Social investment

What is social investment?

Social investment is any investment activity which has an expectation of both a social outcome and a financial return, which would usually be below market rate.

For voluntary organisations it represents a form of repayable finance that can be used for capital investment, revenue funding development, capacity building, or other ways of improving their sustainability.

NCVO Knowhow Nonprofit contains comprehensive information about different types of investment and what charities need to think about.

Read more about our research on social investment.

NCVO social investment support

Big Potential Breakthrough offers grants of £20,000-75,000 that enable voluntary organisations to build their capacity and understanding of social investment, in order to ultimately raise finance up to £500,000.

NCVO is an approved support provider for Big Potential Breakthrough. We can support your organisation with the initial diagnostic process, and work with you to prepare your grant application, and then, to prepare for the actual financial product.

The diagnostic tool is a useful exercise for any charity or social enterprise thinking about loan finance as part of its funding mix, whether or not the organisation goes on to seek finance.

What is Big Potential?

Big Potential Logo PINK

Big Lottery Fund’s £20m fund is aimed at eligible voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations (VSCEs) to improve their sustainability, capacity and scale and help them deliver greater social impact for communities across England.

There are two strands to the Big Potential programme, Big Potential Breakthrough, aimed at VCSEs looking to raise up to £500,000 of investment and Big Potential Advanced, aimed at VCSEs looking to raise over £500,000 of investment or over £1m in contracts.

Big Potential is administered by the Social Investment Business on behalf of the Big Lottery Fund in partnership with Locality, Social Enterprise UK, Charity Bank and the University of Northampton.

A grant from the fund will help VCSEs, at the very beginning of their social investment journey, to get specialist and tailored support to become investment ready.

What is investment readiness?

Investment ready is a term used to describe organisations that want to grow and expand and who develop their capacity to the extent that they will be successful in gaining external (repayable) investment. This means understanding the requirements of banks and other financial institutions (investors) when you are looking for investment and it includes knowledge about how to develop business plans to secure external finance and communication with investors.

What will the Big Potential programme offer?

Big Potential offers VCSE organisations the chance to consider the usefulness of social investment as part of its broader financing or fundraising strategy.

Organisations have access to a the Big Potential website with fantastic learning and development content and in-depth information on social investment including case studies, guides and a fully automated diagnostic tool which is a helpful companion to any VCSE organisation starting its social investment journey.

Interested organisations can book a place at one of 17 regional events. The events will be held in collaboration with regional and local partners in venues across England. It’s a fantastic opportunity to learn more about social investment and if it’s right for your organisation. You can book a place now.

Applying for a Big Potential Breakthrough grant

  1. First register on The Big Potential website. Once done …
  2. Complete the online diagnostic tool.
  3. Receive a 1:1 advice session with an expert advisor.
  4. If successful, choose a support provider (e.g. NCVO) to help you with your grant application.

Help from NCVO

We can help at all stages of the process. Please contact our public services team on 020 7520 2411 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with any questions.

Related resources

Funding Central lists thousands of finding and finance opportunities for the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector.

Achieving sustainable funding

Social finance case studies

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