Top 5 Strategies to Win Canadian Government Business Grants
Since 2001, we have worked on more than 6,000 government grant applications and secured over $15 million in funding for small and medium sized businesses in Canada. At a 92% success rate, we’ve learned a lot about the most effective ways to secure funding for small and medium sized businesses.
We want to share and dive into the top 5 grant application strategies your business can implement immediately to maximize your chances of getting interest-free money.
What Many Business Owners Don’t Know About Grants
Before we get into the details of the best grant practices, it’s important to understand that when a company is awarded government grants, funders rarely send money up front. Instead, businesses are reimbursed after implementing projects.
This is what normally happens:
- The company first pays for the business expenses and activities
- The company makes a claim with the appropriate receipts along with a detailed report
- The funders will make sure that all of the expenses meet the grant requirements
- All of the eligible expenses will be reimbursed to the company
If you don’t report the details properly and by the grant deadlines, there’s a chance they won’t approve you the next time you apply for funding.
Government business grants can be used successfully as a part of any company’s financing strategy. But companies should never use grants to fund the business 100%. You’ll need to have some money to pay for the expenses first and then get reimbursed after.
Many businesses we work with are surprised to learn that many of the business activities they are already engaged in are fit for a variety of government business grants.
Grant Strategy #1: Plan your Business Objectives Before Researching Canadian Government Grants
We often see companies changing their business strategy to fit grant criteria. Don’t do this! It’s not sustainable to let grants drive your business, especially because grant criteria change all of the time. Some programs can stop altogether at any time depending on the government’s priorities.
For example, if an agricultural company in BC wants to promote their food products to more markets, there are business expansion grants that are willing to pay for product labeling, social media and packaging. This can save on a significant amount of costs that would normally come out of the company’s pocket.
In this case, the government grant supports an activity and growth strategy that the business is already implementing. The agricultural company is not changing their business strategy just to meet the criteria of a particular grant they want.
Key Grant Planning Tips and Tricks
1) Outline your business objectives
Before you even start researching grants, outline what your business objectives are in the next year or 18 months. Do you want to expand your team, promote to international markets or train your staff? List all of these details and then search for the appropriate grants that support these objectives.
2) Speak with the grant program advisor or officer
Every government grant has as program officer or advisor that you can contact for more information or guidance. These program officers actually prefer that businesses contact them before applying for grants to discuss their project. This way, it will increase the chances of getting quality applicants and ensuring companies qualify for the grant before putting a lot of time and energy into preparing an application.
When you get on the phone with the program advisor, the best thing to do is tell them as much as you can about your project or plan. Good questions to ask are:
- When will I know if my application is approved?
- Should I wait to start my project until my application is approved?
- How often or when will I receive the grant funding?
- Are any of the activities that I described in my project that are ineligible for funding?
- Can my project lapse over multiple years (government fiscal year)?
- What is my deadline to submit the application?
Taking the time to call the program advisor allows you to understand what they are really looking for in government grant applications. Doing this extra work will put you well ahead of other applicants.
Grant Strategy #2: Research, Research, Research
Government grants are a reflection of the government’s priorities and to encourage the kind of activities they want to see around the country. Try to learn what the government wants to support by looking at budget announcements. They often outline how funding would be spent.
Keep researching on an ongoing basis to ensure you don’t miss new government grants. New programs pop up all of the time. Often many of the business grants don’t even have enough applicants! By doing more research, you can easily grab more funding for your company.
At Granted, we needed to hire an intern for a few months to complete specific projects because we didn’t have the resources to do it. We received one of the many hiring grants to have someone finish the short-term projects projects so our team could focus on our main business operations.
Speaking of hiring grants, right now, if your company is looking to hire someone under 30 years old, there’s a lot of funding for that! Get the money while you can.
“What Happens if I Miss a Government Grant Deadline?”
There are government grants that renew every year or on a quarterly basis. Sometimes when programs open, only 50% of the pot was used so the government will reopen it or extend the deadline to get more quality applicants.
You would be amazed how easy it can be get some grants with a quality proposal simply because the programs didn’t have enough applicants. A recent example of this for us was with the Post Secondary Youth Internship Program. The last time this grant opened was late November 2018, which was odd timing because it is so close to the holidays when people weren’t hiring then and also close to the end of the government’s fiscal year (March 31st), which means less time for the grant program to use their funding.
The grant stayed open until the end of March 2019 because they were not able to use their entire budget before then. For our clients, the application process was so easy and the program advisors are working quickly to approve applications so they could use their budget.
By late January 2019, the program announced that they had money left over and they would now be covering $14/hour instead of the original $8/hour. This is to ensure that they used their budget before the end of the gov fiscal year. This was great news for our clients because they will get more money!
Be Prepared for the Next Round
Make sure you are ready the next time the government grants reopen. You can’t just throw an application together the week of the deadline. You may need quotes, letters of support a copy of your financials depending on the requirements. Don’t rush this work because missing documentation can easily result in a rejected application.
If you are applying for more funding like business expansion grants or projects related to innovation, you should give yourself a month to prepare all of the documents. This includes doing market research and understanding who your target market is. All of these details are important because the government are stewards of our tax dollars and they don’t want to be giving money easily for any project.
