The Growth Fund
The Growth Fund funds social investors to make small (sub £150k) loans to charities and social enterprises in England.
Two new funds, the Kent Social Enterprise Loan Fund and the UnLtd Impact Fund, were launched between October and December, taking the total live funds as at 31st December to ten. Collectively they had received 1,013 enquiries by that date and 178 applications, had approved investments to 132 charities and social enterprises and had already disbursed 95 of these loans.
These first 95 investees were charities and social enterprises with a median turnover of £309k and a median of seven employees (FTE) and they received, on average, investment of £70k. Although it is still too early to draw any firm conclusions, it is exciting that these figures remain low, indicating that the Growth Fund is fulfilling its aims of reaching the smaller end of the market and enabling borrowers to access much smaller amounts than were previously widely available.
The Growth Fund is also continuing to achieve a good spread across England, as shown on our latest interactive map of investments. 52% of loan recipients received a Growth Fund grant as part of their investment and the average loan terms so far are 47 months at an interest rate of 7.5%.
In addition to the end of the quarter, December also marked the end of the application period for social investors wishing to run funds under the Growth Fund. In total we received 65 expressions of interest to the Growth Fund and invited 53 of these to submit a full application. 33 have been discussed at the Joint Investment Committee to date and 13 approved so far. Although the fund is now closed to new applications a number of those received are still progressing through the pipeline, so we will continue to approve and launch new funds throughout this year.
Capacity Building Programmes
The second part of the dashboard focuses on our investment readiness programmes.
The Reach Fund, managed by Social Investment Business, provides investment readiness grants to charities and social enterprises via social investor ‘Access Points’. The nineteen live Access Points by the end of December had awarded 66 grants, averaging £14.2k and totalling £936k. You can view details of these on this interactive map. Encouragingly a number of these organisations have already gone on to take on investment, with 9% of our Growth Fund investees to date having started off with a Reach Fund grant.
The Impact Management Programme, managed by NPC and partners, was set up to build the capacity of charities and social enterprises to manage their impact. In the three month period to December, the Impact for Growth strand held another four training sessions attended by 57 organisations, awarded four new grants and provided peer networking opportunities for nine previous grantees. The Pathway strand, for smaller organisations, held seven more peer-learning sessions for 48 charities and social enterprises, as well as continuing to provide a range of one-to-one support. The programme also published nine more blogs and learning updates during the period.
The Connect Fund, managed by Barrow Cadbury Trust, provides grants to develop shared infrastructure resources for the social investment market. The Connect Fund made its first grants this quarter, awarding 17 from the 63 applications received to its first round of funding. These totalled £720k and organisations received an average of £43k towards a range of projects from business development to data sharing initiatives. The fund also received 82 applications for the second round of funding, of which 33 were shortlisted.
These (and future) capacity building programmes and research are funded by our £60m endowment, which we are spending down over our ten-year life. We are seeking to achieve social impact even before the funds are utilised in this way by investing using a total impact approach. At the end of December the proportion of our portfolio invested in the ‘bull’s eye’ of our model (charities and social enterprises delivering social impact in the UK) remained steady at just over 35%. Janie recently blogged in more detail about our year-end endowment position and progress against our goals.
Updates since December
Whilst the dashboard covers the period up to 31st December 2017, as always, lots more has happened since!
The Growth Fund has seen the launch of another new fund, the Sporting Capital fund by Sporting Assets, taking the total so far to eleven.
The Reach Fund now offers crowdfunding support, having added Crowdfunder.co.uk and Ethex to list of providers. UnLtd has also recently become an Access Point, taking the total to 22.
The Connect Fund has made eight more grants and has launched a brand new website with lots of information including details of the projects funded so far.
The Impact Management Programme has a number of grant panels coming up and expects to make the majority of grants by Spring. The programme has also been devising a new website full of practical tools and guidance to help organisations get started with impact management and expects to launch this in March – stay tuned!
A note on process
We are publishing these dashboards every three months, approximately six to eight weeks following each calendar quarter’s end. This is for two reasons. Firstly, we want to give our partners, fund managers and programme administrators adequate time to provide us with data on their activity. Absorbing complexity as far as possible and trying not to over-burden social investors and others with excessive reporting requirements and short deadlines is integral to the design of all of our programmes. Secondly, we want to ensure that we take the time to fully understand and analyse all of the data that we have so that we can hopefully provide the most useful summary figures and snapshots of our programmes and funds. We hope that by taking this approach we will be able to maximise both our own learning and that of any interested parties.
At Access, learning and openness are at the heart of everything that we do. We are committed both to learning from all of our activity and to sharing this as much as possible. Our hope is that this will be of benefit to social investors, other providers of loans and grants and others in the social investment market and therefore, ultimately, to the charities and social enterprises which we exist to support.
Our next quarterly dashboard, for the period up to and including January to March 2018, will be published during May. If you would like to keep up to date with our programmes and funds in the meantime you can view our other blogs, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter and follow us on Twitter.