Investment Readiness Program (IRP)

Investment Readiness Program logo

Applications for the 2nd round of the IRP is closed!!

Step 1: Complete the appropriate application form:

Step 2: Submit your completed form to the IRP application portal.

Below is a guide to the IRP application. If you have any questions, please contact Shady Hafez.  

Program Overview

The IRP was first initiated in 2019-2021, distributing nearly $50 million to social purpose organizations (charities, non-profits, social enterprises, for-profits with a social purpose and co-operatives), building their capacity to participate in Canada’s growing social finance market. The program is designed to help social purpose organizations (SPOs) prepare for the Government of Canada’s broader investment in social finance via the Social Finance Fund, a bold $755 million commitment expected to launch in 2022-2023. More information about the Government of Canada’s Investment Readiness Program is available.

The NAFC is one of four Readiness Support Partners mandated by the Government of Canada to deliver funding for the new iteration of the ​IRP. The NAFC will distribute nearly $4.5 million in non-repayable capital to Friendship Centres, Provincial / Territorial Associations and other urban Indigenous Social Purpose Organizations to help build their capacity to participate in Canada’s growing social economy.

The NAFC is working closely with the three other national organizations delivering the Government of Canada’s IRP funding. Friendship Centres, Provincial / Territorial Associations and urban Indigenous SPOs may also be eligible to receive support from these funding partners. To learn more about other Readiness Support Partners’ funding programs, criteria, and application periods, please visit their websites:


Our Investment Readiness Program webinar today has to be postponed due to technical difficulties. Our apologies and we will provide an updated date and time shortly. If you have any immediate questions about the application process or IRP in general, contact Shady Hafez

Program Goals

Through the IRP, the NAFC aims to boost urban Indigenous participation in social innovation and social finance. This is especially important for urban Indigenous communities, given the multiple barriers and under-representation in this field. We believe that promoting entrepreneurship and innovation, as well as the growth of micro-, small- and medium-sized enterprises, helps Friendship Centres, Provincial / Territorial Associations and other urban Indigenous SPOs develop greater economic prosperity. The NAFC will support and encourage the growth and readiness of urban Indigenous social purpose 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.

Through the Investment Readiness Program funding, we aspire to:

  • Increase urban Indigenous engagement in the social economy;
  • Support the development of social enterprises that address community needs and positively impact the community;
  • Support the growth of collective intergenerational wealth and prosperity for urban Indigenous communities;
  • Enhance the capacity of urban Indigenous SPOs to develop enterprises that support service delivery and advance their respective missions;
  • Increase urban Indigenous SPOs accessibility to expert advice and information; and
  • Advance urban Indigenous SPOs towards investment readiness.
General Eligibility

All NAFC-member Friendship Centres and Provincial / Territorial Associations are eligible to apply for the IRP.

For other urban Indigenous Social Purpose Organizations, the organization must demonstrate that:

  • It is a not-for-profit social purpose organization.
    • A social purpose organization (SPO) is an organization that is not centred on monetary profit and is advancing a social, cultural or environmental mission. A SPO can be a charity, non-profit, social enterprise, or co-operative. For the purposes of the IRP, the NAFC considers all NAFC-member FCs and PTAs to be social purpose organizations.
  • It is an organization that provides services primarily to urban Indigenous peoples which is defined as:
    • First Nation, Inuit and Métis people living in small, medium and large communities, including rural, isolated and remote communities, which are: off-reserve; outside of their home community, community of origin or settlement; or outside of **Inuit Nunangat (**Inuit Homelands).
    • With regards to services, the organization can address a number of community needs including but not limited to:
      • Health Services
      • Community / Social Services
      • Housing
      • Cultural / Spiritual Services and Revitalization
      • Youth Services and Programming
      • Creative Arts
    • The organization is an Indigenous led organization, with significant Indigenous representation among its leadership and employees, this can be demonstrated by:
      • Having significant Indigenous representation on the board of directors / leadership of the organization and by having significant Indigenous representation among the employees of the organization.
      • Showcasing how the organization was created by and for urban Indigenous communities.
      • Providing details on the mission, vision and population served by the organization.

