The concept of a foundation funded through government lotteries - but managed and directed by volunteers - developed that year as a result of a series of meetings between volunteers from nine charitable organizations and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism and Recreation. The charitable organizations represented in those meetings all had an interest in either obtaining or maintaining private charitable province-wide lottery licenses as a means of generating revenue for support of the services they provided to the community.
The Government of Ontario recognized that an opportunity existed to do something unique in the public interest. It proposed the allocation of funds for social services to be administered by an arms-length agency. This led to the establishment of the Trillium Foundation, which was received with great enthusiasm.
The Foundation's goal, from the very beginning, has been to build healthy and vibrant communities throughout Ontario, and to strengthen the capacity of the voluntary sector through investments in community-based initiatives.
On November 17, 1982, when the Trillium Foundation was formally incorporated, its committee structure was already well developed. Research into the needs of provincial charities was in progress, and the volunteers and staff spent many hours in designing and establishing guidelines and criteria for the granting of funds.
Fifteen requests were received by the first application deadline date of April 7, 1983 and the first grants approved June 3, 1983. All the grants were in the social service sector and the total approved was just over $15 million.
As the years went on, the Foundation's successful impact on communities was well established. In 1999, the government of Ontario increased the Foundation's funding to $100 million annually, and expanded its mandate to go further and deeper into widespread rural communities. This resulted in strategic investments and grant making in arts and culture, sports and recreation, the environment, as well as the social services sector.
Because of the substantial increase in budget and grant volume anticipated, 1999 also saw OTF introduce an innovative and transparent grant review model and process. From that time on, there have been16 separate catchment areas, and more than 320 volunteer Grant Review Team members representing these 16 catchment areas.
Currently, the OTF is mandated to allocate $120 million annually and has improved its grant processing to an easily accessible on-line electronic format. Grant programs have matured and deepened into three main groups: Community, Province-Wide and Future Fund grants.
Today, active in a wide range of projects and communities, the OTF repeatedly hears first hand how peoples' lives and communities have improved for the better.
Ontario communities' needs continue to be diverse and constantly changing. The Foundation continues to use its unique knowledge and experience in adapting and meeting these needs - from focusing its granting initiatives to meeting economic hard-time needs like skills retraining and employment, to addressing greener communities, or richer cultural communities promoting diversity and tolerance.