Youth Innovations Test Grant

Find inspiring solutions to issues facing young people. Youth Innovations Test grants support youth-led and youth-adult partnerships to research important issues, explore different approaches, and test new ideas.

Term length

Minimum 1 year, Maximum 3 years

Amount awarded (per year)

Minimum N/A

Maximum Up to $100,000 per year

Looking for better ways to support young people? 

Grassroots work is about community-led and community-inspired work. Shared identities and lived experiences are essential to building relationships with those benefiting from the work and help set the stage for grassroots groups delivering critical, local projects. The principle of delivering projects that are led by and for priority populations is a key requirement for Youth Innovations grants. 

The Youth Innovations grant stream is rooted in youth leadership and prioritizes Indigenous and Black youth with diverse lived experiences. Young leaders have the tools and skills to come together based on common issues faced and lived experiences to address the needs of youth. Young leaders are driven to find solutions that can have lasting impact and design projects that reflect how culture and traditions can enhance learning and life-long skills development to improve well-being.

A Youth Innovations Test grant is designed to help groups:

  • Try out a new idea that has the potential to make a positive impact on the lives of young people,
  • Research, learn and understand more about a specific topic or issue, or
  • Bring youth together to discuss an issue and explore new approaches collectively.

Learn more about what we fund below.  

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 Organizational Mentor-Grassroots Group Collaborative Agreement 

Deadline to register the Organizational Mentor

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 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 (YOF) funding priorities. 

All grassroots groups applying for a Youth Innovations 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.  

Download and review the Expression of Interest Questions and the Project Plan and Budget Worksheet associated with the application.  

Application supports 


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

Discover if your group and project are eligible to receive a Youth Innovations grant. Potential Organizational Mentors should also review the information in this section. 

Group requirements

Groups that apply for a Youth Innovations grant need to meet the following requirements: 

  • 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 youth they are working with and for
  • The group is based in Ontario
  • The group serves youth over 12 years of age as its primary mandate
  • 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
  • The group operates as either a youth-led group or a youth-adult partnership:
    • A youth-led group is a group that: 

      • Has all individuals aged 29 or under at the governance or decision-making level 

      • Has youth, 12 to 29 years old, managing the project (from planning to implementation and evaluation) 

    • Youth-adult partnership is a group that has young people as its primary audience and where youth and adults share power. This looks like: 

      • Shared responsibility for decision-making about the project and the group  

      • Shared responsibility for planning and delivery of activities and the budget 

      • Shared responsibility for planning for the future of the project and the group  

    • Adult-led youth partnership is when adults, 30 years of age and over, have brought youth together to build out an idea and have a significant role in decision-making about the project and group. Over time, adults will: 

      • Have a reduced role in the partnership and will ensure the leadership of youth to drive the work. 

      • Create space for youth to take on more responsibility in planning, delivering of activities and establishing plans for the future of the project and group. 

      • Note: This type of leadership is only applicable in Test grants.

Exception: Adult groups with all members up to the age of 35 can apply if they are looking to advance the following YOF Priority Outcome: Supporting youth in and/or leaving care and/or involved in the justice system to navigate and access resources for wellbeing.


  • We prioritize projects led by and for Indigenous (First Nation, Métis, Inuit) youth and Black youth

  • 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.  


Eligible groups 

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

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 meet youth-led group and youth adult-partnership definitions.  


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 composed of all team members ages 30 years or older (all-adult teams)

  • Groups/projects based at an existing organization (not-for-profit or for profit) 

  • Groups specifically designed to serve young people through committees or clubs of institutions, including municipalities, universities, schools, and hospitals 

  • For-profit organizations and 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 young people ages 12-25, and/or 12-29 for youth living with special needs and/or disabilities, mental health needs and/or addictions 

Application process

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

Prepare your application

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 young people 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   

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) 

8. Recommendation and selection 

  • YOF’s volunteer Grant Review Committee reviews 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. 

