Our Story

Over 30 years of funding positive change

The Ontario Trillium Foundation (OTF) is an agency of the Government of Ontario and one of Canada’s leading granting foundations. Our investments in communities across the province help build healthy and vibrant communities. 

Our key funder, the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries enables us to provide grants that can make the greatest impact. OTF also administers grants on behalf of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. Last year, $115 million was invested into more than 644 projects in communities across the province. 

For more than 30 years, OTF grants have made an impact on the social, cultural and economic well-being of the people of Ontario. 

Read more about our story 

Our story began in the early 1980s. It was a difficult economic time for the non-profit sector. Government funding and private sector donations had decreased. Charities of all sizes were worried about how to fund needed programs and meet essential community needs.

A group of leaders in Ontario's charitable and private sector had a vision for a foundation that could play an important role in fostering a healthy and vibrant Ontario.

“The leadership of Trillium has been a co-operative effort from the beginning, involving some of the finest minds in the province, who, together, shared a vision that they could make a difference.” — John Craig Eaton, founding chairman

The group lobbied the provincial government to support* charitable work, and the Trillium Foundation was finally established in 1982 to help fund social service organizations in Ontario.

A lot has happened since then. Take a look at our grants awarded over the years.

Looking back

We marked 30 years of granting by asking OTF to reflect on the history, accomplishments, and impact of the Foundation. Read the report.

Looking ahead

As well as reflecting on the past, we took a look ahead to what the next 30 years could look like, including the changing role of the non-profit sector. Read the report.

Significant milestones

1982: A new funding agency

The Trillium Foundation—as OTF was originally called—was formed on November 17, 1982 to provide grants to social service organizations in Ontario communities and was funded through government lotteries.

1983: $15 million in grants

On April 7, 1983, the first deadline date, 15 applications were received. The first grants, totalling over $15 million, were approved two months later. All were in the social service sector.

1999: Increased funding and a broader mandate

The Ontario Government increased the Foundation's funding to $100 million annually, and expanded our mandate to cover arts and culture, sports and recreation, the environment, as well as social services. We also broadened our reach to support more rural communities, and connected with a growing number of volunteers to ensure a broad range of perspectives are represented in and inform grant-making decisions. Today, we work with over 300 volunteers.

2010: Community Capital Fund

On behalf of the Government of Ontario, we administered the Community Capital Fund. It was a $50 million fund that supported capital infrastructure projects to enable better program delivery for under-served communities.

2013: Youth Opportunities Fund

OTF began administering the Youth Opportunities Fund on behalf of the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. The ongoing fund provides grants and capacity building supports to grassroots groups, community-based organizations, and collaboratives focused on improving the wellbeing of children, youth, and families facing systemic barriers. Since 2013, the Youth Opportunities Fund has supported 237 grassroots groups and community collaboratives with over $68.1 million in funding, benefitting over 166,000 people.

2013-2014: A new Investment Strategy

Through our ReDesign2015 initiative, the Foundation developed new programs, services, and tools to help meet our goal of investing more than $1 billion over the next decade. Our new Investment Strategy invests for impact and includes:

  • Six new Action Areas
  • New Priority Outcomes for each Action Area
  • Three distinct, focused Investment Streams – Seed, Grow and Capital

2015: Start of a new era

Our new Investment Strategy allowed us to make strategic investments for impact in hundreds of projects annually that fit with our long term goals. New Seed, Grow, and Capital grants provided a streamlined approach to our funding to meet the needs of non-profits across Ontario. For the fiscal year 2015-2016, we supported 640 projects with over $100 million of funding.

2015: Collective Impact Stream

Over four years, our Collective Impact Stream supported collective strategy and transformative action which tackled complex community issues. Through this stream, we funded 83 projects with over $6.7 million.

2015: Local Poverty Reduction Fund

OTF partnered with the Treasury Board Secretariat (and ultimately moved to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services) to administer the Local Poverty Reduction Fund. The six-year, $50 million fund supports innovative, local, community-driven solutions that measurably improve the lives of those most affected by poverty.

2016: Ontario150 Community Capital Program

On behalf of the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries, we administered the Ontario150 Community Capital Program. It marked the 150th anniversary of Canada and the province of Ontario by providing one-time funding to support the repair, renovation, or retrofit of existing community facilities.

2020: Building Ontario's resiliency

In the summer of 2020, we launched the Resilient Communities Fund. It enables us to invest in projects of eligible non-profit organizations to aid their medium to longer-term recovery efforts, help with their stabilization, and build their capacity and resiliency in the aftermath of COVID-19.

Our story is still going strong. Since 2015, we have invested close to $613 million in support of over 3,600 projects across all of our programs.

We look forward to increasing our impact and strengthening our role in building healthy and vibrant communities across the province for decades to come.