What is the Growth Fund?

Simple, suitable, smaller sized finance.

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Please note that as of January 2018 the Growth Fund has now closed to expressions of interest from potential social investors. Information for applicants remains available on these pages for those who have already completed an EOI and are working on their full application, and for other interested parties.

Smaller loans for charities and social enterprises, delivered through a range of social investors

The Growth Fund is designed to provide the finance that charities and social enterprises need for growth or diversifying their business models. The fund is aimed at organisations which are unlikely to have taken on social investment before.

The finance offered is small, flexible, unsecured and affordable and available in simple products. The finance is offered to enable organisations to create more social impact.

Typically, this type of finance has not been readily available. This is often because social investors consider such finance to be high risk and therefore charities and social enterprises find it unaffordable. Or the finance needs to be of a minimum size to cover deal costs which is too big for an organisation’s stage of development.

This ‘gap’ represents lost opportunities for organisations to change more lives or deliver more services for individuals and communities.

What is the problem that the Growth Fund is trying to solve?

The Growth Fund aims to tackle the reasons for this financing gap, namely:

  • the shortage of unsecured, smaller, flexible loans for charities and social enterprises that are seeking finance to test their model, survive and grow
  • the higher costs for social investors to deliver this type of finance, which restricts supply
  • the lack of track record and often the perception of high risk which prices loans out of reach for social enterprises and charities.

The Growth Fund has been designed with Access’s partners, Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital. Each partner brings its unique resources and expertise to deliver the Fund’s aims.

What does Access aim to achieve with the Growth Fund? 

The Growth Fund is a response to evidence gathered from and by the sector on the difficulties that many charities and social enterprises find in seeking appropriate social investment. The Growth Fund aims to:

  • Help more established organisations be able to maintain and increase their social impact and their sustainability
  • Enable newer and early stage charities and social enterprises deliver social outcomes, by providing them with the finance they need to continue and grow
  • Improve the delivery capacity of these organisations so that they are able meet the needs of their target group
  • Share learning by being open, transparent and collaborative around best practice to the benefit of both users of the Growth Fund and of other funders and bodies interested in supporting social impact. Over time, this helps to ensure that limited resources are used to greatest effect.

What does the Growth Fund offer?

Access manages the Growth Fund in a wholesale capacity, working through social investors, who set up funds and make loans to charities and social enterprises. 

GF flow chart 2

The Growth Fund offers social investors the opportunity to provide charities and social enterprises with the type and amount of finance they need, when they need it. 

Those social investors delivering the Growth Fund can offer charities and social enterprises up to £150,000 of flexible finance by combining grants with loans into simple products.

Across its portfolio as a whole, the Growth Fund is seeking to achieve a geographical spread of social investors and charities and social enterprises across England, as well as to support a range of social issues. The portfolio seeks to fund a range of investments through social investors whose funds can be classified across three strategic themes:

New Approaches Reach Efficiency


  • Efficiency: Social investors who can meet current demand from charities and social enterprises for smaller unsecured loans in an efficient way
  • New Approaches: Social investors who offer creative and relevant new products for charities and social enterprises, or new ways of delivering social investment to the sector
  • Reach: Social investors who can offer social investment to, and make it relevant for, groups of charities and social enterprises who have not been able to benefit to date

For more information see our Accessing the Growth Fund for Social Investors page

What is a Social Investor? 

Social investors are organisations which provide investment or loans to charities and social enterprises and which are focused on creating social outcomes. Applicants to the Growth Fund may be existing social investors or aspiring social investors with clear plans in place to develop the necessary skills and processes.

Access is also particularly interested in applications from partnerships which can fulfil all the roles of a social investor to ensure that they reach those charities and social enterprises that are not already making use of social investment but for whom this could make a real difference, both to their businesses and to the lives of those whom they support.

Roles of a social investor include:

  • Knowledge of the financing and support needs of charities and social enterprises in a particular area 
  • Strong networks and reach into charities and social enterprises and ability to market the opportunity to apply for a loan
  • Ability and knowledge of running an application process for grants and/or loans
  • Ability and knowledge of making investment decisions based on detailed social impact and financial information from an applicant 
  • Ability and knowledge of actively managing a portfolio of loans and supporting organisations who get into difficulties
  • Ability and knowledge to report on the social and financial impact of a portfolio of loans 

Access has now committed the majority of Growth Fund funds to social investors and we expect to close to further expressions of interest (EOIs) at the end of this year. However we still very much want to hear from potential social investors before this date – if you are considering applying to run a Growth Fund please contact us or submit an EOI as soon as possible.

You can access an overview of the Growth Fund here. 

You can access further details about submitting an EOI to the Growth Fund here. 

You can download a summary of the investment policy as agreed by the Joint Investment Committee here

You can view our Growth Fund initial observations report here. 

You can view our quarterly dashboards, which include Growth Fund data, here.