Flexible Finance for the Recovery

Information for experienced social investors to support flexible finance for crisis recovery

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A blended finance programme to provide patient and flexible social investment for organisations post-Covid.

In May 2020 Access received £30m of grant funding from dormant accounts to create new blended finance programmes in the social investment market.

That funding has been earmarked for two main purposes:

  1. Grant to provide blend to support emergency lending to charities and social enterprises, facing financial challenges due to the impacts of Covid-19 (“Emergency Lending”)
  2. Future blended finance initiatives, which create more sources of more patient and flexible repayable finance, to serve the capital needs of charities & social enterprises (“Flexible Finance for the Recovery”)

This programme relates to the second of these initiatives, to which Access will commit at least £21m. The programme is seeking to address gaps in the supply of more patient and flexible social investment products for charities and social enterprises which are not widely available in the current market place. This is partly caused by the low or uncertain expected financial returns of these investments (for the borrower, social investor and capital providers). It aims to address a different, longer term, and potentially riskier financing need than is met by (for example) the Growth Fund or other Access programmes, whilst also trying to attract capital providers with differing risk appetites to blend with our grant.

Our Investment Committee (see further below for a list of members) has agreed three primary objectives for the programme:

  • Delivering sources of finance to the market which are patient and/or flexible, and different to what is currently available
  • Effectively facilitating the flow of capital, demonstrating efficient use of subsidy to ensure capital can flow from different sources or in a different way
  • Reaching parts of the market still underserved, usually including diverse-led organisations, and committing to strong equalities practices within both the blended fund and the investor/partnership as a whole

For investors interested in applying to this programme please note the process for registering Expressions of Interest further below.

Access is a wholesaler of grant subsidy into social investment funds and other initiatives. Therefore we do not make funding available to charities and social enterprises directly. If you are a charity or social enterprise looking for support or to find out more about social investment please visit Good Finance.

First cohort of investors

Following a period of consultation on the design of the programme in summer 2020, Access  invited applications into a first development cohort for the Flexible Finance for the Recovery programme. We were very encouraged by the level of response to the opportunity that the programme can provide, with many more applications to join the cohort than we had expected. 

The cohort includes nine emerging ideas covering a range of different proposed investment products to meet different financing needs in the future.  All cohort members have demonstrated how they could develop products which meet the key definitions of “patient” and “flexible” which are fundamental to the aims of the new programme.

A series of workshops between December 2020 and February 2021 helped to further shape the concepts, and members of the cohort are at different stages in their development, with full proposal submissions now being received by our Investment Committee (see list of Committee members below).

The nine proposals being worked up are:

Charity Bank  expansion of small, unsecured lending programme with flexible repayment terms complemented by ‘patient capital’ grants

Crowdfunder/Triodos  blended finance solutions combining reward based crowdfunding with crowdfunded equity and debt

Key Fund  a flexible finance facility which will allow investees to draw finance as required, up to a maximum amount, and also repay flexibly when cash is available

Resonance – two proposals   (1) helping communities to own assets and meet local needs, through sustained support (local partnerships and community coordinators) and access to patient and flexible finance (2) a suite of products to facilitate bespoke investment solutions, tailored to individual enterprise growth needs – including equity-like options, flexible loans and grant blend

SASC  providing a blend of grant and loan to small and medium sized non-profits, typically to acquire property or other community assets

Social Tech Trust  quasi-equity (revenue participation) for established but early stage tech for good organisations

Sumerian  provision of quasi-equity alongside pre and post investment business skills support to start-up/growth stage charities and social enterprises

UnLtd/Big Issue Invest  patient and flexible capital (including quasi-equity products) to Social Purpose Organisations (with a particular focus on those that are diverse-led) tackling inequality in the UK

First funds approved

Three proposals have now been approved, two of which were from the original cohort. The details of these three funds are below and are correct as of April 2022. More funds are expected to be finalised and added to this list in the coming weeks. 

Resonance Community Developers (at least £2.06m from Flexible Finance) is a fund designed to help communities create and own income-generating assets such as affordable homes, sports facilities or renewable energy and will initially invest in community projects across three initial areas: Devon/Cornwall, Gloucestershire and the North West. The plan is to grow to operate nationally. Investments will be in the form of equity or sub-ordinated debt, typically in the range £500k-£2m (average £1m), with an aim for projects to refinance once established (typically after three years).

Sumerian Foundation (£700k from Flexible Finance) will offer diverse forms of patient and flexible capital (including, but not restricted to, quasi-equity or equity, revenue share agreements, profit share agreements and preference shares). The typical investments range from £70k-£200K (averaging £120k) and with repayment terms of 10+ years. Sumerian Foundation provide in-house pre-investment support and post investment mentorship to all investees.

Social Investment Business (£2.5m from Flexible Finance). This fund will offer grant and support funding to be used alongside the Recovery Loan Fund to support Black and minoritised ethnicity-led charities and social enterprises based in and delivering impact in England. This tailored funding and business support will be delivered by Social Investment Business in partnership with The Ubele Initiative and Create Equity.

Expressing interest in the programme

As of 1 October 2021 we are no longer accepting any new expressions of interest in accessing finance through the programme.  This may change in the future, and if we open up a further window the details of that will be provided here.

Members of the Flexible Finance Investment Committee

Kate Kuper– Chair

Heather Hilburn

Franz Ranero

Martin Rich

Seb Elsworth

Anna Shiel– Head of Origination at Big Society Capital

Bayo Adelaja– Founder and CEO of Do it Now Now. Bayo has some significant trustee roles in high profile organisations as well as experience in working with foundations to advise on EDI policies and creating new funding programmes to specifically support the BAME sector with COVID response.

Bonnie Chiu– CEO of The Social Investment Consultancy and a founder of the Diversity Forum for Social Investment. Bonnie has been involved in a number of other specific projects within the social investment space including supporting BSC on the Women in Safe Homes fund.