Government grants and other incentives are a great funding source for small businesses. Grants are neither debt nor equity–meaning you do not give up ownership in your business to attract this money, or have to repay it. However, many small businesses are overwhelmed by both the volume of funds and complex application processes. Today's business owners can use new online tools to streamline the steps required to find the right programs and apply for them–and the payoff can be exponential. In fact, Canadian businesses secured more than $14.43 billion in government funding last year, as shown in this interactive infographic. Here are 10 tips to help your business get funded.
1. March to the beat of your own drummer. While competition is very high for a handful of well-known government funding programs, there are hundreds of other funds that have trouble attracting applicants and are under-subscribed. Use the funding search tool from my company, The Funding Portal, to identify these lesser-known funds and improve your odds. Don't apply to the same funds as everyone else.
2. Highlight the ways that your business contributes to the economy. Demonstrate in your application how the funds you receive will contribute to the Canadian economy from hiring new staff, increasing your company's revenues, or establishing your business as a competitor in international markets. Governments must ensure that taxpayer dollars are directed not only at individual businesses but contribute to our economy more broadly, such as advancing regional economic development, job creation, industry objectives, or community benefits.
3. Collaborate with industry and academic leaders. Some government funds require large corporate applicants to partner with small businesses to attract R&D and commercialization funding. Build partnerships and networks within your industry to increase your eligibility for these very large industry grants.
4. Explore different types of government funding. Many businesses are familiar with R&D tax credits, but are not aware of thousands of grants, wage subsidies and vouchers at the federal, provincial, and municipal levels. Stay informed about the latest funding programs–new ones are announced almost every week.
5. Present a winning business case. Government funders support companies that set both short and long-term objectives and have the capacity to achieve them. A three or five-year strategy is often required to attract more substantial funding commitments. Demonstrate in your application how this funding will contribute to your overall strategic success and your company's goals.
6. Don't limit your application to a single fund. There are many types of government funding–from grants to tax credits to R&D vouchers–for which most business will be eligible. Companies that are successful at securing government funding year after year apply to multiple funding programs based on a funding strategy that is grounded in facts, data, and analytics.
7. Don't overlook the details. About 80 per cent of applications into government funders are rejected at the screening stage because they simply don't meet the basic compliance criteria. Companies can benefit from experts who understand the fund's eligibility requirements and funding priorities to greatly improve their success rates.
8. Double your money by leveraging successes into capital markets. Private investors, angels and venture capitalists get excited by businesses that come to the table "cashed up" through competitive government funding processes. Funding is a process, not a task.
9. Step back and think like a politician. Funding flows to certain industry sectors based on the policy objectives of the government at the time. You can dramatically increase your chances of securing funding if you align your application with the objectives of your target funds, such as job creation, innovation, or entry into new export markets.
10. Expand your online toolkit. Online tools match your business with the best funds for your company. Tools like these aggregate and rank the top funding programs provided by both Canadian and U.S. governments, reducing your search from weeks to seconds and opening up hundreds of viable funds for your business.
Teri Kirk is President and CEO of The Funding Portal, a comprehensive service that helps more than 17,000 businesses each month to secure government funding in Canada and the United States.