Social Enterprise for Charities: the Enterprise Development Programme

In the wake of Brexit and the ever-changing uncertainty around Covid-19, grant funding for charities is becoming increasingly limited and competitive. The Enterprise Development Programme addresses this, exploring trading and social enterprise for charities. It helps small charities be more financially resilient, with a programme of tailored grant and learning support to transition towards enterprise development.

In the context of the charity sector, enterprise development means building up trading activity within the organisational operations of a charity. Funds generated from trading can complement grant funding, and earned profit can act as a source of core funding for charities or be reinvested back into the organisation for further growth, facilitating our much-needed work and services.

Social enterprise for charities

Enterprise development can seem a scary prospect for charities. Questions arise over where to start, the ethical aspect of charging for services or assets and the fear of stepping away from traditional grant-based fundraising.

It is important to remember that developing a trading arm to your organisation doesn’t need to replace grant funding for charities. It can co-exist alongside more traditional fundraising activities and foster a more innovative way of thinking across the wider organisation.

This has been our experience here at Equally Ours. Ourselves an example of a charity who has engaged in enterprise and trading, we’ve been on our own enterprise development journey as we grew our trading arm, delivering consultancy strategic communications work to paying clients.

The programme, funder and timelines

The Enterprise Development Programme offers tailored learning and financial support to organisations thinking of exploring new models of trading, or looking to grow existing ones to build financial resilience and foster innovation.

Over the next three years, Equally Ours will act as sector lead for the equality strand of the Enterprise Development Programme .

Funded by Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, the Enterprise Development Programme is a £40 million programme delivered alongside a coalition of partners. The programme aims to build financial resilience and foster innovation and greater impact across multiple charitable sectors (so far equality, homelessness, mental health and youth).

The Enterprise Development Programme will offer tailored support to organisations looking to explore new models of trading or grow existing ones. Organisations will work collaboratively with sector leads – the Association of Mental Health Providers, the Centre for Youth Impact, Equally Ours and Homeless Link – throughout the programme journey to best identify support needs (both learning and grants).

Alongside participating organisations, sector leads will co-design a bespoke learning package, drawing on learning from expert sector consultants.

A place on the Enterprise Development Programme will give you:

  • access to a bespoke learning package co-designed by you and Equally Ours,
  • the opportunity to apply for either a feasibility or development grant to put your learning into action,
  • extensive peer-learning and networking opportunities,
  • access to a team of pro bono legal experts to act as a sounding board and guide you through the legal considerations of trading as a charity
  • invitations to conferences on enterprise development and social investment within the wider charitable sector.

Each year, we’ll work with two cohorts of between 10 to 24 organisations from across the equality sector.

Equally Ours is delighted to draw from the expertise and input of our sector pan-equality partners Disability Rights UK, the Law Centres Network, the LGBT Consortium, Voice4Change and the Women’s Resource Centre for the equality strand of the programme.

Application dates for our next cohort

The application process involves two steps.

Firstly, we invite interested applicants to complete an initial expression of interest (EOI), outlining your eligibility for the programme (see eligibility criteria here). We aim to get back to applicants on the outcome of their EOI within three to five working days.

If approved by our Social Enterprise Development Manager, we invite successful first-stage applicants to complete a more comprehensive application outlining your desired areas for enterprise development and possible funding requests.

Below are the key dates for our next cohort’s recruitment.

  • Thursday 1 April 2021 (10am): Window opens for Expressions of Interest and Applications
  • Friday 14 May 2021 (5pm): Window closes for Expression of Interests
  • Friday 28 May 2021 (5pm): Window closes for Applications

A selection committee panel compiled of senior representatives from Social Investment Business, Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, and Equally Ours will review final applications.

We will inform organisations of their application outcome by mid-summer

Due to our involvement in the Enterprise Development Programme, Equally Ours is a member of the Equality Impact Investing UK Taskforce, which has been convened by the Equality Impact Investing Project (EIIP). This is a platform for key investment and equality players to share and collaborate on taking the EII agenda forward, both individually and collectively. Members have been pioneering new approaches to assessing and proactively increasing their equality impact.

Any questions

Should you have any further questions about the Enterprise Development Programme, please reach out to Aimee Dorsett Browne, our Social Enterprise Development Manager on

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