Governments hope to achieve their ultimate goals of creating jobs and growing the economy by providing grants that support specific business activities, audiences, industries, and regions.
When thinking about how to maximize grant funding for your business, it’s extremely useful to think in terms of these four categories:
Business activities that government supports include research and development (R&D) and business expansion activities such as equipment purchase, technology adoption, and exporting.
Governments provide grants to specific audiences that are viewed as underserved, such as Indigenous peoples, farmers, and women entrepreneurs.
Industries that receive grants include agriculture, arts/entertainment/media, energy (especially “cleantech”), and technology.
Governments encourage businesses to locate (or expand their operations) in specific geographic areas, such as Northern Ontario.
We call this the “AAIR” framework, and it’s a great way to organize your grants strategy:
AAIR Framework for Maximizing Business Grants
Keeping this in mind, here’s the single most important thing to understand to maximize business grants:
In other words, it’s all about eligibility.
Example of Maximizing Business Grants Using the AAIR Framework
Say you run a business with the following characteristics:
You would look for grant programs that support any of the above characteristics:
Since your goals are to expand your line of software products and start exporting, you would probably need to hire more staff, do product and market research, buy more advanced computer hardware, and attend international trade shows to get foreign customers. To do that, you could look for grant programs that support the following activities:
Since your business is owned by women and people with Indigenous backgrounds, you could look for grants that support:
Given that your business manufactures software for healthcare firms, you would look for grants that support businesses in these industries:
Since your business is based in Thunder Bay, you would look for grant programs that support businesses in all of the following regions:
A quick search of our database turns up 271 grants. Here’s a (very) small sample:
Example: Grants Available to a Women- and Indigenous-Led Software Business in Thunder Bay
|Women in Health Initiative
|Canada-Ontario Job Grant
|ISED Strategic Innovation Fund Stream 1: R&D and commercialization
|50% of R&D costs
|Blue Sky Economic Growth Corporation BTIF Program
|CanExport – SMEs Program
|WomenNet Amber Grants
|Indigenous Services Canada – Aboriginal Entrepreneurship Program: Access to Capital
|OBIO Early Adopter Health Network
|ISED Strategic Innovation Fund Stream 2: Firm Expansion and Growth
|50% of expansion cost
|Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce – Economic Development Fund
|Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation – INVEST North Program
|Up to $2 million
And that’s just grants!
There are literally hundreds of other funding programs that these businesses owners could take advantage of. In the last chapter of this guide, we cover 26 other types of funding (besides grants) that entrepreneurs can access.
But before we get to that, we need to cover one more important aspect of maximizing grants: getting organized.
Getting Organized to Maximize Funding: Grant Calendars & Stackability
Approaching grant funding in a structured way will get you more money, and there are two important things you can do to get started:
Set Up a Grants Calendar
A grants calendar is a tool used by businesses to keep track of grant opportunities and deadlines. The key components of a grants calendar typically include:
“Stack” Your Way to More Grant Money
In the grants business we refer to the “stackability” of grants. Funding programs are stackable when grant recipients can combine multiple grants or funding sources to support a single project.
In a stackable grant program, recipients may be able to layer multiple grants or funding sources on top of each other to create a more substantial pool of funding for their project. This can allow recipients to leverage multiple sources of funding and maximize the impact of their project.
It’s extremely important to find out if a grant is stackable!