You’ve probably heard about all the government money going around these days. And you probably want some of it for your startup or small business. Here’s how:
1. Be prepared
Before even thinking about writing an application, you need to get your ducks in a row. This includes being incorporated, which is almost always an eligibility requirement. If you aren’t yet, there’s a good lawyer who would be happy to help. It’s also a good idea to have your finances and accounting sorted. Government of Canada grants typically require your company to be in good standing with the CRA, and others will require your company to have an established payroll system.
Perhaps most importantly, do some research to find the right grant for your business. This is so important. You want to find an opportunity that fits your company’s mission and stage of development, but also offers what you’re looking for.
So what do you want? Funding to hire a new employee? Funding for an existing employee? To participate in an accelerator? Mentorship on how to raise your seed round? Training on how to expand into new markets?
Now, it’s not easy to find that ‘goldilocks’ grant opportunity. There are an endless number of opportunities out there, and reading about them can be a drag. Fortunately, there is the Business Benefits Finder by the Government of Canada. This is a fun-ish tool that asks you to fill out 10-15 questions and provides grant funding suggestions tailored to your business. It’s so easy and innovative that you might have a hard time believing it was made by the government!
In short, your business goals should always be your north star on this grant funding journey. Don’t hunt for funding unless you know how it will help achieve your goals.
2. Nail the application
Once you’ve found the right opportunity, it is time to devise a compelling narrative about why your company is a great fit for this funding opportunity. The first step is to know your audience.
It is imperative to understand the objectives of the funding program. Are they trying to help recent graduates get jobs in the tech sector? If so, emphasize that your company is tech-y, and that a recent graduate is exactly what you need to take your company to the next level. And if the funding program is trying to help social impact companies to achieve critical mass? Then emphasize your ESG credentials and pursuits (like a B Corp certification), and that the money they’re offering would provide a tangible benefit to your company and the community.
In short, tell the version of your story that aligns with your audience’s objectives.
Second tip: don’t give them an excuse to rule you out. Pay attention to detail, especially when it comes to answering their questions and including all the requested supporting materials. Put yourself into the shoes of someone reviewing the application, who’s trying to reduce their stack of 30 applications to 10. A missing financial statement makes her decision a lot easier (it’ll be a no).
After you’ve put together a strong argument, submit and wait. Be patient, these program funders have a lot on their plate.
3. Report and Repeat
Congratulations, your application has been successful! Time to do all the work you promised and provide proof, too.
You’ll likely need to sign a contribution agreement that outlines what is expected of both the funder and the company. Then there’s reporting, which takes place after (and sometimes throughout) the program. Reporting typically involves submitting pay stubs for subsidized workers, and writing a summary of your activities and their impact. And there is always a survey.
It’s important to be professional and build relationships with the organizations and people managing these programs. Not only will this grease the wheels on your collaboration, but having a reputation as a company that is professional and has growth potential will help your chances of securing future funding.