Social Enterprise Support Fund reopens for applications after delivering £5.6m of urgent grant funding to social enterprises

Meet some of the social enterprises we've funded

The second round of The Social Enterprise Support Fund, delivering nearly £19 million of National Lottery funding, to help social enterprises during COVID-19, reopens for applications today.

In the first round the fund received over 500 applications, and by 6th August had agreed to support over 180 social enterprises across the length and breadth of England.

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.

Thanks to National Lottery players, £18.7 million of National Lottery funding has been committed to the fund to  be used to provide grants tosocial enterprise organisations that are best placed to support local, vulnerable communities in response to the COVID-19 crisis. 

This National Lottery funding is part of The National Lottery Community Fund’s wider COVID-19 emergency response for communities.

The Social Enterprise Support Fund responds to an urgent need in the sector to help social enterprises change the way they work, make their spaces COVID-secure, and manage liquidity during the next six months.

The fund is aimed 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 COVID-19. Vulnerable people need this support more than ever, but social ventures are struggling to make enough income to meet this need. Research shows that this crisis is disproportionately hurting communities who already experience social and economic inequalities.

The fund has made a commitment to ensure that the grants reach businesses that are led by people most impact by Coronavirus. The partnership has a shared goal of 30% of grants going to people who use their first-hand experience of a social issue to create positive change, and after the first round they have exceeded that goal. 

Some of the enterprises include:

  • Colorintech, who create better access, awareness and opportunities for ethnic minorities from underrepresented groups to get into and succeed in the technology industry. The funding will help disproportionately impacted communities into employment in technology.
  • Gaydio is the UK’s only national LGBT+ community radio station. The Manchester-based station delivers a broadcast service that gives a platform to those who may struggle to access mainstream media, and produces informative programmes from an LGBT+ viewpoint.
  • Investing in Children are a children’s human rights organisation that supports children and young people to have a voice in the services that are delivered to meet their needs. The children they work with are often not in engaged in education. In 2018 they opened a residential care home like no other, but COVID-19 hit them hard as they were unable to accept any more children into the residence, due to lockdown, significantly affecting their income.
  • Holleywell House Trust support those with disability and mental health issues with secure safe housing, receive housing support and thrive in their communities in a person-centred way. They create a supportive and empowering environment for people who want to hold a tenancy and access the private rented sector, creating inclusive communities and neighbourhoods and encouraging and supporting people to live independently, remain healthy and happy and have equality of access to housing and the support they need fulfil their goals.
  • Running Deer CIC was established in 2011 out of an identified need to provide opportunities for children, young people and adults, including those at risk of exclusion, and local people and communities living in rural isolation without easy access to education, employment or training. They provide access to learning outside the classroom, training, volunteering, life skills opportunities and work experience in traditional and rural skills, bushcraft, animal assisted interventions, woodland and land conservation and related activities.

The partners welcome The National Lottery Community Fund’s recognition and support of the valuable contribution to our economy and society which social enterprises make, enabling a fund that will help critical businesses survive and thrive.

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 support agencies delivering the Social Enterprise Support Fund have come together around a common purpose and shared principles of fairness, flexibility, inclusivity, accountability and transparency. Through this partnership, the funds will be able to reach those who need it the most and enable communities to build back better.

Celebrating the success of the fund to date, Mark Norbury, Chief Executive, UnLtd said: "We put out a call for social enterprises offering vital services and solutions to communities throughout England. It’s clear from the numbers of social enterprises applying for grants that there remains a huge need. We’re really proud to be able to support so many critical ventures during this time - with social entrepreneurs from Black, Asian, and minority ethnic backgrounds, disabled people, and older entrepreneurs really well-represented in this funding round. We hope to see even more applying as the next round opens this week.”

Alastair Wilson, CEO of the School for Social Entrepreneurs, said: “Through the Social Enterprise Support Fund, we’re giving grants to social entrepreneurs helping their communities recover from the adverse effects of this crisis – from LGBTQ+ organisations, to those helping disadvantaged young people create better futures. We’re committed to ensuring these grants reach minoritised and marginalised communities, to create a more equitable society. We look forward to supporting them further through the Social Enterprise Support Fund.”

Daniel Brewer, CEO, Resonance said: The response to the initial launch of the fund was humbling, proving that so many wonderful social enterprises, who are supporting some of the most vulnerable in our communities, are in need of emergency financial help due to COVID-19. Resonance are excited to be able to carry on this financial support in Round 2 of funding and would actively encourage social enterprises, across England, who qualify to apply to the fund by the 20th August

Danyal Sattar, CEO, The Big Issue Invest said: “We are grateful for The National Lottery Communities Fund as a great direct grant maker. They chose to take a substantial amount of their money and work with us at Big Issue Invest and the other partners, to find every way possible to reach communities and organisations that might not get access. It’s generous leadership from a great institution and we could never have run a programme like this without them.  When enterprising charities and social enterprises needed them, NLCF were there and stood with us.

We are delighted with how the first round of applications for the SESF fund has gone. 70% of our approved funding has gone to diversity-led businesses. We are incredibly proud of this, as we recognise the fund needs to ensure it support all leaders to respond to Covid-19 in their communities. We are spreading the funding across England, with 30% across the north, 32% in the midlands and 36% in London and the south east. We will continue to run an outreach programme for the second phase across England and would call on interested parties to get in touch and apply to the fund.”

Matt Smith, CEO, Key Fund said: “From our work over the last 20 years we know that community and social enterprise are able to engage and positively impact the lives of the most disadvantaged and isolated members of our communities, in a way that other types of organisations can’t.  In these difficult times, where the inequalities within society are even more pronounced, we believe that they are needed more than ever, and so we are delighted with the initial success of the fund.  However, we are keen to encourage more organisations to apply to the second round, and particularly those who support the people most negatively impacted by COVID-19.“


  • The fund is for social enterprises in England, with an annual income between £25,000 and £1.5 million before COVID-19.
  • It offers grants of £10,000 - £300,000.
  • Applications will be open from 1pm Thursday 13 August and closes 1pm Thursday 20th August. In total there will be three applications rounds taking place in July, August and September.

For more information contact: [email protected]

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