Ontario Trillium Foundation simplifies grant process through redesign

LITTLE CURRENT— Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) Program Manager Colin Wilson met with Manitoulin and area economic development officers and representatives of LAMBAC last month to review the OTF’s recent changes.

“OTF is going through its first redesign in 15 years,” explained Mr. Wilson. “They are hoping that the changes will help simplify the grant process.”

For over 30 years, OTF as been investing in community-based initiatives. Each year, more then 3,000 applications are received and over $110 million in grants are awarded to 1,300 public benefit sector organizations.

Under the new process, Six Action Areas, based on the 12 indicators used by the Canadian Index of Wellbeing to measure changes in the wellbeing of Canadians, were identified to replace the foundation’s formers sectors.

Mr. Wilson explained that these areas are very specific and that these are the areas that the OTF is looking to fund.

New Priority Outcomes were also developed for each of the Action Areas, against which the individual impact of each investment could be measured. There are also grant results clearly outlined for each of the priority outcomes.

The first Action Area is Active People, fostering more active lifestyles. Under this area the priority outcomes include ‘higher quality programming and infrastructure to support activity’ and ‘more people become active.’

Connected People, building inclusive and engaged communities together, features priority outcomes ‘diverse groups work better together to shape community’ and ‘reduced social isolation.’

Green People, encouraging people to support a healthy and sustainable environment, is focussed on ensuring more ecosystems are protected and restored and people reducing their impact on the environment.

Inspired People, enriching people’s lives through arts, culture and heritage, includes priority outcomes, ‘better quality programming and infrastructure to experience culture, heritage and the arts’ and more people connecting with culture, heritage and the arts.

Promising Young People, supporting the positive development of children and youth, is centred on projects that provide more children and youth with emotional and social strengths and provide and encourage more youth to be meaningfully engaged in the community.

Lastly, Prosperous People, enhancing people’s economic wellbeing, includes priority outcomes ‘increased economic stability’ and ‘increased economic opportunity.’

The foundation’s core granting programs have also been replaced with four distinct focussed funding streams including See, Capital, Grow and Collective impact.

These will “ensure that fair comparisons can be made between grants of similar size, scope and purpose, to simplify the process of applying for and reporting on grants for organizations and in the case of the See and Capital Funds, to reduce the time between application and decision,” explains the OTF website.

Mr. Wilson explained that Seed Grants are starting projects at the idea or conceptual stage to achieve a priority outcome. The activities funded under this stream include conducting new research or feasibility studies, testing new approaches, hosting discussions about emerging issues or new opportunities, developing a new idea, launching a new event or convening people together. Seed Grants range from $5,000 to $75,000 and are up to a one-year term.

Grow Grants,

supporting evidence-based development of activities to achieve a priority outcome, fund activities such as replicating, adapting or scaling a proven model or piloting or demonstrating a tested model. The term for this funding stream is two to three years and ranges in the amount of $50,000 to $250,000 per year.

Capital Grants are grants that broaden access, improve community spaces and promote energy efficiency. Funded activities are: buying and installing equipment, doing renovations, installations and repairs, building structures or spaces and making better use of technological resources. The funding amount is from $5,000 to $150,000 for the term of up to one year.

The last of the new investment streams is Collective Impact Grants, grants that support collective strategy and transformative action in partnership with the foundation to tackle complex community issues and achieve a lasting change in at least on Priority Outcome.

Collective Impact Grants fund up to $500,000 per year, up to five years.

Mr. Wilson also reviewed the new grant application deadlines: Grow Grants, organization registration deadline on August 12, 2015 with the application deadline of August 26, 2015 and a second round with an organizational registration deadline on November 4, 2015 with an application deadline on December 2; and Seed and Capital Grants, organization registration deadline on August 19, 2015 with a application deadline of September 2, 2015 and a second round organization registration deadline on November 16, 2015 with an application deadline of January 6, 2016. Collective Impact Grants are being accepted on an ongoing basis.

Organization registration opens on Wednesday, July 22, 2015 and organizations are encouraged to register by Wednesday, August 12 (after this date the OTF cannot guarantee that registrations will be verified in time to provide access to the grant application, the OTF website notes).

Mr. Wilson also noted that municipalities would only be able to apply to Active People and Inspired People under the new model, but can partner with community groups to apply to other Action Areas.

He also explained that with the redesign, groups can submit as many applications at once as they would like, opposed to simply one application at a time in the past and that the turn around goal for applications is six to 10 weeks.

Mr. Wilson recommended that municipalities, First Nations, not-for-profit groups or organizations try the new self-assessment tool to see if a project is eligible.

For more information or to apply visit www.OTF.ca.