Third Sector Awards 2016: Social Investment of the Year - Winner: Shared Interest Society

Awarded to a charity or social enterprise that has raised money through social investments, such as bond issues, loans or social investment tax relief, to maintain or expand its work

SIS provides loans to farmers
SIS provides loans to farmers

What does it do?

The Shared Interest Society provides loans to farmers and handcraft producers. Its mission is to provide financial services that will make their livelihoods and living standards better and enable them to trade their way out of poverty.

Research shows that 450 million farmers provide 70 per cent of the world's food, but only 2 per cent of their finance needs are met. The society’s lending is largely unsecured and high risk and, although there are many social lenders, few offer support to small or medium-sized cooperatives.

Last year, the society ran eight campaigns in the media and on public transport, helping it to raise almost £4m in new investment. Half of all the people who enquired about its share accounts invested.

As well as attracting new investors, it has been working to retain and develop existing supporters. It created a member portal that allows investors to manage their share accounts online, and sent out personalised Christmas cards from Kenyan basket weavers. Member meetings were held around the UK and it developed an online voting system that allows more investors to vote at its annual general meetings. Its members invest for an average of 13 years and a third of them waive their interest.

What has it achieved? 

Last year the society’s share capital grew to more than £33m, a net increase of £2m. It now has a total of 10,772 investors. In 2015, it made a total of £51.4m in payments, an increase of £3.4m on the previous year. These payments reached more than 400 organisations in 58 countries. It also loaned money directly to 150 producers, representing 247,348 individuals. Many of these have no other source of finance.

What did the judges say?

Richard Davidson, director of engagement at Anthony Nolan, said: "It was a great submission, scoring highly on aims, approach and achievements. This is an incredibly successful operation."

Highly commended

Winner Trading, the trading arm of the Preston Road Women's Centre

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