Enterprise Grant Making

In our last blog, we discussed the importance of quality business support and our role in delivering and underpinning sector advice and development. Structured, tailored support is only one side of the coin however, there is also a need for enterprise grant making, especially at an early stage, when revenue streams are under development and it is not the right time for debt finance. When used to stimulate growth and create breathing space, enterprise grants act very much like equity or funds from friends and family in a private business.

Key Fund began as a grant maker in South Yorkshire, funding charities, social enterprises and cooperatives to make lasting change in their communities, through Global Grants, a participative grant making programme across the four boroughs of South Yorkshire.

As we moved into investing, we retained a grant function, becoming one of the pioneers of blended finance in 2002, an offer which we retain today, with the support of Better Society Capital and Access: The Foundation for Social Investment.

Although long known as a provider of blended finance, we have also been a regular provider of standalone enterprise grants, working with wholesale funders such as The National Lottery Community Fund, The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, The Mercers’ Company, The Department for Housing, Levelling Up and Communities, and Ardevora.




Some funds have been focussed on unlocking opportunity or responding to need in target communities, typified by our work with The Mercers’ Company in Lincolnshire and The North East and The Cost of living Fund. Others have been straightforward capital for growth grants, such as Investing for Growth in Sheffield City Region.

During and just after the pandemic, it was clear that surviving and then recovering, whilst still delivering, meant that social enterprises needed grant. We responded in line with our principles; collaboratively and focussed on need. With the backing of The National Lottery Community Fund and alongside our partners Unltd, SSE, Resonance and Big Issue Invest, we delivered £16.1 of emergency funding to over 500 enterprises, half of which from home offices and kitchens during lockdown. The relationships formed across our teams will bear fruit into the future.

Key Fund is of course an enterprise focussed investor and so our grant making predominantly follows suit and has included thematic and place based funding alongside more generalised enterprise funding, including enterprise development grants under the Northern Cultural Regeneration Fund and community led business grants alongside Power to Change.

We see an ongoing role for Key Fund in delivering enterprise grants as a core sector development activity and as ever, remain keen to explore this with potential partners.



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