The Growth Fund
Small loans can help social enterprises and charities become more resilient and self-reliant.
- 450+ Number of social enterprises and charities receiving blended finance through the Growth Fund
- £62000 Average investment size
- 7.01% Average interest rate
Through 2012-13, research across the social impact investment sector found a growing demand for affordable, unsecured loans from small social enterprises and charities that was not being met by existing social impact investment funds. However, the unknown risk profile and relatively high cost of delivering this type of finance left a gap in the market.
Responding to this challenge, we partnered with the Cabinet Office and the National Lottery Community Fund to create our sister organisation Access – The Foundation for Social Investment. Together with our partners, we helped established the Growth Fund, investing a blend of unsecured, repayable loans (from Big Society Capital) and grants (from the National Lottery Community Fund). Delivered by 14 fund managers across England, at sizes under £150,000, this blend meets the higher risk profile and cost of delivery, while also ensuring the product meets the needs of the borrower (the average interest rate is 7%). The aim is to help these social enterprises and charities become more resilient, so they can sustain – and even grow – the social impact they make for their beneficiaries.
The Growth Fund has made more than £30 million of investments into more than 450 charities and social enterprises. The vast majority are small organisations, with nearly half having five or fewer full-time employees and annual revenues under £236,000. The fund has lived up to its mandate, with an average loan size of £62,000. This has allowed the Growth Fund to reach borrowers in different regions, with more based in the North West, the South West or Yorkshire & Humber than in London.
The Growth Fund has, so far, shown how blended finance can help reach smaller charities and social enterprises that would otherwise be excluded from the social impact investment market. Grants are still critical in serving this market, as we saw during the COVID-19 crisis. What’s also proved vital are the relationships that have developed between the frontline organisations and the fund managers, who have built up expertise in their sectors. While the large number of fund managers has made the structure of the Growth Fund complex, it’s also offered opportunities for learning and cross-collaboration.
The Old Abbey Taphouse