Small Change Fund provides micro-funding for grassroots charities logo

In tough economic times, Canadians may be a little more conservative when it comes to donating their money to charity. However, a new Toronto startup is offering a way for people to support a worthy cause – even if they can only give a few dollars.

What do you get when you marry the micro-funding model offered by websites like Kickstarter with grassroots initiatives for social good? You get Small Change Fund. The non-profit organization is the first its kind in Canada to support other grassroots charities that are struggling to raise funds to support their cause.

Founded in 2009, Small Change Fund is the brainchild of two passionate women: Ruth Richardson and Mary McGrath Vyas. Both of them have extensive experience in fundraising and were inspired by the idea of experimenting with a new model that was based purely on the power of the collective.

“Think of it as a small group of people, in one corner of the country, receiving support for an issue, that could perhaps have never gathered steam otherwise, from people in another part of the country who would have probably never been able to bring about a positive change for the things they most care about,”says Ruth Richardson, Co-founder and Chair at  

In the first 18 months since Small Change Fund launched, the organization has raised over $150,000 for and with their 54 project partners and counting. They hope to reach $190,000 by the end of 2011.

Who do they support?
Headquartered at the Centre for Social Innovation Annex in Toronto, Small Change Fund currently supports projects focused on environmental change, social justice, aboriginal youth and food. Led by an expert panel of volunteer advisors from across the country, Small Change Fund vets and ranks every project before it is ready to be fundraised on the online platform.

In return for the money raised, Small Change Fund only asks that the project leaders submit a video testimonial, however amateur, to document the success they achieved as a result of the collective funding.

“It really is about raising a community of people who think alike, and who can come together and reach out. Sometimes, the gift of small is what you need to initiate change. If everyone did it, it would add up to something beautiful and life-altering for some,” says McGrath Vyas, Co-founder and Executive Director.

How can an organization qualify for micro-funding?
Every project must meet specific criteria before it is featured on the website – the primary being that it is related to conservation of the environment, social justice, lending a voice the to indigenous, preserving food or educating youth.

Every charitable organzization that wishes to connect to an audience through the Small Change Fund platform has to provide details about the amount of money they want to raise and how they plan to spend it.

Who have they helped so far?
Small Change Fund already has success stories to share. From raising money to help buy a motor for a boat to assist the Fundy Baykeepers’s efforts of documenting activities in Fredericton, New Brunswick, to preventing industrial impact in the Peel Watershed in Yukon Territory, Small Change Fund has helped small communities access support and funding that would have perhaps been out of their reach.

You can watch videos of past projects that have been funded by Small Change Fund on YouTube.

How to get involved
Even if you cannot afford to contribute through donations, Small Change Fund welcomes support through volunteering, encouragement or word-of-mouth. To learn more about Small Change Fund or to make a donation, visit