Grants can be game-changers for businesses, giving them a financial boost that can turn even the biggest ideas into reality. The thing is, the government grant landscape is both complex and dynamic. Grants that are available today may be closed tomorrow – or criteria can change with little notice. The application process can be time-consuming and confusing. Government funding agencies generally only approve about 25% of applications1. It’s not surprising that many business owners either don’t apply for grants in the first place or give up on the idea after a few failed attempts.
But it could be money left on the table.
With the right information and the right partners to help identify top priority programs, government grants can become the funding source that can help your business thrive – from helping you get online and creating employee training to developing expansion projects and equipment purchases.
Here are six tips to help you navigate the grant landscape.
Step 1: Apply for non-competitive grants and funding
Many grants are competitive and will only accept a handful of projects that best match the program’s objectives. However, there are government initiatives that are not competitive at all – meaning that if you meet the criteria, you qualify for the funding.
- Tax credit and incentive programs: Generally, any tax credit program would fall into this category, including Nova Scotia’s Capital Investment Tax Credit.
- In support of businesses affected by COVID-19: There are several available programs that can give you a financial boost if your business is facing challenges to make payroll, rent, and operating expenses.
- Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program (HASCAP): 10 Top Questions Answered
- Top 10 Questions Businesses Are Asking About the New Canada Emergency Rent Subsidy (CERS)
- Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS)
Step 2: Explore competitive grants for Canadian companies
Government grants are generally designed to provide funding to business owners who fulfill the criteria of the program. The criteria, such as location, industry, and funding needs, will depend on who is providing the funding, as well as the objective the grant is aiming to address.
- The recent federal budget announcement has topped up many of the existing programs and provided significant funding for new programs and initiatives in an effort to stimulate the economy.
- “Government grants are usually awarded to only the top 25% of applications that best meet the criteria, which makes the application process critical,” says Dan Civiero, Managing Partner at GrantMatch. “Take time to thoroughly review the program guide to determine whether your project fits the criteria, and will accomplish the goals the program is trying to achieve.”
- “Grants come and go and what’s available today may not be available next week, so it pays for owners to stay on top of current grants so they can take advantage of these opportunities. To help owners sift through all the available opportunities, we created the GrantMatch Funding Assessment & Strategy Tool [FAST] for RBC business clients which, after answering questions about your business, will instantly generate a curated list of available government funding opportunities and allow the user to subscribe to email updates,” says Civiero.
- Civiero further recommends that businesses do not try to stretch the goals of their project to fit the criteria, citing it’s likely a losing proposition.
Step 3: Do your research
Now that you’ve chosen a grant to apply for, it’s important to dig into the background of the fund and work with experts to create an application that puts your best foot forward.
Because the grant landscape is dynamic, it’s also important to stay on top of what’s happening in the moment. Civiero recommends prospective applicants gather as much information as possible when ready to apply. “The best approach is to call a program representative for a grant that you’re interested in to determine whether or not it’s open, and whether there are sufficient funds available for your project.”
Step 4: Reserve enough time to write a great application
Many businesses considering grants for the first time are surprised by the amount of effort involved in securing a grant approval. Generally, the larger the grant, the greater the effort, but even smaller grants need some time and attention to do them right. Given how competitive some grants are, it’s not a task to be approached casually.
It’s important to have the resources in place to complete a winning grant application, and to support any follow-up requirements that may be necessary before you can be approved for funding.
Step 5: Add government grants to your funding strategy and business planning
When applying for a competitive grant, you will be looking ahead to a new initiative or expansion (you don’t get grants for projects already completed, or even begun). As such, it’s important to include grant applications into your business and project plans early.
“It’s incredibly important to plan with grants in mind as soon as you have an idea of what the project is going to be,” says Civiero. “Sometimes, it takes months to get an answer from the governing authority and you can’t actually spend the money until you get the approval. So, you really have to be ahead of the game and be on top of the available programs.”
For example, Steam Whistle, Canada’s largest independent craft brewer, recently secured $1.33M in grant funding to help them move their business forward. “Government funding has been a great tool for us when it comes to purchasing new equipment, training staff, or pursuing green initiatives,” says Steam Whistle co-founder Cam Heaps.
Step 6: Get help – it’s out there!
To help them apply for and successfully obtain funding, the team at Steam Whistle used GrantMatch, a firm that specializes in securing government funding for businesses of all sizes throughout North America. “GrantMatch has helped us streamline the funding process so that we could focus on what we do best – brewing great beer,” says Heaps.
As a business owner in Canada, there are many resources available to help you plan, start, and grow your business. While GrantMatch is an expert in navigating the grant process, other organizations exist to help owners at different stages of their ventures. Futurpreneur, for instance, is a national non-profit organization that provides financing, mentoring, and support tools to aspiring business owners aged 18-39.
Learn more about GrantMatch and other Beyond Banking solutions, offers, and resources available to RBC business clients.
As you are planning for the future of your company, grants can be a great way to move your business forward. Armed with the right information and support, you can boost your chances of successfully tapping into the government funding that is available.
1 Source: GrantMatch 2021
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