Government funding: tips for a strong application

4 min read

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If you’re looking for government support for your business, we want to help you find it, and get it. Program officers in the federal government say that at least 20% of all applicants miss key information. Here’s what they want you to know.

1. Read the fine print

It’s tempting to think that applying for more programs increases your odds. But it pays to research which one program you really qualify for. Here’s our formula for success:

  • Get a personalized list of the government support available for your business on Business Benefits Finder. The more specific you can be about your needs, the more targeted your results will be.
  • Read the program guidelines, especially the eligible expenses and limits. Many applications are rejected because the company or the project expenses aren’t eligible.
  • Do your research. Companies that receive money from government are reported publicly, so you can find out which companies got funded and what their project was about, in brief.
  • Still have questions? Try calling one of the program officers.

2. Make your life easier

Most applications ask for the same information in slightly different ways, so you can save yourself a lot of time by having all this information prepped in advance:

For example, some of the common questions a program might ask about your company, include:

  • A description of your business
  • The number of employees you have
  • Your past three years of financial statements
  • Your incorporation documents

And if you’re funding request is for a project, they’ll likely also ask for:

  • A description of your project
  • A detailed breakdown of your expenses
  • Any risks associated with your project
  • The economic benefits it will provide for Canada

3. Know the true cost of the money

Businesses are sometimes caught off guard by the amount of work that goes into reporting requirements for government funding. Since money is typically reimbursed through claims on a monthly or quarterly basis, you have to factor that reporting work into your cost benefit analysis. Annual reporting also goes on for several years after a project is completed.

Government funding is a great source of patient capital, but it also comes at a different cost than funding from venture capitalists or financial institutions. Applicants don’t always realize the restrictions government funding programs might have on their IP, ability to secure other investments, or sell their company outside of Canada. So, if you have other investors, make sure they are on board with any possible restrictions.

4. Prepare to take on some of the risk

Government(s) want to know that you have what it takes to see your project through. And many programs expect you to contribute at least 50% towards the project and may typically only award 20 to 30% of the eligible costs. You can always reach out and ask the program team how much they usually consider funding. And know that asking for 100% of the costs is usually a non-starter.

So, try to get as much of your funding secured or sourced as possible before seeking government investment. And include these contacts in your application. That way, you can demonstrate how you’ve already managed to guarantee other sources of legitimate funding and that could very well increase the program’s confidence in your proposal.

5. Avoid the marketing language

Canadian taxpayers are the real funders of your project, so government(s) have to be responsible and accountable. To help a program officer see the value of investing in your project, explain your project in a way that makes it easy for someone who isn’t familiar with your industry, product, or service to understand it and explain to others.

Pssst … your application will attract a lot of attention if you include realistic metrics that show how your project will specifically benefit Canada and the economy, and show your idea is viable and will work.

6. Less is more

Program officers have a responsibility to keep a level playing field among applicants. Meaning you're limited to providing only the information they ask for, that way they're able to evaluate each applicant on the same merit and criteria. That said, if you have something that really demonstrates how you are delivering benefits to Canada, mentioning ‘available upon request’ doesn’t hurt.

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Our Innovation Advisors can help. Get connected through our contact centre at ‑833‑201‑4358 |TTY: 1‑866‑694‑8389, or send us details about your business. We’re committed to prompt and reliable service standards, and can respond to most inquiries within 24 hours.

Visit the Business Benefits Finder