Social Enterprise Support Fund opens for final round

Last opportunity for social enterprises in England to apply for £18.7m grant fund

Social enterprises are being encouraged to apply for the final round of The Social Enterprise Support Fund, which opens for applications on Thursday 10th September and closes on Thursday 17th September 2020.

The Social Enterprise Support Fund was established in partnership by The National Lottery Community Fund and five social enterprise support agencies: Big Issue Invest, The Key Fund, Community Land & Finance CIC (also known as Resonance), the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and UnLtd with support from CAF Venturesome, the Young Foundation and Ashoka.  £18.7 million of National Lottery funding has been committed to the fund, made possible by National Lottery players.

The partners behind the scheme understand that social ventures need to plan to weather the ‘perfect storm’ they face: COVID-19 continuing, increased demand for their services, a global recession and the end of short-term Government support.

Mark Norbury, Chief Executive of UnLtd, explains, “The fund has been a massive success – it looks like we’ll have got a vital £14m in grant funding to over 350 social enterprises in England over the first two rounds. We want to encourage as many social enterprises as possible – particularly those led by Black, Asian, minority ethnic or disabled people – to apply to our final round as possible. We want them to have the chance to get the funds they need to weather the perfect storm on the horizon. Thanks to National Lottery players, there are grants available now. Our message is: if your business has been affected by COVID-19, don’t hesitate. If you are eligible, apply for support.”

According to recent research, a quarter of social enterprises in the UK have cash flow for just three months or fewer. As the furlough scheme and other short-term support ends, four in ten social enterprises say the outlook for their business over the next six months looks uncertain[1].

The fund has so far received nearly 900 applications, and by 8th September had agreed to support over 400 social enterprises across the length and breadth of England with over £12.2 million in grant funding. Research shows that this crisis is disproportionately hurting communities who already experience social and economic inequalities. For the final round, eligibility for the fund has been widened to organisations with an annual income of between £20,000 and £1.8million.

Danyal Sattar, CEO, The Big Issue Invest said: “Thanks to The National Lottery Communities Fund, through SESF at Big Issue Invest we have been able to support the enterprising trading charities and social enterprises that have been badly affected by the pandemic with grants to enable them to continue their work.  It has been fast, effective, targeted support. People have taken on new ways of working and re-engineered their operations to deliver support to communities up and down the country.  It is our society at its best.”

The fund has made a commitment to ensure that the grants reach businesses that are led by people most impact by Coronavirus.  Over 70% of those funded so far were organisations have gone to leaders with lived experience. Social enterprises are using the grants to keep critical services running or adapt to new circumstances as a result of Coronavirus. Some of the organisations so far funded include:

  • Exceptional Individuals, who provide consulting, recruitment and employment support to employers and individuals with dyslexia, dyspraxia, ADHD and autism. This funding is vital in enabling the organisation to keep their skilled team of neurodivergent individuals in employment and allow them to invest in the equipment and infrastructure needed in order to bring their services online effectively.
  • Challenge Academy in the West Midlands, who provide affordable and accessible outdoor learning opportunities for marginalised communities. The funding will help them to deliver a new ‘life changing’ experiential learning course helping participants to develop resilience and a growth mindset.
  • LGBTQ+ specialists Think2Speak, who exist to empower and encourage young people to have conversations that matter to them, from wellbeing to social action. The funding will help young people and their families whose emotional wellbeing has been impacted by Covid 19, responding to increased demand and reducing mental health waiting lists.
  • Papi’s Pickles provide exceptional South Indian and Sri Lankan food and pickles made by women from these communities who relocated to the UK due to the conflict in Sri Lanka. The funding will support them develop an online sales offering, including hot food and pickle delivery, while growing their existing work with weddings and event catering.
  • Open Barbers, based in London, provides a hairdressing experience free of assumptions around identity, with a particular emphasis on meeting the mental health and wellbeing needs of LGBTQ+ people. The hairdressers have recently reopened their doors to the public after having to close due to the pandemic. Open Barbers will use the grant funding to continue the core ethos of providing affordable and accessible hair services for marginalised individuals, in a Covid-secure environment.

Daniel Brewer, CEO, Resonance said: “From the first two rounds of funding we have seen applications from a diverse range of enterprises, from across England, that were in critical need of funding to help them recover from COVID-19. Their commitment, passion and energy to adapt and react to this crisis continuing to serve their communities and the most vulnerable in society really has been an inspiration to us. This is the final opportunity to apply to the fund, therefore I would encourage all enterprises who qualify and require financial support to apply as soon as possible”

Matt Smith, CEO, Key Fund said: “We are delighted to have been able to support so many fantastic social enterprises in the first two rounds of the fund, enabling them to continue to deliver support to their beneficiaries, and particularly those most impacted by COVID-19.  However, we know that many more enterprises continue to struggle in these uncertain times and so we are urging them to not miss this opportunity to secure much needed financial support and apply to the third and final round of the fund.”

[1] 38% of SEs say they are uncertain about future growth plans,


  • The fund is made available through this website (
  • The final round of the fund is for social enterprises in England, with an annual income between £20,000 and £1.8 million before COVID-19.
  • It offers grants of £10,000 - £300,000.
  • Applications will be open from 1pm on Thursday 10th September and close at 1pm on Thursday 17th September.
  • For media enquiries, please contact: [email protected]

About the Social Enterprise Support Fund

The Social Enterprise Support Fund is one of eight expert partnerships, funded by The National Lottery Community Fund, to ensure almost £59m of National Lottery funding reaches communities most vulnerable to the impact of COVID-19. The move is part of The National Lottery Community Fund’s COVID-19 emergency response and means it will benefit from the partnerships’ collective expertise and networks, to ensure funding is distributed to even more communities. The partnerships will focus on supporting organisations that work with those communities that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.

The Social Enterprise Support Fund was established in partnership by The National Lottery Community Fund and five social enterprise support agencies. £18.7 million of National Lottery funding has been committed to the fund, raised by National Lottery players, which will be used to provide grants to social enterprise organisations that are best placed to support local, vulnerable communities in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Big Issue Invest, The Key Fund, Resonance, the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) and UnLtd will jointly deliver the grants.

About The National Lottery Community Fund

We are the largest funder of community activity in the UK – we’re proud to award money raised by National Lottery players to communities across England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. Since June 2004, we have made over 200,000 grants and awarded over £9 billion to projects that have benefited millions of people.   

We are passionate about funding great ideas that matter to communities and make a difference to people’s lives. At the heart of everything we do is the belief that when people are in the lead, communities thrive. Thanks to the support of National Lottery players, our funding is open to everyone. We’re privileged to be able to work with the smallest of local groups right up to UK-wide charities, enabling people and communities to bring their ambitions to life.  


Learn about the partners delivering the fund.

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