Grants are available to support social enterprises in England during the coronavirus/COVID-19 crisis.

Funding body: National Lottery Community Fund
Maximum value: £ 300,000
Application deadline: 20/07/2020

Five social enterprise support agencies (Big Issue Invest, The Key Fund, Resonance, the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and UnLtd) are delivering the Social Enterprise Support Fund, with support from CAF Venturesome, the Young Foundation and Ashoka. The funding is provided by the National Lottery Community Fund as part of its COVID-19 crisis response.

Objectives of Fund
The fund is aimed at social enterprises supporting people at high health risk from COVID-19, and those supporting people facing increased social and economic challenges as a result of COVID-19. It is committed to inclusion, working to ensure that the grants reach groups that are led by people from BAME communities, LGBTQ+ communities, people with disabilities, and leaders with lived experience of the issues that the social enterprise is addressing.

The funding is intended to help social enterprises meet additional demands, change the way they work, make their spaces COVID-secure, and manage liquidity during the next six months.

Value Notes
A total of £18.7 million will be awarded in grants.

Grants of between £10,000 and £300,000 are available. However, as funding is very limited, most grants will be in the range of £10,000 to £50,000.

Grants exceeding £50,000 will require additional information and thus will take longer to process.

Grant awards of over £100,000 will be rare and will require additional due diligence checks and a telephone interview.

Who Can Apply
Social enterprises in England can apply.

The following organisations types are eligible:

  • Charitable companies.
  • Charitable incorporated organisations (CIOs).
  • Community Interest Companies (CICs).
  • Community Benefit Societies (CBS/Registered Society).
  • Companies limited by guarantee (CLG), companies limited by shares (CLS), and co-operative societies (or other registered societies) are eligible, if, within their governing document they have:
    • A clear social purpose.
    • A restriction on distribution of profits, to the extent that at least 51% of surpluses are reinvested for its social purpose.
    • An asset lock.

To be eligible organisations must:

  • Have been incorporated for at least a year (ie. registered with Companies House, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) or the Charity Commission).
  • Have had an annual income of between £25,000 and £1.5 million before COVID-19 (either in the organisation’s last financial year or in the year up to 31 March 2020).
  • Have been financially stable on 31 December 2019. This means if the COVID-19 crisis had not struck, there would have been a good expectation that the organisation would have been viable this year and into the foreseeable future.
  • Be substantially reliant on trading income to deliver social impact (eg, sales and contracts). Priority will be given to organisations where trading is a majority of their income and where a loss of trading income has had a substantial impact on their ability to deliver their social impact.
  • Applications are particularly welcomed from organisations that are led by people from BAME backgrounds, people with disabilities, from the LGBTQ+ community or by people with lived experience of the issue they are seeking to resolve.


The following are not eligible for funding:

  • Unincorporated associations or trusts.
  • Organisations that can distribute most of their profits to private shareholders.
  • Shortfalls that existed before COVID-19.
  • Core costs for usual activities or work unrelated to COVID-19, unless the organisation can show it is required to keep the organisation afloat.
  • Activities that make profits for private gain
  • Religious activities (religious organisations are eligible if the project benefits the wider community and does not include religious content).
  • Political or campaigning activities.
  • Fundraising.
  • Purchase of fixed assets, including large items of equipment, vehicles, buildings or land.
    Loan repayments.
  • Costs that are covered by other funding sources, including government schemes.
  • Retrospective costs.

Eligible Expenditure
The funding is for organisations that work in at least one of the following areas:

  • Organisations supporting people who are at high risk from COVID-19, specifically those which:
    • Connect with older people.
    • Connect with disabled people.
    • Provide advice and support to people who are pushed into crisis.
    • Provide support to those in medical care or end of life care.
  • Organisations supporting people most likely to face increased demand and challenges as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, specifically those which:
    • Provide essential items directly to families who are hit hardest.
    • Support BAME and other communities who experience health inequalities.
    • Support people who experience loneliness and social isolation.
    • Support people who experience poor mental health.
    • Support children and young people to achieve their potential.

The funding can be used for two types of support:

  • Funding for activities supporting people and communities affected by COVID-19.
  • Help organisations overcome any acute financial difficulties they are facing as result of the crisis.
  • Examples of what could be funded include:
    • Continuing to provide food and essentials to vulnerable people.
    • Providing services in a different way to meet the needs of the community, such as moving counselling services online for people affected by COVID-19.
    • Supporting additional services to meet the needs of people affected by the crisis, eg, increased mental health support for vulnerable young people.
    • Making the spaces where the organisation works or runs activities COVID-secure, purchasing PPE, so that services to vulnerable people can be provided.
    • Core costs, if the organisation’s ongoing services for vulnerable communities are threatened due to severe and acute financial difficulties.
  • The grants can be used to cover essential costs of sustaining current services or refocusing services to address immediate needs of people affected by COVID-19. This includes:
    • Staff salaries.
    • Project activities.
    • Running costs.
    • Small-scale refurbishment.
    • Items of equipment (under £1,000).
    • Organisational development.
    • Contributions to fixed costs.
    • Investments in systems.
    • Investments in people.
    • Investments in infrastructure.
    • Dedicated capacity development.

Grants must be spent within six months of the grant offer date or by 19 April 2021, whichever is sooner.

How To Apply
In order to manage the flow of applications, funding will be released in three rounds.

The application windows are:

Round 1 is open from 1pm on 13 July 2020 until 1pm on 20 July 2020.
Round 2 is open from 1pm on 13 August 2020 until 1pm on 20 August 2020.
Round 3 is open from 1pm on 10 September 2020 until 1pm on 17 September 2020.
If the Fund is heavily oversubscribed, which is likely, application rounds may close early. Organisations are advised to apply early to ensure their application is considered.

The aim is to inform organisations of a decision on their application within three to four weeks, but sometimes it may take longer.

Guidance notes and the online application form are available on the website of the Social Enterprise Support Fund.

Useful Links
Social Enterprise Support Fund

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