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

Alberta Social Entrepreneurship Support System: Funding

Financial Support to Help Build Capacity in Social Entrepreneurship


In response to COVID-19, Trico Foundation has taken our $250,000 annual A.S.E.S.S. budget for local social enterprises and re-allocated it to charitable organizations that are working on the front lines to address COVID-19’s impact on those experiencing poverty. 

The Trico Foundation team wanted to keep the organizations focused on the front lines rather than applying for funding, so rather than an application process recipients were selected off a list on the Calgary Foundation site .

The $250,000 has now been disbursed among the selected charitable organizations.

A.S.E.S.S. funding will resume in 2021 per the below details.

Trico Foundation offers grants to Alberta based charitable organizations. Our funding has been designed for organizations that feel they know the next step in their social enterprise journey and have identified that they need funding to take that next step. The annual budget for A.S.E.S.S. funding is $250,000 with a maximum request of $25,000 per project. We are most excited by eligible social enterprise’s that have the potential to do at least one and ideally all of:

a) Tapping into the power of the pull of markets (having a product customers really want and the ability to make money satisfying that want) to solve social problems;

b) Addressing a market failure– the more challenging the market failure the better;

c) Blending social and entrepreneurial (business) models in harmonious, or even better, synergistic (learn more about the three types of blends here) and imaginative/innovative ways;

d) Addressing pervasive and entrenched gaps in society (the bigger and/or more systemic the better). “Gaps in society are listed in more detail below in the eligibility requirements ;

e) Having a vision for the ultimate impact they want to make and a high-level plan for how to get there;

f) Embracing the social entrepreneur’s mindset (learn more about the social entrepreneur’s mindset here) and the ability to progress by way of experimentation – for example, using frugal experimentation to learn, pivot where needed, and to make progress – rather than simply ‘working to a plan’.  

This page is for social enterprise efforts that feel they have their key issues figured out and need funding to help them get to the next level of their venture. 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. TLC (Tools, Links and Coaching) page. Please remember, if at any time during the funding application process you would like to access TLC you are free to do so. Likewise, anyone using TLC 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:

1. Organizations looking to apply for A.S.E.S.S. Funding must be based in Alberta and the initiative they are seeking funding for must provide social impact to Albertans.
2. Per Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) Regulations, organizations must be:
  • A qualified donee under CRA regulations (for more information on this, please visit the CRA website)
3. The initiative you are seeking funding for must meet the below criteria:

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: For example, relief of economic exclusion, relief of poverty, relief of social exclusion, promoting good health or well-being, helping children and/or youth at risk, relief of the aged/seniors, gender equality, addresses environmental sustainability, enhanced peace and justice; and

d) Exclusions: While laudable the certain ventures are not eligible for A.S.E.S.S. funding: consultants, advisors, incubators, accelerators,  associations, funders of other social impact organizations, and education initiatives.

4. The Trico Foundation is most excited by social enterprise's that do at least one and ideally all of:
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 conditions. Please 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:

In response to COVID-19, Trico Foundation has taken our $250,000 annual A.S.E.S.S. budget for local social enterprises and re-allocated it to charitable organizations that are working on the front lines to address COVID-19’s impact on those experiencing poverty. 

The $250,000 has now been disbursed among the selected charitable organizations.

A.S.E.S.S. funding will resume in 2021


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

Social Enterprises Solve Social Problems by Transcending ‘Business as Usual’:

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.

Flexible Funding:

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.

A New Type of Funding Relationship:

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.

Avoiding Funder-Fundee Power Dynamics:

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.