T: 0800 464 0797 E: investment@firstark.com


Frequently Asked Questions


What is social investment?

Social investment is any investment that’s made with the aim of creating a social outcome, as well as a financial return. Social investment can be in the form of a loan, or as a blend of loan and grant.

Who is eligible for social investment?

Our funds are aimed at charities and social enterprises. That’s any voluntary, community or social enterprise organisation serving communities in the North West of England.

What is the Reach Fund?

The Reach Fund is a two year £4m investment readiness grant programme, funded by the Access – The Foundation for Social Investment and managed by Social Investment Business. It will test a new model of investment readiness support to help charities and social enterprises raise investment.

What does the Reach Fund offer?

Small grants to charities and social enterprises who are looking to raise investment. The grant is used to help them close a deal or secure an investment.

What is an Access Point?

Access Points are social investors, such as First Ark Social Investment, approved by the Reach Fund to refer charities and social enterprises to the programme.

What is ‘investment readiness’?

It describes whether a charity or social enterprise is ‘ready’ for investment. Getting investment ready often involves specialist business development work to prepare for investment.

How do I apply for the Reach Fund?

If you complete and Expression of Interest for Invest for Impact, and we establish you need further support then we will refer you the Reach Fund. We’ll work with you to identify your needs, develop an investment readiness plan, and apply for a grant.

How much grant can I apply for?

Investment readiness grants of £5,000 – £15,000 are available.

Am I eligible?

The fund is open to charities and social enterprises operating in England. Any organisation can register and complete the diagnostic tool but in order to apply for a grant you must have been in contact with a designated Access Point such as First Ark Social Investment who will approve your registration.

What is the Invest for Impact Fund?

Invest for Impact is a £4m fund that aims to increase access to finance for charities and social enterprises to enable them to grow and become more sustainable.

The money is from Access – the Foundation for Social Investment, along with a grant from the Big Lottery Fund and loan from Big Society Capital.

What support will I get?

The fund includes support both before application and after investment, provided by a dedicated team assigned to each investee for the life of the investment.

What type of fund is it?

A blend of both grant and loan is available.

How much investment can I get?

Between £50,000 and £150,000.

How much is grant, how much is loan?

Up to 30% of the investment can be a grant, but this depends upon funding needs and associated risk.

What area does it cover? 

The North West of England, with an aim to invest evenly across the entire region.

What’s the maximum loan term? 

Five years.

Is there a capital repayment free period?

Yes, available up to one year.

What’s the interest rate?

6.5% – 12% APR assessed per investment. An annual percentage rate (APR) is the annual rate charged for borrowing or earned through an investment, and is expressed as a percentage. That percentage represents the actual yearly cost of funds over the term of a loan.

The rate will then be fixed for the life of the investment.

What’s the arrangement fee?

Zero. There’s no arrangement fee.

Is there an early repayment fee?

No. You can pay off the load early with no penalty.

Who gets accepted for finance?

You must meet the criteria for charities and social enterprises. You should use the investment within the fund objectives and not for any excluded activities.

To be eligible for the grant element, you must be able to show a social benefit and must comply with state aid rules. Our investment team will support you in working through these requirements and advise you on eligibility.

When do the repayments start?

There is an option to have a capital repayment free period, when only interest payments are made. This enables you to build up income before starting to repay the capital, as well as paying interest on the loan. Your Investment Fund Manager will talk this through with you.

If a business is refused, can it apply again?

Yes. When our team has worked with each applicant submitting an Expression of Interest, we’ll provide a range of advice and support that can help you get ready for future investment. This may include directing you to other funds or through other support mechanisms.

Are there restrictions on what the money can be spent on?

Yes. The grant funding (if applicable) must be used within the rules of the fund and to provide support or infrastructure that helps the organisation to become more sustainable in the operation of its core activities.

The loan funding must also be used within the parameters of the fund and must enable the organisation to either scale up or become more sustainable.

Can a business determine how much investment it wants, or is that decided by the investor?

An applicant can express an interest in the value of the investment; however, our investment team are here to provide support in identifying the most suitable level of investment for an organisation that would also meet the fund criteria.

How long is the fund available?

The fund will run from October 2016 until March 2019 or until the full investment fund has been released.

Are there any other projects like this?

There are several social investment funds running across the North West of England. Our Investment Fund Manager will discuss alternatives applicable to your circumstances, so you can decide on the best route for you.

How can I apply?

Anyone can submit an Expression of interest (EOI) via our website.

Once an EOI has been received, our investment team will assess suitability for the fund and then contact you to discuss it further. Once a full assessment has been made you will then be invited to submit a formal application, if suitable.

Return completed application forms to investment@firstark.com or post to:

Invest for Impact Applications
First Ark
Kings Business Park
L34 1PJ

Will this affect credit rating?

The loan will be recorded as a debt against the company, which would be taken into account by anyone making a credit assessment.

If a business already has a loan can it apply?

Yes. Businesses with existing loans can still apply, but we are looking to encourage applications from businesses that haven’t applied before.

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