We’ve put together a high-level summary of the grant life cycle to help you with this. Let’s get to it!
The grant application process consists of several distinct stages. Depending on the program you’re applying to, you’ll move through the stages at different speeds. It’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the process so that you know what to expect. We’ve put together a high-level summary of the grant life cycle to help you with this. Let’s get to it!
If you’ve been following along with our guidebook chapters, you won’t be surprised to hear us emphasize the importance of preparation. We can’t think of a more frustrating experience than filling out 90% of a non-saving webform, only to realize that you’re missing some of the documents you need to submit it. Alternatively: you leave your application until the last minute, then discover it requires significantly more information than you anticipated. Don’t put yourself in these situations! Review applicant guides carefully to ensure you have all the info you need to get your business funded.
The second stage of the grant life cycle is submission. If you took the “preparation” part seriously, submission should be pretty easy, but there are a few things to be aware of. Most federal and provincial grants use an online portal system that will require you to create a secure login. These portals have been known to give trouble when subject to higher-than-average volume, which is why you shouldn’t leave your application to the last minute. There can be dozens (or hundreds!) of people trying to hit “submit” at the eleventh hour on the last day of the intake window. If you’re one of them and the portal crashes, you’re in trouble!
Smaller programs often use an email submission model instead of a portal. If the program doesn’t provide instructions on file formats and naming conventions, you’ll want to contact them for clarification. These details may seem trivial, but many programs are competitive, so they’re always looking for ways to weed out applications. Trust us: you don’t want to get a rejection just because your files are incorrectly formatted!
Once you’ve submitted your application, you’ll have to wait to find out if it is approved, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to wait to start your project. Grants have clear rules about when you can begin incurring reimbursable expenses. For example, a particular hiring grant might stipulate that your grant-funded employee cannot begin working until after the funding agreement has been signed, in which case, you’ll be waiting on an approval notice to onboard the employee. However, a different hiring grant might provide retroactive funding for hours worked prior to the approval date.
Similarly, some market expansion grants require the funding agreement to be in place before any expenses are incurred, but others will reimburse expenses incurred between submission and approval. Make sure you understand the rules that apply to your grant, and remember that funding is not guaranteed until the funding agreement is signed.
Exactly how long will it take to get an approval letter? Well, that depends. The more money on the line, the longer the adjudication process will be. Here are some estimates for different types of grants:
You’re approved! The words every grant-seeker wants to hear. Usually, the approval notice will arrive in your email inbox, and it’s not uncommon for it to end up in the spam folder, so make sure you’re checking your spam regularly if you’re expecting a funding decision.
What’s next? You’ll find the answers in your funding agreement, a key document that outlines the terms and conditions of your grant, and the responsibilities that fall to you as the grant recipient. You’ll need to sign this document and return it to the funder, and – take note! – there is usually a deadline for this step. If you don’t return the signed agreement in time, you could lose the funds. Don’t let that email get buried!
With approval in place, it’s time to start spending money on your project. Check out our other guides for a detailed breakdown of what this looks like for different types of grants. Remember to review the instructions in your applicant guide and funding agreement so that you know what information the program requires for expense claims and progress reports. At minimum, the following will be required:
The funder may request additional documentation, so keep your funding agreement handy, and don’t be afraid to contact a program officer if you’re unsure about any of the requirements. Most programs will also demand a final report of some kind. For smaller grants, this could be a simple survey. Larger grants will require a more thorough summary of project outcomes.
You might think that the grant process ends once you’ve been reimbursed for the expenses covered by the grant, and on some level, you’d be right. In the majority of cases, there is little for the applicant to do at this point. However, at Granted, we tend to think of the grant application process as cyclical, not linear. The end of a particular project or internship is a good opportunity to reflect on the impact the funding had on your business, and decide where you want to go next, and how grant funding can help you get there.
It’s also important to note that funders occasionally audit past recipients of grants. Your funding agreement should include instructions for how long you need to keep documents after the completion of the project. Usually, this period is at least 3 years. We recommend keeping a dedicated folder for each project in secure cloud storage. Here, you can store copies of funding agreements, claims forms, proof of payment, and any other relevant documents.