Funding & Finance

A range of tools and resources to guide you to achieve the most appropriate funding or financing solutions

strategic planning

Charities and social enterprises can obtain finance in various ways – through donations, grants or contracts from local authorities, trading with businesses or the public, and by raising investment. They can also be modelled to issue shares or loans.

We refer to Funding as providing financial resources, usually in the form of grants, or other values such as effort or time, to finance a need, program, and project. Sources of funding include credit, donations, grants, savings, subsidies, and taxes reliefs. Social finance is an approach to investments that generate financial returns while including measurable positive social and environmental impact (blended returns).



The social investment ecosystem includes providers of social finance and social enterprises, plus all stakeholders who participate in, influence or are impacted by social investment activity.

Social Investment Ecosystem

Funding & finance sources

Sources 1

Ashoka funds a small number of social entrepreneurs each year whose organisation is ready to scale-up.

Community Fund (previously the Big Lottery Fund) gives over £630 million a year. It is still a very good place to look for money for your organisation, particularly in its early days.

Co-operative and Community Finance provides sympathetic loan finance to help people take control of their economic lives and create social benefit.

Europe wide crowdfunding organisations

ClearlySo helps social entrepreneurs raise capital and introduces investors to investment opportunities.

Funding Central is a website that provides access to thousands of funding and finance opportunities and tools and resources supporting organisations.

Finding Finance find finance from Community Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs).

GRANTfinder is the UK’s leading grants and policy database. There are around 400 trusts you can apply to for funding. Trusts vary widely in their character and remit so it’s worth making sure that you apply to one that aligns with your business.

The Social Investment Business, a social investor in the UK, helps social enterprises, charities and community organisations prosper by providing innovative financial solutions and business support.

The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation funds the charitable activities of organisations that have the ideas and ability to achieve change for the better. They support work that might otherwise be considered difficult to fund.

UnLtd is the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs and gives out finance and support to social entrepreneurs in the UK.


Impetus-PEF is committed to transforming the lives of 11-24-year olds from disadvantaged backgrounds by ensuring they get the support they need to succeed in education, find and keep jobs, and achieve their potential. It finds the most promising charities and social enterprises that work with these young people. It helps them become highly effective organisations that transform lives; then it helps them expand significantly so as to dramatically increase the number of young people they serve.

CAN runs a venture philanthropy programme called CAN Breakthrough. This provides funding and management support to help established social enterprises scale up and maximise their social impact. Funding is concentrated on established organisations with three years trading.


Big Issue Invest is a specialist provider of finance to social enterprises or trading arms of charities that are finding business solutions to create social and environmental transformation. They provide finance for social enterprises in the form of loans, participation loans and equity.

Sources 2

Bridges Ventures funds have specific strategies to achieve a positive social and/or environmental impact. Bridges Ventures have £150m under management in two venture funds, the Bridges Social Entrepreneurs Fund and the Bridges Sustainable Property Fund.

CAF Venturesome offers social purpose organisations support and capital, recognising that this type of investment may fall outside of the criteria of grant-makers and is often perceived as too risky for banks.

Social Finance provides a range of financial advice services to help build the social investment market. They are dedicated to finding ways to raise capital through robust investment propositions.


Charity Bank finances social enterprises, charities and community organisations, with the support of depositors and investors who want to use their money to facilitate real social change.

Triodos Bank only lend to and invest in organisations that benefit people and environment.

Unity Trust Bank is a specialist bank for civil society, social enterprises, councils, trade unions, CICs and small businesses.


Get Legal A free online reference and decision-making tool for charities, social enterprises and co-operative organisations to access clear information and guidance on the most appropriate legal form and governance structure for delivering their goals.

Locality Nationwide network of settlements, development trusts, social action centres and community enterprises.

Mutuals Information Service Website is for anyone interested in setting up a public service mutual and in need further assistance in developing it.

The Prince’s Trust Gives practical and financial support to 14 to 30-year-olds who have struggled at school, have been in care, are long-term unemployed or have been in trouble with the law. They help these people start businesses.

School for Social Entrepreneurs Supports individuals to set up new charities, social enterprises and social businesses across the UK.

School for Start-ups The UK’s leading provider of business training for entrepreneurs. Provides accelerated business training that helps entrepreneurs launch more successful start-ups and run more successful businesses.

The Cabinet Office SIB Toolkit This guide has been put together to help commissioners, providers and intermediaries advance the development of Social Impact Bonds.