Social Enterprise for Charities: the Enterprise Development Programme

This programme has now closed. We have launched a Showcase of Social Enterprises in England. You can also find out more about the impact of the programme in this short video.

In the aftermath of Covid-19 and the current cost of living crisis, 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

After three successful years, the Enterprise Development Programme is now in its alumni phase.

Funded by Access – The Foundation for Social Investment, the Enterprise Development Programme was a £40 million programme delivered alongside a coalition of partners. The programme aimed to build financial resilience and foster innovation and greater impact across multiple charitable sectors – Black and minoritised communities, environment, equality, homelessness, mental health, and youth.

Equally Ours acted as sector lead for the equality strand of the project.

Equally Ours supported a portfolio of 37 organisations working on race, disability, women’s, and LGBT+ equality, and pan-equality, issues to develop trading activities, drive income diversification and build financial resilience. Through this programme, Equally Ours has awarded just over £1.2 million since 2019.

We worked closely with organisations, supporting them with a mixture of early-stage development grants and in-depth and bespoke learning support around business development, product development and market research, as well as facilitating a series of peer-to-peer action learning sets.

Our 2021-22 report shows that 91% of participants expressed that they felt the EDP has helped them further grow their confidence and skills around enterprise development, and 81% noted an increase in generated income since joining the programme.

Through our Alumni Network, we aim to grow our ecosystem and influence within the enterprise development space, working with funders and impact investors to increase funding to enterprise development within the equality sector.

We will do this by building on the strength and learning from our current work to date and through strong community mobilisation amongst the programme participants, fostering greater inter cohort work.

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.

Application dates for our next cohort

We are not currently accepting applications for the programme.

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