All applicant organizations must demonstrate that:

  • They have, or intend to operate, a mechanism that generates revenue from the sales of goods and/or services;
  • They have, or plan to build, capacity and expertise to carry out the proposed project for which they are applying;
  • That the proposed project will assist the organization in fulfilling their respective missions;
  • That the proposed project will address a community need, contribute to positive impacts in the community and contribute to the generation of collective intergenerational wealth for the community.

Organizations that received IRP funds in the past are eligible to apply for further funds by submitting an application. Previous IRP funding recipients must demonstrate milestones reached, successes and how additional funding will further advance your investment readiness goals.

Application Deadlines

Applications for Round 2  will be accepted from January 30th until February 13, 2023 at 11:59 PM PST.

Applicants should expect to receive a decision on their application by March 10, 2023.

Projects should begin no later than March 31st and should be complete by September, 2023.

Application Details

Applications may apply to one of the three NAFC IRP funding streams:

  1. Explore Stream
  2. Start Stream
  3. Grow Stream

Organizations may only submit one application for consideration per application cycle, the NAFC will host two application cycles.

Organizations can be in the early, middle or late stages of development, however the NAFC has dedicated specific amounts to various stages of development, please refer to the following funding streams to see where you fit:

EXPLORE STREAM: ($10,000-$45,000)

Social enterprises at the early ‘idea’ or ‘proof-of-concept’ stage or an existing early-stage enterprise where research and development has not been carried out. Your organization may have an idea and you would like to align a proposed solution to an identified need.

Activities could include concept development, developing a business case, business model, business plan, demonstrating and exploring feasibility, using data for planning or developing an impact measurement plan, mapping diverse funding sources, community consultations etc.

START STREAM: ($10,000 - $150,000)

Social enterprise is beyond the “idea stage” and are ready to prove a concept. For example, you have already identified the need, demonstrated the business feasibility, and/or a business plan and require funds to realize the idea.

To be eligible for this steam, applicants must provide the NAFC with appropriate proof of planning, this can be either a business plan, feasibility study or both.

This stream can include start-up expenses such as: product or service development, human resource costs directly associated with the development of the enterprise, marketing, licensing and minor asset purchases and renovations. Other expenses will be assessed at the discretion of the NAFC. Please see the list of ineligible expenses for more information.

GROW STREAM: ($10,000 - $150,000)

Social enterprise is beyond both the “idea stage” and “start up” stage and has been in operation for at least one year. The enterprise has demonstrated success and self-sufficiency and has proven positive impacts for the community.

This stream is dedicated to growing and scaling existing and successful social enterprises to new levels of investment readiness. Projects could include activities such as developing or advancing investor outreach strategies, cultivating investor relationships, preparing an investment pitch, impact measurement, deepening and fine-tuning the business model, prototyping and/or testing new products and services, marketing, digital engagement, communication and storytelling strategies, diversifying earned income and revenue streams, testing and fine-tuning business/financial models and minor asset purchases and renovations.

Organizations applying under this stream must demonstrate the success and impact of the enterprise to date.

Eligible Expenses

The IRP provides funding in the form of a grant to cover the following expenses:

  • Business plans, strategy development, feasibility / viability studies, market research, market analysis, technical studies
  • Financial expertise services including, forecasts and financial modelling, accounting services, financial recording, cost analysis
  • Legal, financial, or other technical expertise advice, guidance, and services
  • Impact Measurement
  • Research and development
  • Marketing, design, branding, or expenses related to acquiring software, web site/ecommerce design, digital products, software packages
  • Product development, production of prototypes, market and product/service tests, percentage of licensing or market fees
  • Minor asset purchases and / or renovations (must be related to enterprise development)
  • Incremental HR / staff expenses dedicated to carrying out activities and admin. costs related to the project (up to 20% of project budget)

Other expenses may be considered. To receive guidance, please contact our IRP Coordinator, Shady Hafez.


