If there is such thing as a typical grant making trust, the Andrews Charitable Trust (ACT) isn’t one of them. I recently attended ACT’s 50th anniversary celebration, hosted by one of their grantees 2nd Chance in Southwark which is supporting young people into sustained employment. It was a fantastic experience, not least because of the young people who catered and supported the event. It was also a great reminder of the old and new in the voluntary and social enterprise sector, and several themes during the event struck me as relevant for our work in social investment.
Business and charity working together is not new
There’s been a sense, particularly since 2008, that businesses have had stronger motivations for doing well by doing good – in this vein, at Big Society Capital, we set up the Business Impact Challenge to catalyse social investment by corporates, and recently announced the winners.
It was fascinating to hear about the origins of ACT – a charitable trust set up by Cecil Jackson Cole, who founded Andrews Estate Agency, and firmly believed and business and charity should work hand in hand. He gifted all shareholdings in his business to charitable trusts, whose work today is funded by the dividends from the business.
Cecil Jackson Cole also helped to found Help the Aged, ActionAid and Oxfam – interesting to hear that he held the view over 60 years ago, that charities had to be run as businesses to be successful, and that the charity shop model he instigated, now adopted across the sector, was seen as a controversial way to raise funds. Will newer forms of funding, including social investment be seen as part of the fabric of the sector decades from now?
Social impact irrespective of legal form
ACT seek to fund organisations delivering inspiring ideas to address entrenched social issues, with strong entrepreneurial leadership, as could be seen with all the grantees we met. The legal form of the organisation isn’t necessarily a barrier – for example !nspira Farms is a small social enterprise (company limited by shares) providing affordable agricultural processing to enable small scale food suppliers in the developing world to supply their goods to a wide market, strengthening lives in the developing world.
Using grants to play a catalytic role in supporting replication through investment
Grants have a vital role in funding the sector, and as statutory funding shrinks, there’s a greater imperative for both grant makers and grant recipients to think about how they can use grants to make the most difference. Bristol Together is a well known social enterprise creating employment and skills development opportunities for ex-offenders through empty property renovations – their work was funded through social investment raised via a bond issue. ACT then helped to grant fund the set up of the Together Group – an overarching organisation to replicate the model in other parts of the country. In Midlands and in Glasgow £5 million of social investment has been raised to fund delivery, so a relatively modest grant can help catalyse much bigger change. Grants can also be valuable in the early days to help establish rigour in impact analysis, to better communicate the relevance of the model whilst margins may be too tight for any in depth evaluation.
Grant makers facilitating wider connections to help long term sustainability
Too often we hear that charity programmes are forced to close at the end of a grant period. ACT is looking to support its grantees with connections to help longer term sustainability. The speed dating networking session it set up for grantees with a number of other funders and investors during their celebration event was a simple way to enable this to happen.
Creating impact through collaboration
To mark their 50th anniversary, ACT announced a new initiative called “Project 50” which aims to secure houses for people in greatest need. To start with, the staff in the Andrews business will work to raise donations to enable ACT to purchase a house in Bristol for care leavers. Bristol Together will be used to refurbish the property, and a local charity will support the young people. A lovely example of partnership between business, grant maker, charity and social enterprise at a local level, more of which will be needed with challenging times ahead for the sector. And surely there’s a role for social investment to help ACT secure the 50 properties they are seeking in less than 50 years….