Arts, heritage, sport and faith

Arts, heritage, sport and faith

Improving health and wellbeing and strengthening community links

committed to charities and social enterprises


people have taken part in arts or cultural events

of investments ahead or on track to deliver social impact


Reductions in public funding mean that local services such as libraries, leisure centres and community organisations are under pressure and may need to find new ways to raise money to grow or survive. Charities and social enterprises are using social investment to provide affordable sports facilities, develop inclusive arts centres and community programmes and preserve heritage buildings. Revenue is often generated by charging for facilities and services which are then used to fund community-based programmes.

Organisations frequently collect data such as visitor numbers but more organisations are recognising the need to produce better evidence of how they affect people’s lives and communities. Additional impact support in this sector would help organisations starting out on their measurement journey.

Further information is available on our social issue page for arts, heritage, sport and faith


South Bristol Sports Centre

Social impact

Engaging young people

South Bristol Sports Centre raised £250k through Social Investment Tax Relief to develop the Fives Soccer Centre, including six all-weather five-a-side football pitches. Using a cross-subsidy model, where one group of consumers pays higher prices to subsidise lower prices for another group, the income from renting out the pitches is used to fund engagement programmes with young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and offer coaching and leadership opportunities.  

Preserving heritage

The Willow Tea Rooms in Glasgow used £1.3 million investment from Social Investment Scotland to restore the site to its former glory and create a visitor and education centre which will generate revenue from customers. The restored site will also create local jobs and support tourism in the local area. 

Supporting inclusive arts

The Bow Arts Trust in East London used a £600,000 investment from Nesta’s Arts Impact Fund to purchase and develop a property. The charity offers affordable studio space to artists and designers at the start of their careers and runs the Nunnery Gallery which displays visual art about the history of the local area.


There can be a tension between pure cultural goals with delivering social outcomes, although these can also be mutually reinforcing – for example, the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff used a loan from Charity Bank alongside support from trusts, foundations and individuals to redevelop a building which provided rehearsal space new works as well as larger facilities for youth theatre and community projects. Investors and organisations need to be aligned in the artistic and social outcomes they seek to achieve. 

Arts, heritage and sport organisations deliver clear benefits to communities but may need to demonstrate their social impact more clearly to raise investment or win contracts. For example, by building on metrics such as visitor numbers and demographics to better understand how that organisation could help with social isolation or public health. Pioneering organisations such as Street League have built on their evidence of working with young people who are not in employment, education and training to secure new contracts to run academies in more locations, supported by Social Investment Scotland and CAF Venturesome.

Many arts and leisure organisations have relied on public subsidy to operate or to provide community programmes. As public sector cuts continue these organisations will need to consider alternative approaches to generating income. Although repayable finance can help organisations with this transition, it will only be appropriate if the income they generate enables them to provide inclusive and affordable services while generating enough surplus to repay the investment. This was the case for Greenwich Leisure Limited’s charity bond issue as well as for Folkestone Sports Centre Trust, who took on investment from Charity Bank.

Repayable finance is new for many arts, heritage and sports organisations. They may need further capacity building support to access investment, as well as some smaller loans blended with grants at an earlier stage. Arts Council England supported investment readiness for arts organisations ahead of the launch of the Arts Impact Fund, and several of the organisations that received support went on to raise repayable finance.

Repayable finance has not been viewed as being relevant for some organisations in this sector – nor has it been directed at the sector - but there are signs that demand is increasing. This has likely been aided by dedicated social investors focusing on the sector, such as the Arts Impact Fund and the Architectural Heritage Fund