In 2019-2021, the Government of Canada piloted the Investment Readiness Program (IRP) as a core initiative under the broader Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy.
The program distributed $50 million to social purpose organizations (charities, non-profits, social enterprises, for-profits with a social purpose, and co-operatives) to help build their capacity to participate in Canada’s growing social finance market.
In 2022, the Government of Canada renewed the $50 million IRP to further build the investment readiness capacity of social purpose organizations (SPOs) as they access investment opportunities and prepare for the Government of Canada’s Social Finance Fund, a bold $755 million commitment expected to launch in 2022-2023. In this renewed 2022-2023 IRP, the Canadian Women’s Foundation is one of five Readiness Support Partners delivering IRP funding to social purpose organizations.
The Foundation will receive up to $5 million in 2022-2023 to help build the capacity and investment readiness of SPOs, so they are better able to access the proposed Social Finance Fund or other investment opportunities in Canada.
Applicants to the Canadian Women’s Foundation are eligible to apply to other Readiness Support Partners listed below if the proposed project is different. To learn more about other Readiness Support Partners’ IRP criteria and application intakes, please visit their websites:
Through the IRP, the Canadian Women’s Foundation aims to boost sector participation of women, Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary people in social innovation and social finance.
We believe that promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as the growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises helps women, Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary people develop greater economic prosperity. With more knowledge and experience in the use of social finance mechanisms and tools, the sector will be better able to support these enterprises.
The Foundation will support and encourage the growth and readiness of women, Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary serving organizations to join the social innovation and social finance ecosystem. This may include support to social purpose organizations that currently do not consider themselves part of that ecosystem. The Foundation seeks to prioritize funding to organizations that reach women, girls, Two Spirit, trans, and non-binary who face multiple barriers, in communities where the needs are greatest.
Through the Investment Readiness Funding, we aim to:
Increase the number and variety of groups engaged in the social finance ecosystem
Build awareness and enhance capacity of social purpose organizations
Contribute to learnings, best practices, and knowledge transfer in the ecosystem
Apply a gender lens and intersectional approach to the IRP initiative.
Qualified donee (e.g. many First Nation Band Councils, most municipalities or hamlets, and most universities etc.)
Social enterprise businesses (for-profit), cooperatives, and other non-profits must apply in partnership with a charity or qualifed donee. For example, a for-profit social enterprise can apply in partnership with a local charity, municipality or university that supports your project. For example, a non-profit that doesn’t have charitable status can apply in partnership with a charity, or your local municipality, or local university in support of your project.
All projects must be led by and/or serving women, girls, trans, Two Spirit, and/or non-binary people.
Eligibility varies based on funding stream
Impact Stream ($45,000 – $75,000):
To sustain, scale or grow the impact of an existing or well-developed social enterprise/business initiative that generates revenue from the sale of goods/services; or,
To develop and/or launch a community-driven social innovation project focused on attracting investment/social finance (e.g. community bond raising project, outcomes contract project, etc.)
Have a well-developed enterprising model and are farther along in their understanding and preparation for taking on investment. Your organization is ready to take on a big project to increase your organization’s impact and get one step closer to your social finance goals.
Have or plan to have, a mechanism that generates revenue from the sale of goods and/or services. Revenue from donations does not count in this context. The IRP is intended to support the adoption and growth of revenue generation through the sale of goods and/or services.
Have a plan or intention to seek investment, whether loans or equity at a future date
Catalyst Stream ($5,000 – $15,000):
To explore, develop, test, launch or pilot a social enterprise/business initiative. You may have an idea or testing an idea and need to complete some discovery work to validate the enterprise by putting together a business plan/case, develop the revenue generation/business model, conduct market research, complete a feasibility study, prototype a product/service, etc.
To access specific technical assistance or support on a very specific aspect of your project, that will assist you in launching or growing your social enterprise, or in preparing to take on investment; or,
To get a community-based social innovation project off the ground (e.g. community-bond raising, outcomes contract, procurement contract, etc.).
Have, or plan to have, a mechanism that generates revenue from the sale of goods and/or services. Revenue from donations does not count in this context. The IRP is intended to support the adoption and growth of revenue generation through the sale of goods and/or services.
Systems-Change Stream ($35,000 – $60,000):
For collaborative social innovation/social finance projects that address a systemic issue impacting women and/or gender diverse people. This stream is for projects that that will help address a root cause by shifting/transforming structures, mindsets, power dynamics or rules) with the intent of achieving lasting change.
To enhance the ecosystem of social enterprise development, social entrepreneurship, social finance, community financing, gender lens investing and other related sector areas that address systemic issue(s) impacting social purpose organizations led by and/or serving women/gender diverse people.
Projects can include sector resource development, market research and sector-wide surveys, sector case studies, network development, etc.
Project does NOT need to generate revenue.
Supports projects that builds a more inclusive and integrated social innovation/social finance ecosystem focused on women and/or gender diverse people.
