University to evaluate £10m Big Lottery Fund to help voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations access finance

Date 16.11.2015

A £10m fund to help charities and social enterprises in England get investment ready has been launched today by the Big Lottery Fund. The Big Potential is a programme of funding and support which will be delivered by Social Investment Business in partnership with University of Northampton, Charity Bank, Social Enterprise UK and Locality.

The fund aims to improve the sustainability, capacity and scale of voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) organisations so they can deliver greater social impact. The fund will help eligible organisations ‘at the beginning of their social investment journey’ to improve their scale, capacity and sustainability.

Eligible VCSE organisations will be able to access specialist one to one support from the Big Potential programme partners before making an application for grants between £25,000 and £75,000 to undertake more in-depth investment readiness work with one of Big Potential’s approved providers. The programme has been designed to complement a range of other initiatives including the Cabinet Office’s Investment and Contract Readiness Fund, also managed by the Social Investment Business. The Big Potential was developed in response to findings in a report on the social investment market commissioned by the Big Lottery Fund.

The University of Northampton will conduct research into the efficacy of the programme, so that ongoing lessons can be learned and adaptations made where appropriate. Speaking about the research project, Dr Richard Hazenberg of the University’s Directorate of Enterprise, Development and Social Impact commented: “To be involved in the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘Big Potential’ scheme is exciting for the University. It allows us to build on our significant research expertise in this area and to work with leading third sector organisations and support agencies. The findings from this research will allow all partners to better understand the needs of the VCSE sector, whilst the programme itself will provide a great catalyst for delivering social innovation in the UK.” The programme will run initially until 2017 for applications.

Jonathan Jenkins, Chief Executive of the Social Investment Business, said: “We have seen the impact that this combination of financial and business support can have in helping charities and social enterprises develop their business models, and it is good for the sector that more organisations will now be able to access this kind of support through the Big Potential programme.”

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