Grants to help you get your social enterprise off the ground in Scotland

So you’ve had this great idea of making your local community a better place and improving the quality of life of those living in it. You’ve decided to put your idea in practice and starting a social enterprise looks like the best option for you. It’s because you want to achieve your social purpose, but you also need to make money to make it sustainable, so you’ve chosen to reinvest your future profits in furthering your social aims. But wait, you also need money to get your social enterprise started. On top of the time that you will dedicate to your cause, there will be other expenses to cover to get the social enterprise off the ground.

To give you a starting point, we have compiled a list of grants and awards for social enterprise start-ups in Scotland. This is not an exhaustive list by no means, as such sources of funding often change.

Fund Details
 The Social Entrepreneurs Fund

Firstport’s Award Programme supports individuals to turn their ideas into thriving social enterprises. The Awards Programme is funded by the Scottish Government’s Social Entrepreneurs Fund (SEF) and offers two different levels of start-up awards – Start It and Build It, together with business support from a dedicated team of advisors. 

With Start It you can apply for up to £5,000 start-up costs to pilot your idea. With Build It funding of up to £20,000 is available to cover an individual’s salary/living costs for one year, so that they can begin running the business full time.

Shackleton Foundation Leadership Award

The Shackleton Foundation Leadership Award is an early stage venture capital funding for social entrepreneurs. They provide up to £10,000 of seed funding to allow social entrepreneurs to establish their own endeavours to help the disadvantaged and socially marginalised in society. They look for projects with high impact and wide reach that provide solutions to difficult social problems.
Scottish EDGE

Scottish EDGE consists of four competition categories:

  • Scottish EDGE
  • Young EDGE
  • Wild Card EDGE
  • Higgs EDGE

Social enterprises can take part in all 4 competitions and will be assessed against the same criteria as all other Ltd Company applicants. Please note that as the Scottish EDGE and Higgs EDGE prizes now consists of a 50% element that will need to be repaid, applicants will need to ensure that the constitution of their organisation allows them to borrow money. 

If you haven’t started trading yet, then the Wild Card Competition might be the most suitable to you, with a grant of up to £10,000 and access to a non-financial support package.

Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs

UnLtd distributes funds specifically aimed at individual social entrepreneurs or informal groups. They offer a few different types of awards from helping convert ideas into projects to supporting individuals to devote more time to developing existing ideas. 

Recommended awards:

  • Do It Award – grants of up to £5,000 to start developing the idea.
  • Grow It Award – grants of up to £15,000 for individuals who have an established social venture or community project or who have the potential to develop rapidly.
  • Spaces 4 Change – from 2016-2019 100 awards will be available for young leaders aged 16-24 consisting of up to £5,000 project funding, a dedicated award manager providing tailored support, cohort support, and peer to peer networking opportunities for sharing knowledge and learning.

If you can’t manage to get a grant but you are still keen to pursue your social endeavours, then considering a loan specifically designed for social entrepreneurs could be the answer for you. Here are only a few examples:

Social Investment Provider Details
Social Investment Scotland

Social Investment Scotland (SIS), a social enterprise and registered charity itself, is the largest provider of business loans to the third sector in Scotland. They provide loans from £10,000 to £1 million to organisations who are unable to raise any or all of the loan finance they require from banks and other sources.
Start & Grow / Resilient Scotland   Start & Grow is an investment package from Resilient Scotland and offers investment packages of between £10,000 and £60,000 to social enterprises, community organisations and charities to start-up, develop and expand their enterprising activities.  Start & Grow investments are always made up of one third grant and two thirds loan, and are unsecured.  Loans are repayable over up to 5 years (flexible terms can be agreed) and are charged at a fixed interest rate of base rate (currently 0.25%) plus 6%.
Big Issue Invest

Big Issue Invest provides finance of between £20,000 and £3 million to social enterprises and charities that prevent and tackle poverty and create opportunities for people across the UK.
Charity Bank 

Charity Bank provides loans of £50,000 to £3.25 million to small and large charities, social enterprises and organisations tackling social and environmental issues.