Launch of £1.4m fund to help social ventures

Sally-Anne Greenfield
Sally-Anne Greenfield
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A VENTURE capital programme, worth £1.4m, which targets investment at social enterprises is being launched today in Yorkshire.

Sally-Anne Greenfield, one of the key figures behind the Yorkshire Venture Philanthropy Programme, said it is the first regional fund of its kind.

Part-funded over three years by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the scheme aims to provide access to grant and loan finance, specialist advice and pro bono support from the private sector.

The programme has been set up by the Community Foundations in Leeds, Calderdale and South Yorkshire, which channel money donated by local individuals and businesses to community groups in disadvantaged areas, working together with Sheffield-based the Key Fund, which itself provides investments to social enterprises.

Mrs Greenfield, chief executive of Leeds Community Foundation, which wrote the successful bid for ERDF funding, said: “The aim of the programme is to stimulate growth in the fast-growing social enterprise sector and channel investment and support from private sector companies and individuals into third sector groups who want to develop or expand social enterprise activity.

“We know from some of the entrepreneurs we already work with that they want to support charitable causes with the potential to grow, become sustainable and provide a return.”

In Yorkshire and Humber, there could be more than 3,500 social enterprises plus many more charitable organisations which have some trading activity or commercial enterprise arm, according to Leeds City Council estimates. For Leeds city region, the estimated figure is at least 1,400 and for Leeds about 700.

Social enterprises are estimated to employ 800,000 people across the UK. “They are really important [for the economic recovery]”, said Mrs Greenfield. “They are locally based so they usually employ local labour, reduce unemployment, and contribute back to the local economy either by employing people or using local services, and you have the community benefit of course, strengthening a local community tends to support business growth as well.”

While the funding is currently coming predominantly from the ERDF pot, the idea is that the programme will in the future act as a broker between social enterprises and private investors. Investors do not get a cash return on their investment, but they do get a social return, said Mrs Greenfield. “The return they would get would be nurturing a social enterprise and seeing it grow.”

The programme presents an opportunity for the private sector to combine philanthropy with business objectives, she said.

The Yorkshire Venture Philanthropy Programme consists of small grants of up to £5,000; grant/loan packages of between £5,000 and £100,000 with the loans being provided by Key Fund; access to pro bono advice from a pool of business experts, on a one-to-one basis and via seminars and events; a bursary scheme that enables access to specialist advice in key areas.

Social enterprises are put through “a rigorous vetting process”, said Mrs Greenfield, to decide if they are suitable for funding and support.

Rich Cole works as a full-time director on the programme and is based in the Leeds Community Foundation offices but works across the region. Each area has a supervisory board and investment committee, with representatives from business and finance. The Leeds board includes Peter Yendell, chairman at Leeds-based private equity firm Endless, and Martin Allison, a business consultant with PwC.

Freeserve guru keynote speaker

YORKSHIRE entrepreneur and founder of Freeserve Ajaz Ahmed will be the keynote speaker at the launch of the Yorkshire Venture Philanthropy programme tonight at the Trinity Quarter in Leeds. The event, hosted by Land Securities and aimed at potential investors, will showcase two social enterprises that have received support from Leeds Community Foundation. They are restaurant and caterer Create and a new start-up enterprise programme at St Vincent’s Support Centre.