Grants for Small Business Guidebook
The Grant Process

Applying for small business grants in Canada is a consistent process, so if you know the steps you’ll be well equipped to navigate through it.

Summary: 

  • The small business grant application process has six phases: preparation, submission, adjudication, approval, post-approval, and post-project.
  • The grant application process is complex, so be sure to read through the Applicant Guide carefully so you know exactly what you need to do.
  • Your Funding Agreement will be your primary resource post-approval for knowing your responsibilities.
  • After your grant is complete and you have received the funds, be sure to keep all your files on hand to protect your grant funding in the event of an audit.

The grant application process is, in a word, complicated. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t doable! Applying for small business grants in Canada is a consistent process, so if you know the steps you’ll be well equipped to navigate through it. 

We’ve put together a high level summary of the grant lifecycle – let’s dive in!

Preparation

Before you apply for grants in Canada, you need to gather the required documents. To find out exactly what you need, you’ll refer to the Applicant Guide for the specific program. The Applicant Guide will be your best friend because it contains everything you’ll need to know about the grant you’re interested in. Some grants (such as hiring and training grants) only require a few documents, while others (such as market expansion grants) require many supporting documents. The level of preparation required will determine how long it will take you to put your application together. 

Submission

Once you have your documents put together, you’ll move toward the daunting task of finalizing and submitting your application. This varies between grant programs as it depends on the infrastructure in place to accept applications. Programs administered by the provincial or federal government often have online portals where you make an account and submit your application. Other smaller programs, or less common ones, ask you to submit your application via email. It’s very important to know how the program wants to receive your submission, as they’ll have specific requirements you need to adhere to. If you submit an application without the proper document naming conventions, you won’t make a good impression with the program. 

Adjudication

After you’ve submitted your grant application package comes the waiting game. This can be the toughest part of the grant application process, as there’s nothing you can do to speed it up. The turnaround time varies depending on the complexity and size of the grant. The timeline for each grant type is as follows: 

  • Hiring grants: ~2 weeks
  • Training grants: up to 3 months
  • Market Expansion grants: 3-6 months

While you won’t know the exact date you’ll hear from the program, it’s important to keep these timelines in mind, particularly with time-sensitive applications. This more so applies to hiring and training grants that have hard deadlines for start dates, so be on the lookout for communication from the program. If your start date is nearing and you haven’t received an answer, you can reach out to the program to get an update on your application. It’s important to know that the grantors are busy processing hundreds of applications, so only reach out if you have a deadline just around the corner. 

Approval

After the program has assessed your application, you’ll receive the funding decision. Whether you submitted through an online portal or via email, the program will notify you of any updates. This is most often done via email, so be sure to watch your inbox. Sometimes application updates are automatically generated and flagged as spam, so consider checking your junk mail if you’ve submitted a grant application. 

How do you know if you’ve been approved? How do you accept the terms of a grant? How do you know what to do next? All of these questions are answered in a Funding Agreement. The Funding Agreement will describe the terms and conditions of your grant approval. It’s very important to read this document thoroughly to ensure you understand what’s required of you as you move into the post-approval stage of the grant. To secure your grant approval, you’ll sign the Funding Agreement and send it back to the program. If you don’t sign it within the specified timeframe (usually 10-20 business days), you risk forfeiting the funds. 

Post-Approval

Once you’ve received your approval, the fun can begin – spending your project funding! The exact process will vary depending on the grant type, so be sure to check out our other guides that break this down into hiring, training, and market expansion processes. 

An important part of the post-approval process is the reporting requirements. Grants require small business owners to incur the expenses up front and submit claims for reimbursement. To receive your reimbursement, your claim needs to include all the required information and documentation. Per grant type, the required documents for claims are as follows: 

  • Hiring grants: pay stubs and timesheets 
  • Training grants: receipt for the training course and proof of payment
  • Market Expansion grants: filled out claim form, receipts for your expenses and proof of payment

These are the basic documents that you’ll need in order to submit your claim. Larger programs, most commonly market expansion grants, also require a final report at the end of the project. For specific reporting requirements, the applicant guide and your Funding Agreement will outline exactly what you need to do to get your grant funding.  

Post-Project

It’s a common misconception that the grant life cycle ends once the funds are received. While there are no steps to take, there are some administrative requirements for you to be aware of. 

Many grant programs require successful applicants to keep all documents on file for a determined amount of time. For example, this time period for most market expansion programs is three years. The purpose of this is to have your documentation on hand in the event of an audit. This way you protect yourself, and your grant funds, as you have proof of successful project completion. The easiest way to do this is to have a dedicated folder with all your documents scanned and accounted for. These documents include your signed Funding Agreement, filled out claim forms, invoices, proof of payment, and any other documents you were required to submit during your project.

Chapter 8 – What Most SMBs Don’t Know about Grant Funding

We’ve put together the top 4 things that companies don’t know about government funding.

Calculate your potential grant funding

Curious about how much grant funding your company can get?

Chapters List

  1. Tips on writing small business grants
  2. FAQ for small business grants – (Coming soon)
  3. Top mistakes to avoid when writing grant applications – (Coming soon)
  4. What happens after I apply for a grant? – (Coming soon)
  5. What happens when I’m approved for a grant? – (Coming soon)
  6. What happens if my grant application is denied? – (Coming soon)
  7. Can I get help securing grants? – (Coming soon)