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Applying for a CIRA grant? Here’s six tips to set you up for success

By Caitlin Sears
Grants Coordinator

CIRA is offering a webinar for applicants on March 7. If you’re interested, register here.

If you’re interested in funding for internet projects in your community, CIRA Grants opens for applications on March 2! Grants are available up to $100,000 to fund community-led internet projects. We know preparing a funding application can often seem daunting, so we’ve put together six tips to set you up for success. If you have any questions, reach out to [email protected].

Tip #1: Check your alignment

Making sure your project fits CIRA’s criteria should be your first step. Our funding areas have changed since last year, so be sure to check your project idea against our three funding areas: Infrastructure, Online Safety, and Policy Engagement. You can also find examples of the types of projects we fund in each of these funding areas listed in the ‘What We Fund’ section of our website to help guide you.

Once you determine that your project is aligned to our funding areas, it’s important to review CIRA’s Evaluation Criteria. Our grants evaluation panel uses this set of criteria to decide which projects are funded.

Tip #2: Plan your timeline

Lay out a clear plan that demonstrates the project outputs are realistically achievable in your proposed timeframe. With over 200 funded projects to date, CIRA’s Evaluation Panel is good at doing a reality check on project plans and knows when the information is too vague.

Show that you have the team and project experience to deliver. Demonstrating your track record from previous projects helps. Our panel wants to see that the organizational capacity is there to ensure the reality of the project meets the vision.

Tip #3: Tell us who’s involved

Who is leading your project? Why do they think it is needed? How was it conceived? Who had a role in putting the ideas together? Your project proposal should show who has developed the project and how they are connected to the beneficiary community. For 2023, CIRA is prioritizing projects that benefit northern, rural, and Indigenous communities, and/or students from K-12 to post-secondary. The panel wants to see how the beneficiary communities have played a role in the development of the project. This includes providing letters of support from community partners and/or community participants to demonstrate how you’ve engaged the community, established relationships, and involved local people who provide the commitment and expertise you need to make your project a success.

Tip #4: Dollars and sense

The budget you present tells the nuts-and-bolts story of your project. What people and tools do you need to get the job done? Provide as much detail as possible on the costs and units of measure in the budget template that CIRA provides.

The budget should be reasonable and appropriate to the scope of the project and your organization’s capacity to manage the funds. This will be assessed based on the accompanying financial documentation you are asked to provide which includes your organization’s most recent audited financial statements and your current operating budget.

Also, make sure to note which expenses you intend to use the CIRA grant funding for—this can be indicated on the CIRA-specific expense section of the budget sheet (check out the sample application form). You can apply for grants up to $100,000. It’s common that the funds required to fully implement your project are higher than CIRA’s grant limit and that is fine. CIRA welcomes projects with multiple sources of revenue—whether that is from other funders, or from your own in-kind contributions.

One important note: IT equipment should make up no more than 25% of the project budget, except in the case of Infrastructure projects.

Tip #5: Think long-term

Outcomes are the concrete results and changes you foresee for the community. Show us the tangible outputs as well as the anticipated changes the beneficiaries will experience.  And when it comes to sustainability, CIRA looks for projects whose value and benefits will live on after the initial project investment. It’s important to show that you’ve thought through what becomes of the project outputs once the funding ends. Will people still have access to the benefits?

Tip #6: Apply early!

This is the most important tip – apply early! Why? Because CIRA’s grant application process comes with a catch: we do an eligibility review as soon as your project is submitted. If anything needs adjusting, we will send it back. The earlier you apply, the more time you will have to make corrections. After April 12 at 2 p.m. EST, your project will be deemed ineligible should there be any issues with your documentation. While CIRA’s application process is simple and streamlined, we know that grant applications take time and effort, and we don’t want a last-minute application to cost you a brilliant project idea. Save yourself the stress and try to submit early and we will review and confirm your documentation. It is your responsibility to provide complete documentation by the deadline.

To recap, when you’re preparing your project this year, focus on the following: check project alignment, follow our evaluation criteria and take the initiative to apply early.

We hope this makes your application process less daunting and gives you the confidence to submit a standout application to make a difference in your community! For more information check out our website and sign up for our grant applicant webinar on March 7th at 1 p.m. ET.

About the author
Caitlin Sears

Caitlin is part of CIRA’s Net Good team as Grants Coordinator. Her background is in the charitable sector, and she is passionate about funding digital equity.