Social Enterprise for Charities: the Enterprise Development Programme

In the wake of Brexit and the current climate, 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 support and the opportunity for funding 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.

Find out how we’re adapting the programme in light of Covid-19 here.

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 a social enterprise example, 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 the School for Social Entrepreneurs and 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,
  • 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 first 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 first cohort’s recruitment.

  • Thursday 9 April 2020 (Midday): Last day for expressions of interest – now closed.
  • Thursday 30 April 2020 (Midday): Last day 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 early June.

Applications for our second cohort will open in late summer. In the meantime be sure to keep an eye out on our website, newsletter and social media channels for updates.

The Enterprise Development Programme and Covid-19

Equally Ours is committed to offering support to equality organisations that is responsive to the current Covid-19 outbreak, and that builds long-term sustainability and resilience across the sector.

This means that, where appropriate, we will be continuing the equality strand of the Enterprise Development Programme over the summer months, with some changes. For successful applicants in the first cohort we will make use of online learning, and plan to work with a small group of organisations for this initially.

For many applicants, we realise that this programme won’t be appropriate over the next few months. Therefore for other organisations that are successfully selected, we’ll be looking to work with them later in the year instead – these decisions will be made in collaboration with those organisations.

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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