Contributing to systemic change is possible — and starts local


That’s the number of Torontonians, in the last two years, who’ve said they don't have someone to rely on. Smaller community organizations have increasingly been filling that gap.1

Without a doubt, smaller and medium-sized organizations are delivering visionary work tackling Toronto’s inequities. Toronto Foundation’s newly-released Good to Give Guide highlights the recipients of the Toronto Vital Signs Grants; these organizations do transformative work to advocate for and create solutions for their communities. But more visibility and funding are needed so they can unlock increased capacity, sustainability, and ultimately, systemic change.


What do we mean by systemic change?

There are myriad definitions and applications, but simply put, it’s seeing equity embedded in all aspects of society. It’s preventative. It’s empowering individuals and organizations most directly impacted by the issues and addressing the root causes of persistent inequality. But it’s also chipping away at glaring symptoms and creating broader social change along the way.

Toronto’s Vital Signs Grantee organizations engage and serve groups that have been denied equity—or self-determination, in the case of Indigenous communities. These groups work to eliminate systemic barriers, improve outcomes, and facilitate access to opportunities, networks, resources and supports, so that more residents can reach their full potential. Some build up individual capacity and social capital, others scale up at a group level, while many advocate for change in practices, policies, laws and more. What drives them is a commitment to their communities that have been traditionally underserved and through our grants and this publication, we wish to put a spotlight on them.


Community organizations like these are the unsung essential heroes of the pandemic.

  • 40% face significantly higher service demands
  • 50% report reduced revenues
  • 50% of staff are burning out
  • 38% are dealing with lower volunteer hours
  • But, only 19% have seen an increase in capacity


Yet, despite the pressure, ever-adaptive sector organizations added new skills and capacity during the pandemic:

  • Some organizations grew with increased awareness of racial inequality.
  • Many groups are formalizing their advocacy.
  • Almost all say they’ll now blend online and physical programming.


How will diversifying your giving contribute to systemic change?

In Canada, 66% of all charitable revenue goes to only 1% of charitable organizations.2 The guide is a tool to help you diversify your giving by supporting urgent, under-the-radar work in Toronto —including issues you’ve always cared about, plus issues of social justice that need everyone engaged. With greater profile, support and funding, smaller organizations can make systemic changes using the insights and expertise of staff and the organization’s pivotal role in the community.



1. Derived from data that informed Toronto's 2021 Vitals Signs Report.

2. Imagine Canada, 2021