What the non-repayable capital cannot be used for?

  • Core operating costs of the organization
  • Real estate or land purchases
  • COVID-19 related business relief
  • Individually owned enterprise development
  • Fundraising events and conferences
  • Travel not related to enterprise business


Evaluation Criteria

To be considered for the NAFC’s IRP, applicants must meet all IRP eligibility criteria, provide the required supporting documentation, and describe their social enterprise’s social, environmental or cultural impact or desired impact. Enterprises must demonstrate sound business practices and planning. For more clarity on evaluation criteria please see below:

Social Enterprise Proposal

  • Clarity of project
  • Demonstrate the feasibility, viability and need for the project
  • Demonstrate how the project will have a positive impact on the community
  • Demonstrate how the community supports and is engaged in the project.


  • Strong organization with a track record and positive community reputation
  • Indigenous led and serves an urban Indigenous community
  • Must be open to participate in on-going monitoring and evaluation of the project, which may include site visits and documentation for storytelling purposes.
  • For newly founded organizations, demonstrate early impact in the community, good community engagement and inclusion and strong leadership and governance.

Additional Considerations

  • Demonstrated relevance for the serviced community
  • Projects alignment with the NAFC’s values, principles, vision and mission, please see the NAFC website for more information.
  • Ability of the project to sustain itself beyond IRP funding
  • Use of gender analysis in the delivery of the project
  • Previous demonstrated experience with monitoring, reporting and documenting successes and challenges
  • Budget matches the description of project deliverables and outcomes

Social Purpose Organization

A social purpose organization (SPO) is an organization that is not centred on monetary profit and is advancing a social, cultural or environmental mission. An SPO can be a charity, non-profit, social enterprise and co-operative. For the purposes of the IRP, the NAFC considers all NAFC-member FCs and PTAs to be social purpose organizations.

Social Economy

Friendship Centres play an important role in the social economy. The NAFC is adopting wording from Chantier de l’économie sociale regarding the definition of social economy. For the NAFC-funded component of the IRP, the NAFC will consider all economic activities with a social purpose carried out by FCs who either operate or own for-profit enterprises, whose activities consist of the sale or exchange of goods or services with the purpose of meeting the needs of urban Indigenous community members or the community as a whole.

Social Enterprise

A social enterprise is a business, whether independent or owned by an organization, that is mission-driven, aiming to sell goods or services to earn a revenue, while also helping achieve positive social, cultural or environmental objectives. FCs often operate social enterprises as either a subsidiary business or operate the social enterprise directly in addition to its non-profit work. As social enterprises, the revenue generated from FC-owned businesses should support the delivery of services or the overall mission of the FC itself.

Social Finance

Social finance is an investment that has a positive social, cultural or environmental impact that also generates some return for investors. Through loans and investments, social finance can give FCs access to opportunities to create new streams of revenue and in turn sustain the missions of FCs.

Social innovation

Social innovation supports new solutions to pressing social, cultural and environmental concerns. However, many of the social innovations that are developed by Indigenous communities and organizations are not necessarily new but rather are drawn from Indigenous principles and ways of knowing. In some situations, a social innovation may include the resurgence of an Indigenous way of knowing, practice, or approach to a contemporary matter.

Investment Readiness

Under the IRP, the NAFC seeks to support FCs and PTAs with acquiring skills, knowledge, techniques that, once mastered and implemented within the Friendship Centre movement, will move down the readiness spectrum and increase preparedness for financial investment in FC social enterprises. In preparing for investment, FCs can adopt approaches related to new entrepreneurial projects and new tools to attract new investment to increase the impact of their social mission.

Examples of projects supported by the IRP


Wachiay Friendship Centre – Courtenay, BC

Wachiay Studio is a social enterprise operated by the Wachiay Friendship Centre in Courtenay, British Columbia. With a focus on urban and rural Indigenous youth, the studio offers services for artists, schools, community groups, and individuals to learn screen printing while working alongside industry professionals. In addition to its training programs, the studio provides commercial print services that include textiles, posters, and fine art screen printing.

