The IRP Application Portal is currently closed. Applications for the second round of funding will open on September 8, 2020. Visit our Investment Readiness Program Initiative page, or IRP-PPI.ca for more information.


General FAQs

What does the Investment Readiness Program fund? 

The IRP’s goal is to help social enterprises move towards being investment-ready. Funding can be used to research, launch, design, measure and scale up your social enterprise and move it towards being able to accept investment. Funds are intended to be used to access outside expert advice or services or create dedicated staff capacity. Examples include: 

  • Exploring a new business idea or developing a business plan to test feasibility
  • Creating a marketing plan to reach new audiences and increase revenue
  • Planning new products or services to grow revenue
  • Preparing the documentation needed to approach potential investors as you move towards taking on investment capital 

The funds are not eligible for use towards core operating costs. They should move your enterprise forward along the spectrum from idea to investment-ready. 

Watch the recording of our webinar on the IRP for more details.

What is the purpose of the IRP?

The IRP can help with a project to enable your social purpose organization to eventually make a separate application to take out a loan or to take an equity investment from a social finance intermediary in the future. 

The IRP can help by offering non-repayable capital, workshops, business development programs and many other learning opportunities.

What is a social enterprise?

An organization or program that is mission-driven, aims to sell goods or services to earn revenue, while also achieving positive social, cultural or environmental results. This positive impact grows alongside the success of the enterprise. A for-profit corporation must be a social enterprise to be considered a social purpose organization for the IRP.

What do expert service providers do? 

Expert service providers offer a range of resources, expertise and coaching that align with the needs of social purpose organizations as they progress from idea and profit. Expert service providers can help with many different things, like business ideation, drafting a business plan, preparing for procurement, or finding new audiences. Through the IRP, the Government of Canada has funded several organizations across Canada to get ready to act as expert service providers to help social purpose organizations. In most cases, IRP funding  will be used to purchase the services of an expert service provider, whether from the Government of Canada’s IRP list, or not.

What are the amounts of funding available? 

Social purpose organizations can request between $10,000 and $100,000. Please note there is limited funding available and you should only request the amount necessary to complete your project. Applications requesting more or less than the permissible amount will not be considered.


Eligibility

Who can apply? 

You can apply to the IRP if you are a: 

  • Charity 
  • Non-profit 
  • Co-op 
  • For-profit social enterprise

I am located in Quebec, why can’t I apply?

In Quebec, the IRP program is offered through the Chantier de l’économie sociale. They began to accept applications on a rolling basis as early as December 2019 and it has already closed to new applications, having awarded all available funds. CFC is happy to have supported this program in Quebec.

I have an international component, can I apply?

Yes, apply to the Regional Partner where your head office is located and/or where the majority of your activities within Canada take place. Please note that the IRP cannot fund projects that take place entirely outside of Canada, or where the impact will be outside of Canada, however, a specific component such as selling products internationally is permitted

For example, the IRP could fund a project that involves conducting a viability study to understand the potential to sell a product already sold in Canada to consumers abroad, with the revenue generating a positive impact for communities here in Canada.

Are sole proprietors eligible?

No. Sole proprietorships are not eligible for the IRP. Federally or provincially registered corporations who are accountable to more than an individual and who operate as a social enterprise are eligible.  

I live in a rural or remote region. Can I apply?

The IRP is open to social purpose organizations in every part of  Canada, including in rural and remote regions, and the North. 24 community foundations across the country have partnered with CFC to deliver, promote and implement the IRP in their regions. In this way, over 95% of people across Canada will be able to go through the application process with the help of an organization in their local region or community.  Find out if a local community foundation is administering the IRP in your community. In all cases, applicants are required to submit their application via the same online portal. If your area is served by a community foundation administering the IRP, it will be evaluated locally. If not, applications should be directed to CFC.

I’m a national organization with a project that takes place in multiple locations, where should I apply?

You should apply to the Regional Partner where your head office is located, or to Community Foundations of Canada if your head office’s location is not covered by a Regional Partnership. 

If your head office, and your activities and impact are in different places than you should select the Regional Partnership related to where the activities and impact take place,  or if there’s no Regional Partnership, to Community Foundations of Canada

If your organization or project is not “place-based”, in other words, it is relevant in the entire country then you should select Community Foundations of Canada as your Regional Partner.

Does my social purpose organization need to generate revenue from the sales of goods or services?

Yes, this is a core requirement of the IRP. If you do not currently generate income from sales activities, you must be moving in that direction. Revenue from fundraising activities is not an eligible type of revenue.  The goal of the IRP is to prepare social purpose organizations to eventually be capable of making a separate application to borrow money or to take an equity investment from a social finance intermediary in the future. The sales of a good or service is a part of that plan. Fundraising as a goal is not eligible.

My business creates positive impact in my community. Am I eligible to apply to IRP?

The definition of a social enterprise extends beyond corporate social responsibility or the contribution of some profit to social causes. A social enterprise is an organization or business that uses business approaches and the sale of goods and/or services to pursue a positive impact (social, cultural or environmental). Some factors that contribute to distinguishing a social enterprise include: 

  • Impact objectives are embedded in the organization’s purpose,
  • The operating model, value chain,  and organizational culture are mission-aligned
  • A reasonable percentage of profits are re-invested in the purpose 

The IRP aims to support social enterprises keen on expanding the impact of their social, environmental and/or cultural mission, not to maximize their profits. Eligibility it outlined in more detail in the program guidelines.

Who is ineligible for the program?

IRP funding cannot be used for a single individual (sole proprietors); federal, provincial or municipal government agencies (they can be involved but the grant will be made directly to the social purpose organization). Projects outside of Canada are also ineligible.


How to Apply

When can I apply to the IRP? 

CFC and community foundations will hold 2 funding rounds before March 31, 2021. The second round will be open to application from September 8th to October 9th at 5 pm PST, 2020

CFC and the community foundation network are one of five national organizations delivering the Government of Canada’s IRP funding. To learn more about other Readiness Support Partners’ funding programs and application periods, please visit their websites. You can also visit the IRP website at www.irp-ppi.ca.

How do I apply to the IRP? 

Interested applicants can submit via the IRP application portal which can we found on the IRP website or at cfc-fcc.smapply.ca.

If your social purpose organization is located in a region with limited or difficult access to broadband internet please be in touch. Paper applications can be made available upon request. Contact us at readiness@communityfoundations.ca or 613 236 2664 ext 339.

I don’t have access to reliable internet and will have difficulty applying online. Can I still apply?

Yes. If your social purpose organization is located in a region with limited or difficult access to broadband internet or if you have accessibility issues, please be in touch with our team. Paper applications can be made available upon request. Contact us at readiness@communityfoundations.ca or 613 236 2664 ext 339. 

Can I apply to the IRP more than once? 

Social purpose organizations may only submit one application per IRP funding round. A second application may be made  project for further consideration in our the second round of funding but please give careful consideration to why it was not successful the first time.  Your social purpose organization may also submit an application for a different project in a subsequent funding round.

Can I apply to multiple IRP funders for the same project?  

No. Social purpose organizations may apply to only one IRP funder for a given project. Social purpose organizations may however, apply to other IRP funding partners for different activities.


Results and Funding Usage

When can I expect to be notified of the results? 

Social purpose organizations who apply to the second IRP deadline of October 9th 2020 can expect to receive their results by December 24th 2020.  

How will IRP funding decisions be made? 

All eligible applications will be evaluated based on shared criteria by either the community foundation serving your area, or by CFC, depending on the location of the applicant.

What are the criteria by which applications will be evaluated? 

