Application guidelines – The First Spark Initiative

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Objectives and expected results for The First Spark Initiative

As part of its focus on innovation, evidence and results, the Government of Canada has committed to experimenting with new approaches to existing problems and measuring the impact of programs. In this spirit, the Strategic Initiatives component of the Canada Cultural Investment Fund (CCIF) has launched The First Spark Initiative.

Canadian arts and heritage organizations who identify a common business challenge may apply for up to $5,000 to organize a collaborative problem-solving activity which seeks to address this challenge. The goal of The First Spark Initiative is to bring organizations and experts together to explore creative ways of problem solving.

By using creative approaches to collaborative problem solving, partnerships and knowledge exchange with industry experts and consultants from the cultural, corporate and/or academic fields, the expected results of The First Spark Initiative are innovative business solutions for participating cultural organizations. It is anticipated that recipients who later apply for project funding under the Strategic Initiatives component or another private or public sector program will have stronger partnerships and proposals based on the articulated needs of the sector.

Application deadline

This is a time-limited initiative. Applications will be accepted on a continuous basis from November 15, 2018 to November 15, 2019. They must be submitted a minimum of six weeks prior to the start of the proposed project. Organizations may submit more than one application within this timeframe, provided they are for distinctly different projects.

Who can apply

To be eligible for funding, your organization must be:

  • a not-for-profit organization, association, institution, or foundation incorporated under the Canada Not-for-Profit Corporations Act or equivalent provincial or territorial legislation, or equivalent Indigenous peoples' institution or organization, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit:
    • administered by an active board of directors or equivalent Indigenous governing body;
    • with a mandate related to the arts or heritage sector as outlined in its mandate statement; and
    • with activities and programs that include the arts or heritage sector;


  • a post-secondary education institution;


  • a heritage organization governed by a provincial, territorial or municipal government with distinct objectives, programs and budgets related to heritage.

Cultural industries and their associations are not eligible as lead applicants for this project since they benefit from assistance offered by other programs and initiatives of the Government of Canada. Federal departments and agencies, or other levels of government are also not eligible. However, these organizations can be considered as eligible partners for this project.


We are responsible for determining the eligibility of each applicant, its project and project-related expenses.

The First Spark Initiative of the Canada Cultural Investment Fund is highly competitive. Requests for funding typically exceed our available resources. Even if your organization is eligible, submitting an application does not guarantee funding.

Eligible projects

To be eligible for funding from The First Spark Initiative, your organization must have identified:

  1. a business challenge you share with other organizations, such as:
    • data management and discoverability
    • digital transformation
    • governance issues
    • marketing and audience development
    • revenue diversification and fundraising
    • technology issues
  2. all organizations with which you will be partnering to explore possible solutions (a minimum of one partner is required)
  3. a participatory activity you will organize to address the business challenge, such as:
    • design jam
    • design-thinking workshop
    • experimentation with and mastery of new tools or technology
    • hackathon
    • ideation workshop
  4. the type of expertise you will involve to explore possible solutions, such as:
    • academic research
    • audience development
    • board and/or organizational governance
    • data management and discoverability
    • design thinking / innovation
    • digital transformation
    • finance
    • fundraising and development
    • information technology (IT)
    • marketing and communications
    • operational research
    • workshop facilitator

Eligible expenses

The project-related expenses can be cash and/or in-kind value and may include (but are not limited to):

  • honoraria and fees paid to industry experts, trainers, facilitators and consultants;
  • technology costs (specialized software, custom programming, etc.);
  • pro-rated salaries and wages directly related to the time spent on the project;
  • rental of space or equipment;
  • materials and supplies;
  • advertising, publishing / printing, translation;
  • travel and accommodation costs (must be reasonable and must not exceed the rates permitted in the federal government's  Travel Directive);
  • evaluation of project results; and
  • creation of final report.

