NatWest S&CC opens £1m emergency grant fund: one week for social enterprises to apply
Grants of between £5,000 and £50,000 are being offered to social enterprises across the UK thanks to a new Coronavirus Response Fund launched by NatWest Social & Community Capital.
The bank’s social investment charity is keen to support organisations that employ people from vulnerable or disadvantaged groups and that have suffered a loss of income during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Applicants – who can include trading charities and community businesses – must have an annual turnover of between £50,000 and £1m and must have been generating at least 30% of their revenue from trading income before the crisis.
Applications, which can be made on the NatWest website, will stay open for at least a week but possibly no longer.
“We know that many social enterprises, trading charities and community businesses have suffered a loss of income because of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. We want to help bridge the income gap so that organisations survive the crisis and continue to have a positive impact in their communities,” said NatWest Social & Community Capital (S&CC) CEO Megan Peat.
“We hope to leave applications open for longer but may need to close after a week depending on how many applications we receive.”
The grants are unrestricted and can be used for any purpose, including core costs. To be eligible, organisations must also have been founded and trading prior to 1 January 2019 and must have been financially sustainable (or ‘on a path to financial stability’) up to March 2020. Applicants will need three years of accounts if possible, and forecasts for the next two years.
The organisation must be constituted, operating and delivering impact in England, Scotland, Wales, and/or Northern Ireland, and must have one of the following legal structures: Community Interest Company (CIC), Company Limited by Guarantee, Community Benefit Society, Co-operative Society, Unincorporated association, Charitable Incorporated Organisation (CIO), Charitable Trusts, Registered Charity.
The fund is the latest in a series of support measures put in place by the bank’s 20-year-old social investment charity.
Early on in the crisis, the S&CC team got in touch with all investees to offer 6-month capital and interest repayment holidays, having begun an information-gathering process to establish how customers were going to be affected and how best the bank could offer support.
Social enterprises are agile enough to change how they operate so that their core focus is not interrupted – that really shines through
During the past months, they have worked closely with a number of customers to help them adapt, including creating a ‘buddy’ system where NatWest team members provide a friendly ear and an informal sounding board for customers’ plans and problems, as well as signposting to further support resources. The bank has also made available free resources such as its ‘MentorLive’ platform, which provides advice on HR, employment and health & safety issues.
Tracy Thomson and John Murray, two of S&CC’s relationship managers, said some of their social enterprise customers had closed or were “hibernating” but several were “adapting to survive”, and some had been able to create new trading opportunities. They said S&CC’s immediate focus had been on relieving the pressure by asking how they could help rather than when social enterprises could pay.
Murray said: “The core focus of what the social enterprises do remains the same: to help people and provide a great service. But they are agile enough to change how they operate so that their core focus is not interrupted – that really shines through.”
Speedy, regular and honest communication had also been a key part of the appraoch. Thomson added: “I’ve never felt as close to my customers as I do now and I don’t think this will be something anybody will ever forget.”
I’ve never felt as close to my customers as I do now and I don’t think this will be something anybody will ever forget
CEO Megan Peat told Pioneers Post: “Stepping up as quickly as we did but giving time for customers to think about their business and how to adapt has been really crucial.
“I am also really chuffed and proud of our team, and of how responsive our trustees have been in agreeing our new fund to help trading social enterprises whose income has fallen off a cliff.”