At its inception, the NET began experimenting with new ways for providing infrastructure support and researching innovative and emerging methods for online giving and micro-philanthropy. We did so while maintaining our priority objective to build an endowment fund.


June 4th and 5th, 1998

Paving the Yellow Brick Road was a specific experimental fundraising initiative, holding a populist, fun-filled event with bands, buskers and clowns on a major street in Ottawa (the pedestrian Sparks Street Mall). It was designed to model the vision of the NET, that every person can make a difference and challenged the Ottawa community to put down their loonies on the Yellow Brick Road for the Environment. This pilot was highly successful in creating a fun-filled event featuring the NET, largely due to the diversity and quality of support received from our partners from the Ottawa/Carleton community. Led by Ottawa businessman, Dave Smith, partners included Lever Pond’s, the Canadian Biodiversity Institute, Loblaws, Ottawa 2000, Lisgar Collegiate Institute, Party Time Rentals, Shriner Klowns, Royal Canadian Legion Branch 632, Canus Plastics Inc., the Sparks Street Mall Authority, and musicians Colores Andions and Cocha Marka. The first two people to spontaneously lay down a loonie were a homeless youth and a person in a wheelchair.



Environment Canada commissioned a feasibility study in September 1997 to determine the funding gaps in the environmental community, to examine what has worked or not worked with broad-based funding programs such as the United Way, and to explore alternative mechanisms. The study subsequently revealed four broad factors affecting the funding abilities of environmental non-government groups: scale, diversity, increasing competition for fewer and fewer fund, and an overall shift to more conservative funding everywhere, by industry, governments and foundations. All the environmental groups interviewed (32) stated there had been a consistent downward trend by governments, foundations and the private sector in funding core capacity, which has multiple effects on groups. Consequently, more time and money is spent on fundraising than on program activities, and both government and their public constituencies would benefit from a more targeted and strategic system of funding.


November 1998 to April 2000

The NET, in partnership with TerraChoice Environmental Services and the UNESCO Canada MABNet Ecoschools Program developed a project proposal for a coupon book that featured a range of environmentally preferable products and environmental services used by individual householders and small businesses. By linking individual consumer choices with climate change, it also served a critical educational purpose. Anticipated distribution was through elementary and secondary schools as part of the EcoSchools Program, post-secondary student unions, ENGOs, youth groups such as girl guides and boy scouts, community groups such as Rotary Clubs and the Knights of Columbus, and seniors’ groups, for example, the Legion and Elderhostel.


The project failed to attract funding for the printing and distribution of the books. From the focus group testing for product uptake, we learned that even committed environmentalists would not choose an environmentally friendly product over another, if it was not price neutral. Securing distribution through the school system also proved problematic, and without primary funding, the project was dropped.


June 5th, 2001 & May 28th, 2002

Two events were hosted to experiment with increasing both profile and fundraising potential in using eco-auctions for the environmental movement. The first, held at the Ottawa Civic Centre (hyperlink to poster), was led by Leslie-Ann Robertson, and the second was led by Jamie Laidlaw, at the Canadian Museum of Nature (hyperlink to poster). Board member Dave Smith catered a dinner for each event at cost. Both events were sold out and all items, in both the silent and live auctions, were bid upon.


Although they were successful fundraisers, what we learned from the auctions is that they are very labour intensive and need at least a full-time coordinator or executive director to lead the exercise. Communities are very willing to make high-end donations. The first auction, organized by a core of volunteers, was very successful and appreciated.


April 1, 2009 to 2011

The NET provided infrastructure capacity to help establish the Small Change Fund with the leadership of then Board member, Ruth Richardson. The Small Change Fund within two years was launched in partnership with Tides Canada. Its mission is to raise funds for environmental solutions, for community engagement, and for Indigenous reconciliation. Over 170 community groups have now been funded, 205 projects funded with 1,345 donors.