Oak Tree 1

The Oak Tree Project was launched in 2014 to demonstrate how philanthropy is changing by engaging communities and strengthening local non-profits.

Strengthening the roots of our community's charitable sector

When charities have strong roots beneath them, they are more resilient with the best infrastructure, people, tools, and resources to do their work. This means they have the strength to do better for the community – today and for generations to come. To launch the Oak Tree Project, the overarching theme surrounded strengthening the roots of our community’s charitable sector.

The winning charity received a $5,000 donation to support their work in the community.


To make this initiative a success we relied on the entire community to play a role. The project invited charities to submit and idea, and then members of the community to jump online and tell stories about their favourite charity. Each story served as a nomination, and the five agencies collecting the most nominations moved into the finals. In total, 23 charities generated nearly 1,000 stories about their work. 

The finalists were asked to submit a detailed plan of how they will spend $5,000. That plan, along with selected nominations, was reviewed by a panel of judges. Charities also provided a five minute “pitch” at a finale event, with guests voting on the project they felt should win. The grand prize winner was determined through tallying number of stories, judges’ scores, and votes during the event. 

We invited all the charities that participated in the project and included a mechanism for all of them to leave with a little bit of money. Guests were able to make a $10 donation at the door and receive two $5 poker chips to put towards charities of their choice at the event.

The first iteration of the Oak Tree Project awarded more than $20,000 to 23 local charities, and resulted in 1000 impact stories.


For the first ever Oak Tree Project event, Shelldale Family Gateway was awarded the $5,000 donation in response to their impact stories within this community. The non-profit enriches lives in the Willow Road areas of Guelph, supporting the healthy development of young children and strengthening families.

The four other finalists:

Oak Tree Project 1 brought great success, not just through funds for local charities, but through the impact stories and conversations surrounding our community.

“What I didn’t anticipate was the quality of the messages we were going to get, which we can use to describe our impact. It brings me to tears when I read what was written. We’ve gotten so much out of it,” said Laura Muirhead, executive director of the Child Witness Centre.

Finale Photos

Hear only some of the impact stories received through the Oak Tree Project that Children’s Foundation received and used to create the following video.

*Shelldale Family Gateway: Formerly known as Onward Willow Better Beginnings, Better Futures