- Parents, guardians, and caregivers whose children are not engaged and/or are at risk of not being engaged with education, employment, or training programs
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
- Honorarium (participants, volunteers)
- Support services (translation, interpretation, child-minding)
- Project supplies and materials
- Project equipment (rental or purchase)
- 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 Family Innovations Test 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)
- 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 assessment
Your Expression of Interest is assessed based on three areas of the application: Group Eligibility, People, and Strategy.
- The Project Plan and Budget will not be assessed with the Expression of Interest. However, it will be reviewed by a Program Manager if your group’s project is shortlisted. A Program Manager will reach out to share feedback on the Project Plan and Budget before the grant application deadline.
- If your group is shortlisted, you’ll be invited to submit a grant application with an Organizational Mentor.
Assessment Area #1: Eligibility
Eligibility is reviewed and assessed as either Eligible or Not Eligible.
- 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 group exists independently of a larger organization (other not-for-profit), charitable organization or municipality, university, school, and/or hospital.
- The application is complete and contains clear and detailed responses.
- 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.
- More than 50% of core group members are at arm’s length relationship to each other.
- The group is not a registered Charity.
- The group is a registered not-for-profit.
- If yes: Board members are clearly identified and reflect the identities and experiences of the YOF parents, guardians, and caregivers being served.
- 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.
Assessment Area #2: People
Scoring weight: 40%
Strong Grassroots Leadership
The group demonstrates that collectively they have the right mix of knowledge, skills and experience to deliver this project.
Assessment Area #3: Strategy
Scoring 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.