Small Change Fund

Founded in Toronto in 2009, Small Change Fund has been strengthening the capacity of people and organizations to build lasting change from the ground up. We support important community projects that put decision-making in the hands of local people and contribute to social and environmental change.

Growing the Future, a Small Change Funded project by Greenest City in Toronto, Ontario.Our Impact Why We Exist

Small Change Fund improves the health and resilience of ecosystems and communities across Canada by strengthening the capacity of people and organizations working at the community level to protect the environment, live sustainably, and gain a voice in their own future. 

We envision a society in which: 

  • Communities have the financial capacity to determine and actualize their visions of sustainability, and link these visions to broader national and international efforts.
  • Canadians understand the sustainability issues facing their own and other communities across Canada, and engage directly with community-based efforts to create positive change.

As a global community we face big challenges such as loss of natural habitat, unhealthy food systems, climate change, and pollution. At a global level these issues are complex and overwhelming, but at the local level they can be translated into practical actions and tangible impacts. That’s precisely why small, local solutions can make the most difference.

Yet, less than 1% of charitable dollars in Canada goes to community groups – to projects led by unsung champions with a wealth of creativity, knowledge, vision, and passion but a shortage of financial support.

We’re on a mission to change this.

We harness the power of storytelling to create a network of engaged community support around local environmental projects from coast-to-coast-to-coast. And we use social technology to drive community engagement to action to build stronger, more resilient communities all across Canada.

This way, people working at the community in Toronto can raise funds from supporters across the street, across Canada, and the world!

And, our advisor network helps us to ensure that we work with high impact projects. They provide that essential ingredient that makes our model so simple, and yet so powerful: local knowledge. Through their expert advice, we’re overcoming the barriers to democratizing community philanthropy.

Water, Boots and Bugs: Engaging Young Citizen Scientists, a Small Change Funded Project by EcoSpark in Toronto, Ontario.Our Story What We Do

History of Organization

In 2007, Ruth Richardson and Mary McGrath Vyas, our founders, were working on environmental issues in Toronto and saw people working at the community level struggling to find funding that was timely and appropriate. In 2009 Small Change Fund was launched as a way to enable community leaders to connect directly with supporters. We gained support from funders who believe in community action for building a resilient and inclusive civil society, and within six months we were able to support more than 15 community projects. 

Since our inception as a registered charity in 2009, we have helped over 195 community groups across Canada raise over $445,000 for their projects from over 1200 supporters

Accolades and Accomplishments

In 2010, we were honoured with a Tides Top 10 award for the potential of our online project based fundraising model to create lasting change in communities. In our first year of operation, Small Change Fund received a two-year capacity grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to strengthen our organization and to experiment with our model to reach deeper into communities. With this grant we were able to launch the Give Forward Fund in December 2011, an experiment in creating layered networks of capacity in which grassroots groups give grants forward to smaller initiatives that they believe have high impact potential.

We are being increasingly recognized for the potential of our model to create a more inclusive civil society from the ground up. In recognition of our success in building trust and relationships with aboriginal communities, Small Change Fund has been invited to participate on the steering committee of the Ashoka ChangeMakers program focused on First Nations, Inuit and Metis education. We have also been invited to participate in the Aboriginal Youth Collaborative of the Public Policy Forum.

In 2012, Small Change Fund was a recipient of the Toronto Community Foundation’s Vital Ideas grant which enabled us to further our protocols to measure our impact, integrate our lessons learned into our organization’s planning, and to better share our results with other organizations.

We have been the recipient of over 25 investments and grants from foundations and companies from across Canada. Most recently, we secured a partnership with Aveda Atlantic, an eco-conscious beauty brand,that has partnered with us to support community initiatives that are working to protect freshwater in Atlantic Canada.

A Fresh Approach: Our Community Cannery, a Small Change Funded Project by the West End Food Co-op.Our Programs How We Do It

Small Change Fund mobilizes community leaders across Canada to plan, fund and implement the ideas that create positive environmental change in their own communities.

To do this, we use four core programs that help community leaders build the financial and social capital they need from within their communities. Each program address a specific gap that has been identified by our community partners:

Program Area #1: Digital Storytelling for Social Impact

  • Goal: Build awareness and understanding of environmental issues at a community level and engage community members to take action with local initiatives
  • Summary: Through an innovative storytelling internship program, we’re creating a Story Marketplace to capture/promote compelling stories of community action that inspire people to take action to improve and protect their community

Program Area #2: Community Leader Coaching

  • Goal: Increase the success rate of fully supported projects on our Project Marketplace from 55% to 85%
  • Summary: Through a strategic engagement plan, we’re helping community leaders scope, plan and strategize successful crowdfunding/sourcing campaigns by creating an online resource toolkit, providing 1:1 coaching and building partnerships with matched-funders

Program Area #3: Crowdfunding and Crowdsourcing for Financial and Social Capital

  • Goal: Create 10,000 volunteer opportunities with community initiatives across Canada within the next five years; increase the financial and social capital for local projects from within the project community
  • Summary: Through our Project Marketplace, we’re connecting the stories of community action and current events to opportunities for supporters to get involved, make a donation, provide in-kind support and volunteer with local community projects

Program Area #4: Learning Networks

  • Goal: Deepen connections between community leaders (by issue and geography)
  • Summary: Through a simple online framework, we’re helping community leaders share their knowledge with groups leading similar initiatives and learn from others to improve their programs

Participant Vignette

"We want to see more outreach to people who are low income, have physical and psychiatric disabilities in Parkdale, but that takes money, takes time and energy to actually engage those communities to say we can support you in coming to this workshop." -Ayal Dinner

In 2011, we supported the West End Food Co-op's (WEFC) Community Canning Program. WEFC provides access to healthy food and workshops to people in the Parkdale neighborhood of Toronto. The WEFC approached us because they needed a small amount of support to subsidize spaces for low-income participants in their popular canning workshops, and they did not have a way to reach potential donors. They also wanted to get the word out on their programs to encourage more people to support the Co-op. We worked directly with Ayal Dinner at WEFC to build his, and his organization's capacity. We provided media training from Pilot PMR - a local PR company, and secured several media opportunities for WEFC, including coverage in the Grid weekly paper, an appearancr on Breakfast TV, and an interview on CBC's Metro Morning. Ayal and the Co-op raised over $1,500 for their project, and donations continue to come in to support them.

What You Can Do

Your generous support and donations will provide Small Change Fund with the ability to: 

  • Help us find—and fund—more environmental community projects
  • Support the most innovative projects that are vitally important and exciting to be part of, but may be too small for traditional funding
  • Give at the local level, connecting small change to big impact
  • Allow us to seed or top-up projects that need a lift
  • Invest in the movement that is Small Change Fund
  • Operate Small Change Fund as a non-profit organization
  • Share the stories of community action from across Toronto on a national platform

Small Change Fund exists because we believe that community action is the heart and soul of positive change. In the face of tough times and complex challenges, local solutions make the most difference.  With a simple donation to Small Change Fund, you can make a real and significant impact by suporting local projects that need just a small amount of money to do something big.  

Thank you for starting something big with small change!

“I’ve been a proud supporter of Small Change Fund since they started in 2009 and it is the relentless energy of these small, community-based projects which first caught my wallet and continues to inspire me. I revel in being part of Small Change Fund projects, and sharing our dreams for the brightest possible future for our planet. And as a grandfather, I’m particularly keen on the projects that engage kids.” – David Love, Advisor and Donor, King City, ON


Aisling Nolan
Executive Director
Charitable Number: 803355692RR0001

Finance & Governance

Annual Operating Budget: 
$ 308,250


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