Loan body embraces risk

Almost 10 per cent of loans that have been made by the Government-backed Futurebuilders scheme are in the highest risk category, according to a report launched at the organisation's annual conference last week.

Is Futurebuilders Working? shows that, three years into the programme, £4.7m of the fund's investments, equivalent to 9 per cent of the total, are rated "very high" risk or grade D, according to Futurebuilders' own ranking. Just over a quarter of loans, worth £11.2m, are "high" risk or grade C.

The report says that although part of Futurebuilders' agenda is to "dispel the conception that third sector organisations are inherently risky", the organisation retains a "substantial appetite" for genuine risk and continues to support organisations that traditional lenders would dismiss.

The report points out that Unity Trust Bank, a commercial lender, pitched its tolerance of risk for third sector organisations at consistently lower levels.

Although Futurebuilders is proving itself willing to take risks, it is struggling to calm the sector's anxieties about loan finance. The report says only 35 per cent of recipients agree that their experience with Futurebuilders has made their staff or trustees more confident about taking loans.

Speaking at the conference, Stuart Etherington, chief executive of the NCVO, said loan finance was not a solution for all voluntary groups. "Futurebuilders is not for everyone, but it is part of the fix, another opportunity," he said.

"What is needed is a more thorough analysis of demand from the sector for this sort of funding."

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