Note: For-profit social enterprises, non-profits, cooperatives, and any other organization that is not a registered charity/qualifed donee:
If successful in securing IRP funds, your organization must sign a joint funding agreement with the charity/qualified donee listed in the application. For purposes of the joint funding agreement, the charity/qualified donee will have fiscal responsibility for the funding and be legally responsible for ensuring that the funds are spent for the charitable purposes agreed upon in the project.
For more detailed information on each stream, applications instructions, assessment criteria and more consult the IRP Funding Guideline and Criteria, Application Instructions, and Glossary and FAQ .
Please note that our offices will be closed from December 23, 2022 to January 2, 2023. Staff will make every effort to respond to inquiries upon their return, however due to high volume, we may not respond to all inquiries.
If you want to learn more about the previous IRP pilot and previous initiatives funded, please consult the information below.
We invested $2 million in 41 diverse women and gender-diverse led and serving social purpose organizations (SPOs) across Canada presenting at all stages of investment readiness. Through our investments, organizations:
increased their knowledge of and linkages to social enterprise and social finance supports and actors;
built stronger more resilient organizations;
grew their capacity for enterprise development, financial management and impact measurement;
demonstrated significant progress along the investment readiness continuum.
Our funded initiatives will continue to place a high degree of importance on pursuing social innovation in the coming years:
95% of SPOs are interested in receiving additional non-repayable capital funding
77% of SPOs are interested in receiving repayable capital funding through the Social Finance Fund
Through our capacity building activities and partnerships, almost all Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs) (97%) increased their knowledge of social finance. They have a better understanding of the actors in the social finance and social innovation ecosystem, and how and when to reach out to them.
To share our learnings and best practices, we’ve developed the following resources:
Investment Readiness Self-Assessment: This Excel tool provides a framework to self-assess your social investment readiness based on 55 factors or indicators. It is meant to identify areas of strength and areas to invest more time and resources in. We realize that a business venture isn’t usually a straightforward journey, and some of these areas of growth will continue to develop and improve even when your business is up and running. We hope this tool will be a guide and a sounding board to help you on this exciting journey!
The self-assessment focuses on four overarching areas:
Social finance is a type of lending or investment that delivers a positive social, cultural, or environmental impact as well as a financial return for creditors / investors. Social finance could potentially provide a new source of income for charities who typically rely on more traditional sources of income, such as grants and donations. Source: Imagine Canada.
The Social Finance Fund is a pool of money that will increase the amount of affordable, repayable capital available for charities, non-profits, co-operatives, and for-profit social enterprises. The money that will be available through this fund is intended to help these “social purpose organizations” create and grow innovative programs and initiatives aimed at solving the most persistent and complex social, cultural, and environmental challenges in our society. Source: Imagine Canada.
Social purpose organizations (SPOs) are the entire spectrum of organizations that seek to advance a social, cultural or environmental mission. Social purpose organizations straddle the not-for-profit sector (such as registered charities, incorporated non-profit organizations and co-operatives), the private sector and hybrid entities such as Community Contribution Companies and Community Interest Corporations. (Source: Employment and Social Development Canada – ESDC)
A variety of service providers working on investment readiness and social finance have been funded to strengthen their programming and help Social Purpose Organizations (SPOs) build their investment readiness. Some of these services are offered free of charge.
For a list of service providers and coaches, you can consult these directories curated by Innoweave’s database of Coaches, Service Providers, and Technical Assistant experts.
Consult our Investment Readiness Self-Assessment: This Excel tool provides a framework to self-assess your social investment readiness based on 55 factors or indicators. It is meant to identify areas of strength and areas to invest more time and resources in. We realize that a business venture isn’t usually a straightforward journey, and some of these areas of growth will continue to develop and improve even when your business is up and running. We hope this tool will be a guide and a sounding board to help you on this exciting journey!
The self-assessment focuses on four overarching areas:
We partnered on a series of deep-dive e-modules and sessions, and 1:1 coaching and virtual drop-in mentorship opportunities for SPOs to enhance and strengthen their capacity to measure impact and explore earned revenue, investment readiness and social finance opportunity. LIFT Philanthropy Partners has put together 4 resources to help you grow your social impact initiative:
The Demonstrating Value Approach can help you learn to take control of the data you collect and how to communicate the value of your organization. Watch these recorded webinars presented by Demonstrating Value, the Common Approach, the Investment Readiness Program and the Canadian Women’s Foundation.
We partnered with Pitch Better Canada to conduct a national market analysis of Black-led/Black-serving women’s organizations in the charitable, non-profit and for-profit sectors in the social innovation ecosystem in Canada. The report reveals that although Black women founders are highly educated and their businesses are growing in sectors beyond the traditional boundaries, their experience with funding, financing, and participation in incubator programs is in complete contrast with this profile. You can read the full report and access the first online dashboard of Black women-led organizations in Canada here.
Table of Impact Investment Practitioners (TIIP): A community of practice for social finance intermediaries. In close collaboration with Quebec’s CAP Finance, the Table encompasses a pan-Canadian, pan-sector network, comprising community loan funds, worker coops, social enterprise funds, values-based financial institutions, Indigenous-led investment firms, and microloan funds spearheaded by and serving racialized, underserved and vulnerable communities. Read their latest report about The State of Social Finance in Canada 2021here.
