Coalition throws £19m lifeline to England’s social enterprises with new Covid grant fund

A new £18.7m grant fund for social enterprises in England was announced this morning – with just seven days until the application deadline.

The Social Enterprise Support Fund will offer grants of £10,000-£300,000 to provide ‘essential financial support’ during Covid-19. 

It is funded by The National Lottery Community Fund and will be delivered by five support organisations: Big Issue Invest, The Key Fund, Resonance, the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and UnLtd.

The fund is supported by CAF Venturesome, the Young Foundation and Ashoka.

With trading impacted by lockdown for many, and with the need for services increasing, it is the time to go back to grants - Matt Smith, Key Fund

It aims to help social enterprises change the way they work, make their spaces Covid-secure, and manage liquidity during the next six months. It is aimed in particular 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 the pandemic.

Social enterprises in England with an annual income of £25,000-£1.5m before the outbreak of the coronavirus are eligible. The first round of applications closes in just one week – on Monday 20 July – with further application rounds in August and September, though this is subject to change.


‘Committed to inclusion’ 

A statement announcing the fund said it was “committed to inclusion, working to ensure that the grants reach groups that are led by people from BAME [Black, Asian and minority ethnic] communities, LGBTQ+ communities, people with disabilities, and leaders with lived experience of the issues that the social enterprise is addressing.” 

Danyal Sattar, CEO of Big Issue Invest said: “As a BAME background CEO... I personally and we as an organisation are very aware of the challenges and disparities that many vulnerable communities and individuals will experience as a result of Covid-19 pandemic. The recent #CharitySoWhite movement has brought to the public view the extent to which BAME organisations and individuals feel excluded by the current funding structures. The focus has been on philanthropy and mainstream charities, but social investment is a part of this funding environment too. We encourage social enterprises led by or focused on BAME communities or groups who feel marginalised by us as funders, to apply for this grant support. These are unprecedented times but the impacts are felt disproportionately by BAME communities and we need to support organisations reaching those hardest hit in our society.”

We encourage social enterprises led by or focused on BAME communities who feel marginalised by us as funders, to apply - Danyal Sattar, CEO of Big Issue Invest

Mark Norbury, CEO of UnLtd, said his organisation was “specifically request[ing] social enterprises led by marginalised people to apply for this grant support”. Social entrepreneurs, he added, were “delivering crucial community support”, while balancing other pressures including operations, finances, mental health, and social distancing. “The virus, the economic crash, and inaccessible support are hitting vulnerable communities the hardest, and an unprecedented pandemic requires an unprecedented response.” 



Matt Smith, CEO of Key Fund – which has been investing in social enterprise for over 20 years – said: “We know from experience that these organisations, operating at the very frontline, are best placed to help communities respond to the challenges of Covid-19. For years, we have championed the use of loans to support the development of trading in social enterprises, as a way to independence and resilience. Now, with trading impacted by lockdown for many, and with the need for services increasing, it is the time to go back to grants.”

He added: “Covid-19 has hit the marginalised, poorest and most vulnerable the hardest, so it is critical social enterprises are supported with the ‘right money, at the right time’ when they are needed like never before as a lifeline to jobs, community, social care, health and well-being.”


Five Lottery-backed partnerships supporting the vulnerable

The Social Enterprise Support Fund is one of five schemes totalling £45m which The National Lottery Community Fund is supporting, as part of its crisis response to Covid-19.

The other four partnerships confirmed today are:

  • £5m for a Covid-19 Homelessness Response Fund, to go to small and medium sized homelessness charities to adapt their service delivery
  • £10m for a Covid-19 Community Recovery Scheme, to go to Power to Change, in a consortium with Locality, The Ubele Initiative and Social Investment Business to support local, community-led community businesses and organisations in England
  • £5m for a Community Justice Fund, supporting specialist social welfare advice organisations
  • £5m for the Barrow Cadbury Trust Covid-19 Support Fund, for small/medium-sized voluntary sector groups supporting migrants and refugees

CEO Dawn Austwick said these partnerships would “extend the reach of National Lottery funding at a time when communities need it most. [The partners] are each experts in their field, which is why we’re delighted to be working alongside them. Their local knowledge, dedication and network of contacts will be critical in supporting the distribution of much needed funding at a critical time for communities.” 

For more information on the Social Enterprise Support Fund, see or contact

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