Investment Readiness Program

The Canadian Women’s Foundation is no longer accepting proposals for the Investment Readiness Program Pilot (2019-2021).

If you want to learn more about social finance and the initiatives funded, please consult the information below. You can also sign up to our newsletter for upcoming announcements.

In total, we funded 41 organizations across 3 cycles of this 2-year funding program with each organization funded up to a maximum of $50,000.

Background On The Investment Readiness Program

As one of the partners in the Investment Readiness Program announced by the Federal Government in June 2019, the Canadian Women’s Foundation will receive $3 million over two years to help social purpose organizations become investment ready to access the new Social Finance Fund, which will be launched in 2020.

The Foundation believes that promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as the growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises helps women develop greater economic prosperity. With more knowledge and experience in the use of social finance mechanisms and tools, the women’s sector will be better able to support these enterprises.

Through the Investment Readiness Program funding, the Foundation aims to boost women’s sector participation in social innovation and social finance. This is especially important for organizations that serve women who face multiple barriers and are underrepresented in this field.

More information on the Investment Readiness Program.

Program goals

The Foundation will support and encourage the growth and readiness of women-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 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
  • Enhance capacity
  • Increase accessibility to expert advice and information
  • Contribute to learning on what works
  • Apply a gender lens throughout using GBA+

Our Impact and Learnings

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:

This tool was adapted from the Canadian Social Enterprise Guide, the S4ES Investment Readiness online tool, and the Innoweave Social Investment Readiness checklist.  

Social Finance Resources

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.

Learn more about social finance from our investees by watching these videos: 

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: 

  • 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: 
      1. Your organizational context and mission 
      2. Social enterprise and markets 
      3. Financial and money management capacities 
      4. Your story. Your impact

This tool was adapted from the Canadian Social Enterprise Guide, the S4ES Investment Readiness online tool, and the Innoweave Social Investment Readiness checklist.  

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:

  1. Governance Practices in the Context of Social Finance
  2. Revenue Diversification: important revenue and finance sources to consider pursuing
  3. Impact Measurement
  4. Communicating Your Impact: Steps to Establish a Robust Communications Strategy
  • The Common Approach works towards better impact measurement for social purpose organizations and is composed of 4 related standards that are community-driven. 
  • Take the Common Approach Self-Assessment to assess to what extent you are doing the essential practices of impact measurement. 
  • 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. 

  • Social Economy Through Social Innovation (SETSI): We are members of the working group hosted by Social Economy Through Social Innovation (SETSI), a collective of 40+ members in the social finance and social innovation ecosystem working to address anti-Black and anti-Indigenous racism in the sector. We joined other sector leaders in developing and signing this joint statement to deepen our commitment to rooting out racism, colonization, and exclusion in our work and sector 
  • Canadian Community Economic Development Network (CCEDNet): A national association of organizations and people throughout Canada committed to strengthening communities by creating economic opportunities that enhance social and environmental conditions.
  • 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 2021 here.
  • 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.
  • The Women Entrepreneurship Knowledge Hub (WEKH) shares research and resources for women entrepreneurs in Canada. Read the report on the State of Women’s Entrepreneurship in Canada in 2021 here. 
  • 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 MaRS community 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. 
  • The Startup Canada Women Entrepreneurs Program supports women entrepreneurs, particularly those from marginalized backgrounds, to start and scale thriving businesses.   
  • 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. 
  • Forum for Women Entrepreneurs: Share your business vision, grow your community, receive dedicated mentorship and pursue the opportunity for $50,000 cash for your business at FWE’s Pitch for the Purse!  
  • Communitech helps tech companies start, grow and succeed. 


If you have further questions, please contact us:
Phone: 416-365-1444
Fax: 416-365-1745
Toll-free: 1-866-293-4483
TY: 416-365-1732

Sagal Dualeh (ext. 221)
Director, Investment Readiness

The Investment Readiness Program is funded by the Government of Canada’s Social Innovation/Social Finance Strategy.

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Successful IRP Investees

Check out the list of funding recipients of the three cohorts of the Investment Readiness Program.

Hear from the IRP funding recipients below about the impacts of their grants:

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?’ ”

DAWN aims to start social enterprise that increases accessibility, broadens advocacy

Did you know that more than one in 10 women in Canada live with a disability that limits their daily activities?

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.”

Resources: Watch these recorded webinars

  1. Interested in social finance? Learn how you can grow your impact and sustainability through social finance from our investees below: 
    1. Investment Readiness Program: What is social finance?
    2. What is social finance? Learn more about Social Enterprises  
    3. What is social finance? Learn more about Social Innovation Incubators
    4. What is social finance? Learn more about Social Purpose Real Estate
  2. Introduction to the Investment Readiness Program and Social Finance (September 2020)
  3. Demystifying Financial Analysis, Modelling, and Investment ReadinessLearn from SVX and demystify the terms financial analysis, financial modelling, and investment readiness, and take control of your organization’s financial journey. 
  4. The Feminist Business Model Canvas: What defines feminist entrepreneurship? What makes a business feminist? And how do feminist businesses generate value? Learn to incorporate your feminism into your business through Feminists at Work. 
  5. Data and Impact: Demonstrating Value Framework for Community Programs (Part 1) & Sharing Expertise: Demonstrating Value Framework for Community Programs (Part 2):  Whether you are a social enterprise, non-profit program or collaborative initiative, keeping track of data can be a challenge. What’s important to collect? Learn from Demonstrating Value and Vancity Community Foundation. 

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