The government of Canada offers a multitude of small business grants to encourage growth, innovation, and economic development for Canadian small businesses. These government grants can provide a significant cash injection to jumpstart a project and become a key component of a company’s growth strategy. But timing is critical, and careful planning is needed to ensure funds are captured successfully. We’ve heard it many times before: a company missed out on a potentially major funding because it didn’t file its paperwork correctly or on time.
We have outlined below some simple steps that you can follow to make sure you never miss an important deadline. So, what are those steps?
1. Plan as early as possible
When it comes to applying for small business grants, we follow this mantra: “You can never be too early, but you can be too late”. Whether it’s an R&D undertaking for new products, process development, a position you want to hire, a training course you want to send the staff to, or a major equipment purchase you want to make, as soon as you start thinking about the project, you should immediately start looking for funding. Define the basic project scope (what do you want to do, why do you want to do it, what will it cost) and identify any relevant government grant programs that fit your needs. Discuss with us what you want to achieve and we can help you find the programs that best match your business objectives.
2. Check the program deadline
Once you’ve identified a government grant you want to apply for, you need to find out when your application will be due. Grant programs generally have one of two types of intakes:
a. Fixed Intake: These types of programs have specified dates and time by which the application must be submitted. It may have one or two such intake periods per year, with a fixed budget of funding set aside for each intake. All applications received within the deadline are ranked and compared against one another with only top quality applications from each intake selected for approval.
b. Continuous Intake: These programs have no deadline dates, and accept applications all year round, or until its funding runs out. These programs give away funding on a first-come, first-served basis, so try to apply early during the government’s fiscal year (April 1-March 31) while funding is abundant. Typically, you will be required to apply for a specified number of weeks before your project begins, so if your project has a firm start date (e.g. let’s say you plan to exhibit at a trade show), subtracting the minimum lead time from that date will dictate your submission deadline.
Find out which way your program operates, and make note of your submission deadline. Aim to submit at least a week before the deadline. If the program uses an online application portal, make sure to register and set up your account well in advance to avoid any technical delays. Programs with fixed intakes are especially prone to portal crashes on deadline day, with everyone trying to log in and submit in the last minute. The program administrators may not be lenient if you miss the deadline due to technical difficulties. You can avoid this problem by submitting early.
3. Check the program’s processing time
Most small business grants will not reimburse any costs that you incur before they issue approval, so you need to hold off on starting your project until you receive a verdict on your application. Programs with a fixed intake will provide an estimated date at which all applicants will hear back. Programs with a continuous intake will provide an estimated processing time (in days or weeks) based on their service standard.
Figure out when you can expect to hear back from the program – that is the earliest date on which you should plan to start your project. If you go ahead and start the project before approval is received, you risk forfeiting the entire grant. All the more reason to apply early and give yourself extra lead time. Moreover, always look for grant descriptions that look too good to be true.
4. Look for project restrictions
The program guidelines may place limits on the maximum project duration, minimum and maximum project budget, and/or the types of expenses and activities that are eligible for funding. Considering these factors can help you define the scope of your project. If the project you’re planning runs longer than the grant cutoff, break it up into multiple phases and apply for a single phase.
If you’re well under the maximum project budget, look at the list of eligible costs and see if there are additional items or activities you want to add. Propose a project that aligns well with the program’s rules. If your activities, budget, or timeline fall outside the limitations, you may not be able to revise your application after submission, and you could risk being automatically rejected. It may then be too late for you to re-submit a more suitable project.
5. Gather supplementary documentation
In addition to the application paperwork, many programs require supporting attachments to be submitted with the file. These may include:
- Quotes for equipment or subcontractor fees
- Historical financial statements for the company’s last 2-3 fiscal years
- Articles of Incorporation
- Insurance certificates
- Resumes, transcripts, or diplomas of project staff and prospective hires
- Marketing or business plans
If you don’t have these documents at your immediate disposal, they could take time to obtain. Make sure you are aware of the documentation requirements so you can gather them before the deadline.
6. Take note of requirements for claim reporting
If you’re approved for a small business grant, you won’t receive the full funding upfront in a lump sum. Your funds will be disbursed in monthly installments, quarterly, or upon project completion. To receive these payments, you will need to submit claim reports and/or proof of actual costs incurred, such as employee pay stubs, time-sheets, receipts, credit card statements, etc. If these claims are not filed on time, you won’t receive reimbursement and may forfeit the entire grant. So, when you receive a notice of approval, make note of when your claims will be due and make sure to collect your receipts or other necessary documentation as the project progresses so that they can be easily compiled and filed on time. Don’t leave money on the table by forgetting to claim what you’re entitled to!
By following the above steps, thousands of Canadian businesses have been able to successfully obtain government funding every year. Now is the time to start planning your funding roadmap. These grants are out there for the taking – don’t let your competitors get your piece of the pie!
For help with managing documentation and deadlines for small business grants, contact the author at: