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Can I Get Government Funding for My Non-Profit Project?

Expert: CanadaOne

Derek asked:

Last year, myself and two other students produced and starred in a magic show geared for elementary motivation.

We took the show on the road with a minimum budget. We booked the maximum amount of shows that we possibly could and got tremendous feedback from all our clients.

The money that was raised was donated to purchase new videos and books for the Haldimand Norfolk Libraries. The money was raised by the schools that we visited. We asked for a charitable donation or whatever the school could come up with. We were pleased with the money that we raised, but we want to do more!

In November, the West Haldimand General Hospital opened up a fund raiser for the purchase of new x-ray equipment. The new equipment is going to cost more than $800,000, and we want to help.

The high school that we come from, that most of the elementary school students will soon attend, is highly infested with drugs. There wasn't a day that went by that you didn't hear about a bust, or a deal, or sometimes even get offered drugs. To help display a message of drug awareness, we have designed a show called "The Seductive Shadows of Drugs."

The reason that I am writing is in regards to government sponsorship for the running of this show. Do you know of any government funding for this type of involvement, or who I could contact?

CanadaOne answered:

Derek, based on the information you gave us, we've answered your question assuming that what you and your friends are running is a non-profit, charitable organization. If not, you will want to investigate the process of setting up either a for-profit, non-profit or a charitable, non-profit organization, as you will need to have a legal organization in order to sign a contract with either a government or corporate sponsor. In your situation, the non-profit status can offer many advantages over the for-profit status.

Locating partners:
The first thing you'll need to do is identify potential partners that would be willing to support your project. Since this will be your first project, having a partner such as the YMCA, or a school board, will lend strength to your proposal as you look for funding. Since you plan to perform your show at schools across Ontario, a school partner - or at least letters of support from educational organizations and teachers - is a natural starting point.

Also, schedule an appointment with the federal and provincial Members of Parliament in your area. They may be able to help you make connections with potential partners in your area, and can help you find out about potential financing opportunities.

Program search:
In addition, you should do your own search for federal and provincial funding programs that could finance your project. Your chances of obtaining funds will be higher, with your cause being non-profit, but don't expect you'll be guaranteed a grant - there's a lot of competition and not a lot of money out there for grabs.

For a list of federal government programs, visit:

For a list of provincial government programs in Ontario, visit:

The application process can be extremely time consuming, so you will want to ensure that your project meets a program's assessment criteria before submitting a proposal. Most, if not all, organizations clearly outline (in their application forms or on their websites) what makes a company or person eligible to receive financial assistance from them. In addition, we ran a series of articles on CanadaOne that will help you understand the assessment criteria in more depth. Click here to visit the article series:

In Ontario, the Trillium Foundation is one of the main, non-profit funding agencies. To find out about their funding programs, visit their website:

Drafting the proposal:
After these tasks are taken care of, you will probably need to draft a proposal. Here's where you can "sell" your organization and its cause.

In your proposal you should:

  • Convey the opportunity: You will see the benefits and opportunities contained in your idea ... make sure these elements are also clearly conveyed in your proposal. How will your project benefit the community? The province? The country? Explicitly list advantages in your proposal.

  • Meet the assessment criteria: When writing your proposal, clearly state how your concept meets the assessment criteria of the program you are applying to. For example, if the program requires that applicants help youth understand the dangers of using drugs, be sure to explicitly state in your proposal how your play will help youth understand the dangers of using drugs.

  • Write professionally: Your proposal not only explains the opportunity that you wish to capitalize on, but it also tells the reader something about the team behind the proposal. Watch the spelling and grammar in your proposal, and make sure your writing style isn't too up-beat or flowery.

  • Let it be known that you've done your research: Include statistics and research data that will support the need for your project. For example, if studies show that peer-to-peer communication of anti-drug information has a greater impact than elder-to-peer communication of the same information, be sure to include that research in your proposal.

  • Include endorsements: Members of Parliament, community organization, other non-profits and education institutions may all be willing to support your proposal. In your proposal, be sure to include letters of support from as many organizations as possible.

  • Demonstrate the "Return on Investment" (ROI): In your proposal you will be asking a government agency to fund your project. Be sure to explicitly state what the funders can expect to receive in return for their investment, should they decide to fund your project. Provide a mechanism to test the results of your project, and offer to measure the impact. However, be careful about promising something that you can't deliver; it is better to meet the funder's expectations than to appear to have a failed project based on measurement criteria that was not realistic.

After your application has been sent, be sure to follow-up. Telephone the funding organization's office and ask to speak to someone in charge of following up on loan/grant applications. Make sure yours was received, ask about decision timelines, and if possible, engage in friendly conversation with the funder. You should be notified - either way - when the final decision has been made.

Tip: When following up, be sure to be persistent but not pushy or annoying - this would obviously be to your detriment.

Derek, there's much work to be done. It won't be easy, and nothing you do will guarantee you government funding. Nonetheless, you are clearly passionate about your project, and the only chance you have of securing government funding is to take initiative and go through the process. It seems you have the best interest of your community members at heart, and sacrificing your personal time to help already makes you a winner.

Best of luck in your venture. Let us know about any progress in your situation.

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