Since 2012, the Social Investment Business (SIB) has managed a number of grant funds that have aimed to support charities and social enterprises to raise investment or win contracts. The first ‘readiness’ fund we managed was the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund: since then, we have distributed £40.5m worth of grants on behalf of public funders to 677 organisations, helping them raise investments or win contracts worth over £1.1 billion.
When we first began providing this kind of investment support, the market was vastly different: historically, the focus in the investment landscape was about creating the market itself. In the years since, Big Potential took great steps towards widening investment access, but the matter of what could be funded and how was still very prescriptive.
Fast forward to 2016 and enter the Reach Fund Programme, which Social Investment Business administers on behalf of Access – the Foundation for Social Investment. The purpose of the fund is to ‘reach’ a broader range of charities and social enterprises and help them to access social investment, which they otherwise would not be able to do. Reach completed its two-year pilot phase in October 2018, and The TI Group have recently published a Learning Report looking at what difference the Reach Fund has made.
The Learning Report highlights some really interesting points, many of which resonate with the learning that we at Social Investment Business found when we undertook a review of all of the ‘readiness’ funds we’ve managed. In particular, we are not prescriptive about the type of support that we will fund or who should deliver this; the control and choice lies with the organisation applying, with support from the investors who act as the fund’s Access Points. We are also extremely proud of the quick turnaround time we have been able to offer applicants to the Reach Fund. We want the Reach Fund to enable investments to happen so it is important to us that we don’t become a blocker in the investment process.
We’re obviously delighted with the feedback we received from the report, but we still want to keep improving. We’ve therefore amended the application so that we get better information from the organisations applying. And we’re doing all we can to speed up the application process even more; our quickest decision to date has been within 48 hours, and we have examples of grants paid within 2 weeks of the application being received. We’re also adding to the list of investors who are acting as our Access Points to make sure that many different types of organisation accessing many different types of finance can be supported by the fund.
The founding principles of the Reach Fund centre around enabling investment: the more investors that work with us and the more quickly we can make grant decisions, the better we can truly help organisations to further their ‘reach’.
Written by Deborah Smart at Social Investment Business