The Growth Fund is a £45 million initiative that provides a blend of loan from Big Society Capital and grant from the Big Lottery Fund to social investors across England to increase the available supply of smaller loans in the market. It will be managed by Access - the Foundation for Social Investment.
The Growth Fund was established in response to a growing demand from charities and social enterprises for affordable unsecured loans of under £150,000, the relatively high costs of social investors delivering this type of finance, and its perceived high risk which often prices loans out of the reach of many charities and social enterprises.
Through social investors receiving Growth Fund investment, charities and social enterprises, which are at an earlier stage of growth or looking to diversity their business model, will be able to access simple finance to generate greater social impact in the long-run. The social impact outcomes will be across a range of areas, with some social investors focusing their loan funds on a particular social issue and others opting to cover a wider spectrum.
The Growth Fund expects to provide blended social investment and grant to 15-20 loan funds when fully committed. The social investors will in turn be able to offer investments of up to £150,000 to charities and social enterprises in England, either in the form of an unsecured loan or a mix of loan and grant funding, and to take more risk than other lenders would be able to.
The Growth Fund is managed by Access - the Foundation for Social Investment whose role is to make it easier for charities and social enterprises in England to access appropriate social investment. The Growth Fund is part of this mandate alongside wider capacity building support programmes.
The Growth Fund encourages new social investors to enter the market, and for existing social investors to diversify their offering to reach more charities and social enterprises. The Growth Fund seeks to support social investors in three strategic themes across its portfolio:
- 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; and,
- 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.
A key element of the Growth Fund is the opportunity to build the evidence base for how a blended product of social investment and grant can be used effectively and innovatively.