To be considered, applicants must meet IRP eligibility criteria, provide the required supporting documentation and describe their social enterprise’s social, environmental or cultural impact or desired impact. They must also successfully demonstrate: 

  • Being a solid and stable organization
  • How revenue is generated through the sale of goods and services. Or there is a plan to do so?
  • The viability and feasibility of their proposed project to move towards investment readiness
  • Realistic timelines for the implementation of their proposed project 
  • An appropriate project budget, aligned with the amount requested
  • CFC encourages applications from rural areas, Indigenous-led and focused-organizations,  organizations led by and focused on racialized people, linguistic minorities, newcomers to Canada, and other minority communities.
  • Potential impact of the project on the community and the organizations

Funding Usage

What can IRP non-repayable capital be used for? 

Social purpose organizations can use IRP funding for any activity that will help their social enterprise move along the spectrum towards being ready for investment. This includes things like business ideation to exploration, to activities that encourage growth, to preparing to seek investment. For a full list of eligible and ineligible costs, please see the CFC IRP Program Guidelines and application form (available in the resource library on the main IRP page).

Does the IRP fund operations or provide core funding?

The primary objective of the IRP is not to support the basic “core” organizational and administrative costs of a social purpose organization. The IRP is designed to support access to new services and tools that will catalyze advancement through a special project or initiative. Approved budgets can include a reasonable (up to 20%) allocation to related organizational costs such as staffing, administration, rent and other overhead.

Am I required to use IRP non-repayable capital to hire expert service providers listed on the Government of Canada’s website? 

Social purpose organizations interested in engaging the services of expert service providers are welcome to work with suppliers listed by the Government of Canada or a trusted and reliable supplier of their choice.


FAQs for Successful and Unsuccessful Applicants

What was the selection process? 

Applications were evaluated by local evaluation committees, called Regional Partners, led by a Community Foundation. The Community Foundation leaders partnered with local experts in social finance, social innovation, social enterprise and the non-profit sector to evaluate applications. Local decision-making was paramount to this process, however, certain general criteria was used, including eligibility of proposed activities, feasibility of proposed activities (and how they pertain to investment readiness), communities and populations served through the project and the proposed use of funds (budget size and plan). 

Why did it take so long to hear back?

Our initial plan was to deliver results to social purpose organizations by May 2020, and we were able to accomplish this in most areas. However, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we chose a quiet release of information as opposed to a public announcement, for the sake of sensitivity in this time. If it took longer for your SPO to hear back from CFC or the Regional Partner, we apologize, though please note that we worked hard to uphold previously established deadlines while managing current circumstances. 

What about COVID and the IRP?

  • Can the funds go towards operating costs?

Successful applicants will be made aware of policies for the allocation of IRP funds through their Regional Partner or CFC, where applicable.

  • Does this have to do with the GoC emergency fund?

CFC was recently named as a partner in the Government of Canada’s Emergency Community Support Fund. This is a different fund entirely, offering immediate relief to qualified donees impacted by COVID-19. The IRP was planned prior to this emergency, and thus is it not an immediate relief package. 

  • Will there still be a second round? 

Yes, there will be a second round of IRP funding through CFC. The dates for this will be announcement shortly; they will likely be in the fall. Consult irp-ppi.ca for more information as it becomes available, or to see current and upcoming funding opportunities from different Readiness Support Partners (Canadian Women’s Foundation, National Aboriginal Capital Corporations Association, National Association of Friendship Centres, and Chantier de l’économie sociale). 

Why wasn’t my application successful?

There are many reasons why an application may not have been selected; the IRP through CFC was competitive and could not fund all of the strong applications this first round. Many applications were rejected as the project focused on a one-time event, a one-time investment or a general renovation/improvement to the office spaces. IRP funds should be used for an ongoing and sustainable project, that will help SPOs develop a source of revenue or increase their source of revenue for years to come. A single fundraising event or new desks does not accomplish this goal.

For more information about your specific application, you can consult your Regional Partner. They may be able to provide insight, however, they are not obliged to do so.