Grant Strategy #3: Have the Grant Application Guide by Your Side to Prevent Avoidable Mistakes
The only constant in grants is change.
Just when you think you know a grant inside out, the government changes it on a whim. One program we worked on for clients changed 84 times in 4 years!
Who qualifies for support, funding amounts and reimbursement timing can be different from the last time you read the requirements. Never assume what worked for you last year will work every year.
For example, one government grant program may start with offering $20,000 in a specific sector. If the program fails quickly, the funding may change to $10,000.
The Grant Application Guide Your Best Friend
To overcome this challenge of constant grant changes, have the application guide next to you every time you apply for a grant. We know it’s tempting to rush and get the application out the door, but missing key details can cost you at least thousands of dollars because of a rejected application!
While double checking the grant details may sound simple, many business owners don’t do this. You can print the application guide and or have it open on your desktop as you do the grant application to cross reference every point to avoid missing anything.
We had a client who applied for a grant with a tight deadline. She read through the necessary documentation and prepared everything. But after she completed the application, she didn’t check it against the scoring guide and missed components that were required by the program.
Grant Strategy #4: Provide Accurate Government Grant Reporting Details
The real work begins after approval.
Many people mistakenly think that most of the work is done once they get approved for a government grant and that they simply get a big pot of cash. In reality, applying for a grant and getting approved is only about 20% to 30% of the actual work that is required.
After receiving a Canadian government grant, these are the kind of documents that businesses often have to submit:
- Interim reports
- Claim documents
- Expense tracking
- Site visits
- Change requests
- Final reports
The Importance of Providing Accurate Spending Reports
When you apply for a government grant, you’re telling the funder exactly how you will spend the money. If you change your plans on how you spend your dollars without telling the funder, don’t expect to be reimbursed for the expenses.
For example, let’s say a company was awarded a business expansion grant to promote their products in the US. After receiving the good news about the grant, a new opportunity comes up to expand business in the UK and the company spends their grant money to go to trade shows in England. Some owners automatically and mistakenly assume, “This is still under international expansion, I’ll be covered.”
By the company submits their expense receipts and all of the funder sees are trade show expenses for England, they will say “These expenses don’t qualify, no reimbursement for you.” Well, that’s not exactly how funders speak, but it’s generally what they’re thinking.
It’s always best to contact the program representative and ask for permission to make sure your changed plans will be covered by the grant before you spend your money. This is definitely not a case where it’s better to ask for forgiveness than permission because it will cost you big time. Literally.
Grant Strategy #5: Appeal Rejections
If your grant application gets rejected, that doesn’t mean that you will never be funded if you try again in the future.
After a rejected application, find out why you didn’t get the grant and learn from your experience. Again, contact the program advisor to find out why you got rejected. Keep a copy of your application and mark it up with suggestions.
We manage clients’ grants and they pass our detailed grant screening process to ensure a quality application has been submitted. In cases where they still get rejected, we personally follow up with the grant program staff to advocate for our clients. We will look through the details and say “Can you please explain where exactly in the application this does not qualify?” 8 out of 10 times, the rejection was overturned for our clients and they got the grant!
Of course this can only be done when every criteria is researched and met. A rejection can’t be reversed when applicants don’t bother to read and meet the requirements, which unfortunately happens a lot.
Get Automated Grant Updates or Outsource the Application Process
Most small and medium sized companies don’t have the time to research and keep monitoring all of the details of grants.
That’s no problem! You have two options to save your time and get access to interest-free government funding:
1. Let Us Do All of the Hard Work for You
Our grant gurus manage clients’ application from beginning to end so they can focus on running their business. Take advantage of our insider knowledge and years of experience.
2. Use Our DIY GetGranted App
This is our automated grant matching service that will search for relevant government grants in seconds! GetGranted guides your application from start to finish and all of the program criteria is translated into plain English. The app is managed by our experienced Canadian government grant consultants A.K.A grant gurus.
GetGranted is perfect if you aren’t in a position to have our grant gurus personally manage your application. All you have to do is:
- Sign up for a free trial and make a business profile
- Get a list of grants that your business could be eligible for
- Get automated updates as you qualify for new programs so you don’t have to keep checking manually
After doing over 6,000 Canadian business grant applicants, we’ve learned the best grant strategies to get funding for small and medium sized businesses. Your company can leverage these top five strategies immediately to maximize your chances of accessing at least thousands of dollars in government grants:
- Grant strategy #1: Plan your business objectives before researching Canadian government grants
- Grant strategy #2: Research, research, research
- Grant strategy #3: Have the grant application guide by your side to prevent avoidable mistakes
- Grant strategy #4: Provide accurate government grant reporting details
- Grant Strategy #5: Appeal rejections
If you don’t have time to research and keep track of all of the grant details, you have two options:
- You can let our experienced grant consultants manage the full grant application process from beginning to end
- Use our GetGranted app to get automatic updates on what Canadian government business grants your company qualifies for
Please contact us anytime you have questions. We would love to learn about your business and help you secure government grants to grow your business.