In-kind contributions are considered real contributions to the cost of the proposed project but are not reimbursable. Donated goods and services may be considered in-kind contributions if they:

  • are essential to your project's success;
  • are eligible and would otherwise have to be purchased or paid for by you;
  • can be measured at fair market value (i.e. in relation to similar goods and services); and
  • are balanced by an equal revenue in your budget (i.e. total in-kind expenses equal total in-kind revenues).

The following expenses cannot be funded:

  • hospitality expenses; and
  • operating expenses.

The following activities will not be funded:

  • artistic creations, artistic and heritage production and programming; and
  • curriculum development.

Limits of government assistance

The maximum amount of funding available from this initiative is $5,000 per project. We can fund up to 75% of total project expenses.

How to apply

Read these Application Guidelines in their entirety before completing your application. You must meet all eligibility requirements and submit the following documents to be considered for funding. A complete application package includes the Application Form and the following supporting documents:

  • A copy of the applicant's letters patent and/or certificate of incorporation as a not-for-profit organization or equivalent document; and
  • A copy of the applicant's bylaws.

Application process

  • Complete, sign and date the Application Form;
  • Attach all the required supporting documents; and
  • Submit your application by only one means (i.e. email, mail, courier, or in-person).

Send your completed application and supporting documents by email to:

Or by mail, courier, or in person to:

Department of Canadian Heritage
Canada Cultural Investment Fund
Strategic Initiatives component
25 Eddy Street 13th Floor Room 297 (25-13-V)
Gatineau Québec J8X 4B5

Application processing time

We will acknowledge receipt of your application within two weeks of receiving your application in our office.

Funding decisions

We will notify you of our funding decision within six to eight weeks of receiving your application. Please note that decisions regarding eligibility and funding amounts are final.

How funding is provided

Funding will be disbursed as a grant. A grant is a payment issued to a recipient for a project. The conditions you agreed to at the time of application will apply.

Funding conditions

You must provide proof that your activity took place.

If a report is produced at the end of your project, we encourage you to submit a copy to Canadian Heritage. A program representative may also contact you to follow up about your project or to verify that the activity took place as planned.

Workplace well-being

The Government of Canada is committed to promoting healthy workplaces where harassment, abuse and discrimination are not tolerated. Organizations that receive funding from Canadian Heritage must take measures conducive to creating a workplace free from harassment, abuse and discrimination.

Official languages requirements

We are committed to taking positive measures to enhance the vitality of official language minority communities and to promote the use of English and French in Canadian society. If you receive funding, you agree to comply with the official languages requirements set out in your application or in your funding agreement.

Acknowledgement of financial assistance

If you receive funding, you must publically acknowledge – in English and in French – the financial support received from us in all communications materials and promotional activities. Additional requirements may be included in your funding agreement.

For additional information, please refer to our Guide on the public acknowledgement of financial support.

Access to information requests

We are subject to the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act. The information you submit in your application may be disclosed in accordance with these Acts.

Disclosure of information

By submitting your funding application, you authorize us to disclose any information submitted with this application within the Government of Canada or to outside entities for the following purposes:

  • to reach a decision;
  • to evaluate the results of the project; and
  • to support transparency, accountability and citizen engagement.

Audits of recipients and evaluation of the Program

We reserve the right to audit your accounts and records to ensure compliance with the terms and conditions of your funding agreement. We also conduct periodic Program evaluations, during which you may be required to present documentation.

You must keep any records, documents, or other information that may be required to perform the audit or the evaluation for five years. Demonstrated failure to maintain such records may result in the repayment of amounts previously received.

Contact us

For further information, please contact us:

Department of Canadian Heritage
Canada Cultural Investment Fund
Strategic Initiatives component
25 Eddy Street 13th Floor Room 297 (25-13-V)
Gatineau Québec J8X 4B5



1-866-811-0055 (toll-free)


1-888-997-3123 (toll-free)

Officers are available to answer your questions Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (ET).

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