9. Notification 

  • 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 young people. For example:  

  • Start a new project that supports youth to learn a new skill
  • Adapt and pilot an idea that has been tested in other parts of the province to meet the needs of your community
  • Create a space that honors youth wellbeing and creativity
  • Connect youth to knowledge of land, culture and language
  • Support youth to navigate systems (such as education, health, child welfare, justice) 

The idea your group wants to test must align with one of the Youth 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 youth face

  • Explore something new in your community that can be enhanced through technology

  • Discover how something new may impact youth 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 Youth Innovations Priority Outcomes.   

This is an opportunity to bring youth together to discuss an issue and explore new approaches collectively with youth and 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 strategizing work must align with one of the Youth Innovations Priority Outcomes. 

Choose your Priority Outcome

Youth Innovations Priority Outcomes reflect the changes YOF is investing in. All approved projects must advance one of these outcomes through project activities. While many of the outcomes focus on key priority populations or experiences, we will prioritize Indigenous and Black youth as part of our 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 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 youth who engage in this project   

As your group completes the first step of the application, you should align your answers to the Priority Outcome your project will achieve. 

  • Empowering girls and young women to lead, including women’s economic empowerment initiatives  

  • Supporting Indigenous, Black, and/or newcomer youth to enter the labour market and transition to sustainable career pathways  

  • Supporting youth in and/or leaving care and/or involved in the justice system to navigate and access resources for wellbeing

    • Note: For this outcome, core group members can be up to 35 years of age. 

  • Addressing racism and its impacts on youth in urban, rural and/or Northern communities  

  • Creating safe spaces for Indigenous and/or Black youth to build strong community and cultural connections 

Choose your Primary Beneficiaries

As your group completes your application, be sure to 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 your work.

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 youth (First Nation, Métis, or Inuit)

    • When selecting Indigenous (First Nations, Métis or Inuit), beneficiaries can be from urban, rural and on reserve communities.  

  • Black youth    

  • Racialized youth

  • Newcomer youth

  • Francophone youth

  • Two-spirit, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and/or questioning, intersex, asexual (2SLGBTQIA+) youth

  • Youth living with disabilities and/or special needs between the ages of 12 to 29

  • Youth living with mental health needs and/or addictions between the ages of 12 to 29

  • Youth living in rural, remote and/or Northern communities

  • Youth in conflict or at risk of being in conflict with the law 

  • Youth in care or leaving care

  • Youth at-risk of dropping out or have dropped out

  • Youth in low-income situations or from low-income families

  • Youth who are homeless or at risk of being homeless

  • Youth who are not engaged or at risk of not being engaged with education, employment, and 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 staff, ensure you include livable wages to 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 all Youth Innovations Test grant applications: 

  • 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   

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 youth they are working with and for. 
  • The group operates as either youth-led group, youth-adult partnership or adult-led youth partnership.    
  • The application is complete and contains clear and detailed responses.  
  • 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. 
  • 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 youth being served. 
  • The project complies with OTF Policies.  
  • The group is in compliance with advocacy requirements of OTF’s Eligibility Policy. Young people, ages 12-25, and/or those living with disabilities, special needs, mental health needs and addictions (ages 12-29)  are the clear and direct beneficiaries of the project.  
  • 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 Youth Leadership  

Key areas of your application to focus on: 

  • The group fully operates as a youth-led group or a youth-adult partnership. 

  • 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 pilot, the research they will conduct, or the strategy work they will lead. 

  • The need, issue or opportunity connects to systemic barriers that YOF youth face.   

  • The idea is an effective response to the need, issue or opportunity the group is addressing.   

  • The idea responds well to the context and experiences of the young people that they are engaging through this project. 

Potential for Impact (Idea & impact) 

  • YOF youth are clear and direct beneficiaries of the project. 

  • The changes the group hopes to make can be achieved through their project idea.  

  • The changes or impacts the group hopes to make align with their chosen YOF Priority Outcome. 

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