The Studio came into existence as a result of evening art classes and a desire to attract increased numbers of Indigenous youth, adults and elders over the years. Classes included: screen printing; art skills development; cultural knowledge and amplification and entrepreneurial training. Participants created ‘One Tribe’, a cooperative that promotes a social economy with benefits accruing to Indigenous community members. The Studio was incorporated May 17, 2015, with the social purpose to promote Indigenous art and culture and provide affordable printing services to Indigenous artists, Indigenous schools and community members / groups. The studio is capable of printing art on textiles, paper, wood, plastic, glass, metal and more.

For more information on the Wachiay Studio, please visit:



Under One Sky Friendship Centre – Fredericton, NB

Under One Sky offer’s half and full day professional development workshops on cultural safety and humility in the workplace, with an emphasis on Indigenous peoples. As an Indigenous led non-profit, Under One Sky Friendship Centre staff provide firsthand insights and practical knowledge that participants can apply in their personal and professional life. Their Indigenous Cultural Awareness Training provides a foundation of knowledge that can help workplaces and their employees navigate cross-cultural dynamics with other cultures, be it staff or clients. Since launching the ICDT program, over 25 sessions have provided more than 300 employees and key decision makers (across healthcare, government, public, private and education sectors) with the tools and knowledge required to identify, address, and resolve issues related to racism and discrimination through group discussions, role-playing, scenario analysis, and reflection activities through the ICDT program. As a direct result of the IRP funding, ICDT sessions have been made more readily available and easily accessible for teams and organizations who recognize the urgency of delivering culturally appropriate services both within their organization and to their clients - increase cultural understanding/awareness and more effective, anti-racist practices.

For more information on the program please visit:



Lac La Biche Friendship Centre Association – Lac La Biche, AB

In 2016, the Lac La Biche Friendship Centre expanded to include a social enterprise venture, Indigenous Spirit Creations, a for-profit cultural experience venture that employs Indigenous people, strengthens partnerships within the community, supports and promotes local Indigenous artisans, and revitalizes traditional teachings and practices. Under this social enterprise venture, the Centre has created partnerships with Alberta Parks to develop Indigenous cultural tourism initiatives such as Tipi Comfort Camping and Cook it Raw. More recently, the Centre has partnered with Hideaway Adventure Grounds to provide Métis Comfort Camping experiences.

With the expansion of their programming, and their growing relationships with local, provincial, and national organizations, authorities, and communities, the Lac La Biche Friendship Centre is becoming an important cultural centre for Indigenous and non-Indigenous people to come together. Herein, their role is shifting from solely social service delivery to a collaborative cultural centre. The Friendship Centre now faces a growing demand for its services and the association has outgrown their existing facility at 10105 Churchill Drive in Lac La Biche.



Vancouver Aboriginal Friendship Centre Society – Vancouver, BC

VAFCS' Klatawa Community Bike Shop has made a substantial and positive impact for the urban aboriginal population as well as the cycling community. Moreover, the bike shop has made a name for itself by providing a safe environment for youth, adults and their families to socially participate in bike mechanics. The shop has been providing full-service bike repairs since August 2019 and has run two bicycle mechanic programs to date. In fact, the bicycle shop has created opportunities for employment for twelve Indigenous bike mechanics who all have been hired in professional shops. More importantly, the shop is a safe haven for all cyclists to learn, share wisdom and promote healthier choices through cycling as a means of transportation. The bike shop is the only Indigenous ran bike shop in Vancouver, which encourages community through an indigenous perspective in a predominantly non-indigenous industry. Moreover, this enhances the urban aboriginal community to socially participate in the cycling industry either as bike mechanics or recreational cyclists. This is especially important as Klatawa provides bike repairs and sells bicycles at the fraction of other shops.