Can I reapply?

Yes, and some applications that were deemed strong but needed a few tweaks in order to be funded were reached out to specifically with the recommendation that they reapply. SPOs that were unsuccessful in the first round can reapply when CFC opens calls for applications again, or they can apply to a different Readiness Support Partner.

What resources do you have to help applicants?

CFC’s resource library is a good first place to read the Program Guidelines, watch webinars about the application process and see PDF versions of the applications. There, you can find the list of Regional Partners, locate your own and reach out to them for more specific advice. Regional Partners developed web pages, webinars and other documentation to assist applicants in their areas. If you have trouble locating any of this information, or have a specific question for CFC, you are welcome to reach us at readiness@communityfoundations.ca.

In addition, Expert Service Providers–Government-selected service providers with a track record of supporting social purpose organizations–have developed materials for applicants to use, both to help them in their application, once they have been successful or to re-frame and re-evaluate if they were not successful. Expert Service Providers in the IRP include McConnell Innoweave, LIFT Philanthropy Partners, Raven Indigenous Capital Partners, UBC Sauder Innovation Academy, Social Enterprise Ecosystem Project (S4ES), Social Venture Connexion (SVX). 

Are some areas more competitive than others?

Regional Partnerships were selected and allocated resources based on population, thus making every Regional Partnership more or less equal in terms of percentage of applications they could fund. 

I’ve been selected. Now what?

  1. Can I modify my project?
  2. Are the timelines still the same?
  3. I have a different need now. Can I focus on that?
  4. Can I receive my funds earlier/later?
  5. Why am I receiving my funds in two installments?

We recognize that this is a stressful time for everyone, including social purpose organizations, so we are trying to be as adaptable and flexible as possible. We are in constant dialogue with ESDC to determine how we can continue to make the IRP as beneficial as possible to social purpose organizations in Canada, maintain the core values of the program and modify it to align with current needs brought on by COVID.

Your Regional Partner or CFC will reach out to you with information specific to your application, and should you decide to accept IRP funding, will work with you to make the funds timely and useful while upholding previously-established goals and plans.

Why didn’t I get the full amount I requested?

Certain Regional Partners decided to partially fund applications, for example, to allow them to carry out a certain aspect of the proposed project. For more details, contact your Regional Partner.

Can I get feedback on my application?

This is up to the Regional Partner, some may be willing to discuss your application with you while others do not have the capacity to do so. We recommend reaching out for a discussion, though be aware that the Regional Partners are not obliged to discuss specific applications with applicants.

Can I get support from the IRP in other, non-monetary ways?

Yes! Ecosytem Mobilizers and Expert Service Providers were selected by the Government of Canada to provide supports and services to social purpose organizations in non-monetary ways. They offer trainings, courses, resources and many other important opportunities for social purpose organizations, and many have generated materials dedicated to resilience and capacity-building during COVID. Go to irp-ppi.ca for more information on these partners.

Can I still access the Expert Service Providers even if my project wasn’t chosen?

Yes! Many offer both free and fee-based services, resources and other supports for social purpose organizations.

Should I have applied to a different Readiness Support Partner/should I reapply to a different one?

Each of the Readiness Support Partners have a different focus area, so you should consider the nature of your social purpose organization, the target community served and the geographical location before applying to a specific Readiness Support Partner. If you are a women’s-led and women’s focused charity or NGO, you are eligible to apply to Canadian Women’s Foundation. If you are an Aboriginal Financial Institution or a Friendship Centre, you can apply to NACCA or NAFC respectively. If you are based in Quebec, you can apply to the Chantier de l’economie sociale, and finally, social purpose organizations that do not fit into any of these criteria can apply to CFC. Note that these are broad criteria and more information can be found on irp-ppi.ca

When will the second round of funding be?

CFC’s second round of funding will begin to accept applications starting Sept. 8, 2020. Please consult irp-ppi.ca regularly for updates.