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A.S.E.S.S.: Funding

Alberta Social Entrepreneurship Support System: Funding
Financial Support to Help Build Capacity in Social Entrepreneurship


Trico Foundation offers grants to Alberta based charitable organizations that are engaged in social entrepreneurship (using business models – selling products or services – to solve social problems) to close gaps in society (see the below “Eligibility Details” section for more information).

Our funding has been designed for organizations that feel they know the next thing they need to learn in their social enterprise journey and have identified that they need funding to take that next step. Whether you call it experiments, tests, social R&D, or something else, the key is, “It is part of building a culture of curiosity throughout the social sector about what works, what doesn’t, and why or why not” (“THE FUTURE IS MADE, ENVIRONMENTAL SCAN 2019: Trends and Emerging Issues”, Prepared for Calgary Foundation by James Stauch, MRU Institute for Community Prosperity). For ease of reference, from now on we will use “testing”. A good example of the type of testing we are talking about (and the power of testing) is this short video about Owlet.

While it is important that organizations are clear on their vision for the ultimate impact they want to achieve and have a high-level plan for how to get there (we will even ask you about this), we are most excited by organizations that embrace the social entrepreneur’s mindset (learn more about the social entrepreneur’s mindset here) and have the ability to progress by way of testing – for example, using frugal testing to learn, pivot where needed, and to make progress – rather than simply ‘working to a plan’.  

The annual budget for A.S.E.S.S. funding is $250,000 with a maximum request of $25,000 per project. These grants are meant to be a standalone– meaning the $25,000 is not meant to be used as part of a larger amount that you are seeking/ combined with other funds.  For example, say that you have identified that you need $100,000 to open a storefront: 

  • What you could not do: You could not combine the A.S.E.S.S. $25,000 with other funding to reach the target amount of $100,000; 
  • What you could do: If an organization/ other funder that you were seeking the $100,000 from said they were tempted but would like to see “X” first, then you could use the up to $25,000 of A.S.E.S.S. to prove “X”;   
  • What else you could do: If on your way to getting ready for the $100,000 there was some uncertainty or questions that you wanted to experiment on or resolve, and you could run that test with $25,000 or less, then A.S.E.S.S. funding would be a perfect fit.

If you are unsure of whether your proposed activity/ next step fits our funding parameters, the best thing to do is complete the below idea submission for our team to review (we explain more about the idea submission process below). If you are still at the stage of seeking help with the key issues facing social entrepreneurs, please access our A.S.E.S.S. Tools & Coaching page. Please remember, if at any time during the funding application process you would like to access Tools & Coaching you are free to do so. Likewise, anyone using Tools & Coaching is free to apply for funding whenever they feel they are ready.  

On this page:

  • Eligibility Details
  • How to Apply
  • A.S.E.S.S. Funding: Guiding Principles

Eligibility Details:

  • A qualified donee under CRA regulations (for more information on this, please visit the CRA website)
  • Please note, per CRA, you yourself must be closing a gap in society and these funds cannot flow through to a non-qualified partner/ organization.

a) Use business models – selling a product or service – to solve social problems.

b) Be post-ideation: At the post-ideation phase an organization has a specific idea for a social venture they want to develop or grow.

c) Address a gap in society: Please Click Here for more details

d) Exclusions: Consultants, advisors, incubators, accelerators, associations, or funders that create impact by supporting other social enterprises or social enterprise-like organizations; and education initiatives; while laudable, do not qualify for A.S.E.S.S. Funding. We do wish to note that we tend to focus on social enterprises where government is not the main customer—however, organizations are welcome to apply should they wish to be considered.

a) Tap into the power of the pull of markets: Among all the efforts seeking to address social issues, what makes social entrepreneurship unique is its use of business models/markets. When are business models the most effective? When they can tap into what is known as the ‘pull’, versus the ‘push’, of markets. The difference between the ‘push’ versus the ‘pull’ of markets is the difference between a venture saying “please buy!” versus a customer saying “I must buy!” Of course, “please buy” is a question of degree, but the more desperate it becomes, the more trouble your venture is facing. On the other hand, the market pull of “I must buy” opens up the promise of sustainability, of profitability and all the options that brings, and scale. b) Aim to address pervasive and entrenched gaps in society (the bigger and/or more systemic the better): Learn more about this here. For our purposes, we consider transformative change and equilibrium shifts to be synonymous. They involve replacing a system that helped perpetuate a social problem with a new but stable system that solves the social problem. It’s a fundamentally new state of affairs that changes rather than ameliorates troubling conditionsPlease note, while we are excited by transformative change, we know many big things start with just trying to help a few people or address a certain injustice. So this aspect is where you will have the most latitude: as long as you are solving a gap in society we will do our best to help you. To learn more about the issues encapsulated in our understanding of gaps in society, check out the section above on eligibility criteria. c) Blend social and entrepreneurial (business) models in new (unheard of) ways: We are always on the lookout for new ways to effectively blend the social and the entrepreneurial. To learn more about the basics of blending the social and the entrepreneurial check out our blog on this.

