Grant funding for CICs
  • Author:Katie Holmes
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Charitable grants for CICs and social enterprises

Can CICs apply for grants? Community Interest Companies (CICs) and other social enterprises are businesses that aim to create social benefit through trading. Many social enterprises find that their focus on a social purpose means they cannot operate on an entirely commercial basis. They will not make enough profit to sustain the business. They need other sources of income and this leads to them look at charitable grants.

I decided to write this article because questions about charitable grants for social enterprises come up frequently in networks I belong to.

Charitable funding

Within the social enterprise sector there are some small grants available, but most funding is in the form of loans. In this article I’m focusing mainly on grants from charitable trusts and foundations. There are around 8,000 charitable trusts in the United Kingdom that are active grant-makers. Between they make grants totalling £6.5bn each year. (Read this for advice on how to find out about them).

Start locally

Most counties have a Community Foundation. They provide a way for individuals and companies to support local needs, and administer grant programmes on behalf of funders, including some charitable trusts. These are usually for smaller sums, typically up to £2,000. Get in touch with your local Foundation to see if your social enterprise is eligible to apply to any of their schemes.

Sign up to the mailing list of your local Council for Voluntary Service to get local funding news. (There’s more information on sources of support here.)

Look at small grants available from branches of shops and supermarkets in your area, such as One Stop, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s.

Do charitable trusts give grants to CICs and social enterprises?

Yes, but only some of them. Trusts and foundations tend to fall into one of three categories:

1) Trusts that specify they will only fund registered charities. Some examples include Garfield Weston Foundation, Lloyds Bank Foundation and Masonic Charitable Foundation. My estimate based on research I’ve done to date is that perhaps 15%-25% of trusts fall into this category.

2) Trusts that say they will fund other types of organisations as well (e.g. educational institutions, constituted community organisations, CICs, other social enterprises). Some examples include National Lottery Community Fund, Henry Smith Charity and Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. I’d estimate fewer than 5% of trusts fall into this category. 

3) Trusts that say they will fund “charitable purposes/organisations” and do not specifically state which types of organisations this includes. This is the majority of trusts and foundations. 

The pool of trusts that social enterprises are eligible to apply to is much smaller than that for registered charities.

For funders that fall within the third category, it is important to do thorough research to establish whether your social enterprise may be eligible to apply to them. (More on research here.)

Charitable trusts that will accept applications from CICs and social enterprises

This list comprises of national charitable trusts and foundations covering England or the UK that explicitly state they will consider applications from CICs and give larger grants of £5,000 or more. Many will also support other forms of social enterprise. I have checked all of these within the last 9 months. If you find any inaccuracies please let me know.

Of course, no organisation will meet the eligibility criteria of all these trusts. Most of them fund specific themes and/or only fund smaller organisations. Before applying it is essential to do thorough research, as with any other trust, to determine if your organisation is eligible.

  • Allen Lane Foundation
  • BBC Children in Need
  • Clothworkers Foundation
  • Comic Relief
  • Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
  • Evan Cornish Foundation
  • The Fore Trust
  • Henry Smith Charity
  • National Lottery Community Fund
  • Porticus UK
  • Rayne Foundation
  • Santander Foundation
  • Trusthouse Charitable Foundation
  • Tudor Trust

N.B. Some of the funders that do fund CICs will only fund those that are Limited by Guarantee rather than Limited by Shares.

Do you know of other trusts and foundations I can add to this list? 
Please let me know in the comments.

Related articles:
Local fundraising training and support for charities and social enterprises

Finding charitable trusts