Social Innovation Canada: An initiative to connect social innovation practitioners, build the capacity of the sector, and to elevate this work in Canada and beyond.
Feminist Enterprise Commons: A mutual aid and learning space for feminists who aim to build anti-oppressive, anti-racist, socially just, generative enterprises or community projects which challenges patriarchal business culture, extractive capitalism, white supremacy, colonization, and straight lines.
Le Chantier de l’économie sociale: Promotes the social economy as an integral part of Québec’s plural economy, and in so doing, contribute to the democratization of the economy and emergence of this development model that is based on the values of solidarity, equity, and transparency.
Business Development Canada has a wide selection of free resources to help you achieve your goals and realize your entrepreneurial dreams.
SheEO is a community supporting women + non-binary people working on the World’s To-Do List. Learn more about their venture program for women-owned/women-led businesses.
Explore advice, lessons and tips from the MaRScommunity of entrepreneurs and operators.
The DMZ provides high-impact, high-intensity and highly-customized programs for the best and brightest founders in the world to validate, build and scale their tech startups – fast.
DMZ Black Innovation Programs has joined forces with a community of Founding Partners to develop the Black Innovation Program (BIP). The first-in-Canada program will provide startups led by Black entrepreneurs with the strengthening support of a top university-based incubator network, as well as additional programming, mentorship, events, and connections to industry, capital and an alumni network, to support their success and growth.
RISE helps people who face barriers to employment because of mental health or addiction challenges to achieve financial independence and pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. They provide low interest loans, support, business advice, and resources to help empower you to launch your idea towards success. They also have training programs for youth under 30.
Shelter Movers: “Without IRP, we could not chase this dream.”
When women summon the courage to leave an abusive relationship, a maze of steep barriers stand in their way. One is the prospect of losing everything they own. The process of moving and storing their and their children’s belongings is expensive, logistically complicated, and often dangerous.
Shelter Movers offers a free moving service to fill this critical gap. Its staff works with local businesses and community services who refer clients that have a safe place to go after leaving abuse. Shelter Movers arranges to safely move and store survivors’ belongings, on the clients’ terms.
“But the move is just one part of a long and difficult journey for women to rebuild their lives,” says Marc Hull-Jacquin, Founder and Executive Director.
The Shelter Movers team wanted to go further to support women and to make the organization more sustainable for the future. What if they owned their own moving and storage facility that could offer job training and employment to survivors of abuse? What if this facility enabled the organization to generate its own revenue and become less dependent on donations and government support? With the support of the Investment Readiness Program, the organization now has the resources to pursue this social finance concept and build the case for it. “This enterprise aims to strengthen Shelter Movers’ fiscal future while creating opportunities for survivors to earn a living in an anti-oppressive, anti-racist workplace,” says Hull-Jacquin.
The IRP funding is enabling him and other staff members to spend time developing the social enterprise, and will likely help pay for professional valuation services needed to evaluate businesses for purchase. “Quite simply, without the IRP funding, we could never have allocated so many human resources to this sizable project,” Hull-Jacquin says. “Without IRP, we could not chase this dream.”
For Hull-Jacquin, pursuing social finance means going beyond traditional fundraising to become self-sustainable and better serve community needs. “Instead of asking ‘What can we do with the money we have?’, I hope more non-profits ask ‘How can we muster the resources needed to provide our clients with the quality of service they deserve?’ ”
Because we live in an ableist society, women with disabilities continue to face higher risks of violence, poverty, and discrimination than other women. And critical services, including daycare, shelters, crisis and sexual assault centers, are often ill-equipped to meet their needs.
As Canada works to implement the Accessible Canada Act (ACA), there’s promise of progress toward more inclusion. But turning this legislation into action will mean educating both federal and private sector employees on how to apply an intersectional analysis to policies, programs and services, as well as on how to manage the hiring of employees with disabilities to meet their obligations under the ACA.
That’s why DAWN-RAFH Canada, which advocates for women, girls and gender non-conforming folks with Disabilities and Deaf women, is using IRP funding to establish a social enterprise that supports the implementation of the ACA amongst other things. The project, called VOX: A Human Rights Consortium, has the intention to fully develop intersectional practice in the context of research, education, policy and advocacy through a recognized co-creation methodology.
“Being able to develop this project during COVID-19 is so important to DAWN Canada and our partners,” says Kanitha Nhek, Director of Outreach and Partnerships at DAWN. “We continue to see how the pandemic has had a detrimental effect – particularly on marginalized communities. This further illustrates the need for a solidarity co-operative such as VOX.”
The IRP funding has allowed VOX to hire specialized consultants and a researcher to help develop the project, as well as provide compensation to partnering organizations. It’s allowing DAWN to overcome financial and capacity constraints, work toward a new revenue stream, and connect its work to the larger human rights sphere.
“Ultimately, we want to build VOX so that it can be replicated through local, provincial, national and even international communities,” Nhek says. “VOX brings together Human Rights experts (both organizations and individuals) to co-create intersectional practices to enhance and positively impact all marginalized communities.”