How to Apply:

If you are interested in A.S.E.S.S. Funding and fit the above criteria, there are three stages to our application review process:

  1. As a preliminary step, we ask that you please submit ideas through the Idea Submission Form. The Idea Submission is designed to see whether you meet the most basic of our funding parameters by asking just a few questions. Please note that given the high volume of inquiries we get, we cannot respond to every submission and we also ask that you please refrain from contacting the Trico Foundation Team directly. Should the need arise to contact us, please email ;
  2. If we see a potential match between your idea and our area of focus, we aim to let you know within 10 business days by signalling a move to step two. Here we will ask you to “give us what you have.” Because we know your time is precious, here rather than asking you to create something new or fit your existing work into a funding application, we always like to ask organizations if they have any completed/ existing internal or external planning documents that correspond with the project. The goal is not to have you create something specific for Trico Foundation, but instead to utilize documentation you already have that you would like to be included in the materials to be reviewed (for example a strategic or business plan);
  3. Finally, after reviewing the above requested materials, we will reach out with any questions that remain to ensure we have all the information we need to make the funding decision.

Please note, that there is an annual budget of $250,000 for A.S.E.S.S. funding. This budget is spent on a ‘first come, first-served’ model on applicants that qualify for funding. Should you submit a request for funding that exceeds the amount remaining in our budget for the current year, a Trico Foundation team member will be in contact to discuss the options for moving forward.

A.S.E.S.S. Funding: Guiding Principles

The Trico Foundation believes that to truly serve those organizations we need funding that also transcends ‘business as usual’. In order to do this, we embrace the following principles. Any suggestions you may have on how we can improve our process are welcome.

A.S.E.S.S. has been designed to be flexible and responsive to the needs identified by the organizations we work with. This means funding when organizations need it (i.e. no arbitrary deadlines). Additionally, A.S.E.S.S. funding has been designed to encompass a wider variety of social enterprise needs. * Please note, that there is an annual budget of $250,000 for A.S.E.S.S. funding. Should you submit a request for funding that exceeds the amount remaining for the current year, a Trico Foundation team member will be in contact to discuss options.

We see A.S.E.S.S. as an opportunity to develop a new type of relationship between ourselves and Alberta social enterprises that is ongoing and evolving. The goal of our funding is to build capacity in organizations and help them develop sustainable business models. Therefore, organizations are able to apply for further funding through A.S.E.S.S. as they move forward on their social enterprise journey. However, any requests for additional funds will be based on our history together. This means that organizations don’t have to start from square one each time they identify additional supports they need and that we will consider their previous work with us in our decision making process.

The Trico Foundation strongly believes social enterprises are most effective when they own their own journey. That means, whenever possible, giving them the help they request and never having them do something because a funder said so. With A.S.E.S.S. we have worked hard to separate our social enterprise TLC (Tools, Links and Coaching) from our funding process because they address very different needs identified by the social entrepreneur and we want to respect those choices (and avoid funder-fundee power dynamics). By taking part in the A.S.E.S.S. funding application process, you are indicating to us that you aren’t looking for help figuring things out; you have things figured out and now need financial help. As a Foundation, our work has to stay within the parameters of our mandate (for details please see the above eligibility requirements section) and we may ask some follow-up questions to clarify, but we will give you a simple “yes” or “no” answer regarding your request for funds. We will not use your funding application as an excuse to give you help figuring out things you did not ask for. This also means if we are not prepared to fund you we will not give tips on how to make your funding application successful.  Why not? Because our tips would be about helping you figure out things regarding your social enterprise and that is not what you said you needed. Bear in mind, you can always access TLC to help you figure things out regarding the operation of your social enterprise but it is not for us to say you need TLC or that you have a specific issue you need to address – that would be falling into the trap of funder-fundee power dynamics. We also respect the value of your time, and have tried to keep our application as short as possible while still giving us the information we need to make a decision.