First eight ventures under 'readiness fund' have secured deals worth £35m

Jonathan Jenkins of the Social Investment Business, which manages the fund, says modest targeted support can help charities and social enterprises win public service contracts

Jonathan Jenkins
Jonathan Jenkins

A government-backed fund has helped eight charities and social enterprises to win investments and contracts worth £35m, according to an independent report by the Boston Consulting Group.

The Investment and Contract Readiness Fund, which is managed by the Social Investment Business on behalf of the Office for Civil Society, was launched in May 2012 with £10m in government funding. It has so far provided 94 social ventures with £8.9m in grants to buy specialist support, including legal advice, financial management and public service commissioning.

Grants worth £815,144 have helped the first eight ventures to secure deals worth £34.9m.

Jonathan Jenkins, chief executive of the Social Investment Business, said: "These success stories show how modest levels of targeted business support can make ambitious charities and social enterprises much more successful at raising the investment they need to expand their activities and winning contracts to provide public services."

To apply for funding under the scheme, ventures must work with one of about 40 approved service providers to put together an application for a grant. If the application is successful they will be given a grant to buy the business support that they need.

The report, Ready, Willing and Able: an interim review of the Investment and Contract Readiness Fund, says that the £35m figure is in line with expectations, but the fund could be improved by increasing the transparency of provider performance.

It says that the provider success rate in securing grants for applicants "varies enormously" and selecting a provider to work with "can feel too much like a random selection". The report says the fund should consider publishing more information about providers and revoking the approved status of "serially unsuccessful providers".

The report says the social investment market has a long way to go before it can survive without subsidy, given that just 15 per cent of 81 ventures that responded to a Boston Consulting Group survey said they would pay to hire the provider in future, regardless of whether financial support was available.

The ICRF has been established to help prepare social ventures to bid for public service contracts. Organisations seeking to raise at least £500,000 in investment or secure contracts worth £1m or more can apply for grants of between £50,000 and £150,000 to buy business support.

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