Guest blog: Committing emergency capital for social impact – a rapid response from foundations
In this guest blog, Kieron Boyle, CEO, Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity and Nick Temple, CEO, Social Investment Business discuss the rapid roll-out of the Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund - one of the UK’s largest ever foundation co-investments.
The charities and social enterprises we support are facing an uncertain future while they race to adapt their service delivery. In the face of this uncertainty, foundations have collaborated to respond urgently to the Covid-19 pandemic and provide an element of certainty for those they support. While many of these organisations will find that the emergency grants we have each been providing will be the most appropriate answer for them (not wanting to add more debt or additional loans to what they already have), others are facing urgent cash-flow problems, and need bridging loans to continue to deliver their crucial services.
In response to this need, Social Investment Business (SIB) launched the Resilience and Recovery Loan Fund (RRLF) in late April. RRLF is designed for social enterprises and charities focused on improving people’s lives across the UK, who are experiencing disruption to their normal business model as a result of Covid-19. The Fund offers loans with flexibility in terms, including 12 months interest and fee-free, 1-5 year terms, no arrangement fee to be paid and no personal guarantees required.
This flexibility comes because the Fund has been established to make an existing government scheme (the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS)) more easily accessible to charities and social enterprises. SIB issues the loans, working with seven experienced delivery partners: Big Issue Invest, CAF Venturesome, Charity Bank, Resonance, Social Investment Scotland, Social and Sustainable Capital and Wales Council for Voluntary Action.
The Fund was established with an initial £25 million from Big Society Capital to test the scale of need for emergency finance.
It was also of considerable interest to leading trusts and foundations who wanted to increase their Covid-19 response by offering to invest their capital. They include Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity, Barrow Cadbury Trust, Clothworkers’ Foundation, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Trust for London and Treebeard Trust. The potential investment from these foundations combined would add another £15 million to the capacity of the Fund — one of the UK’s largest ever foundation co-investments.
So far, RRLF has approved over £6.1 million in loans to 19 charities and social enterprises, with many more organisations in the pipeline. Examples include the Royal Society for Blind Children which took a loan to bridge fundraising and continue its services following the postponement of the London Marathon; and Acorn Early Years Foundation that lost much of its revenue once social distancing began and children were kept at home.
So, what have we learned?
1. A trust-based approach is key: we announced and made first investments a few weeks before contracts and legal documents. This was all possible, along with the commitment from foundations, as we had built up trusted relationships over time. Without these partner organisations, and many individuals within them, we simply wouldn't have been able to establish the Fund in six weeks – it would normally take six months – or indeed secure further capital commitments from trusts and foundations.
2. Be open and prepared to get things wrong: responding to a crisis requires speed, but also a willingness to take a degree of reputational risk. We hold our hands up to making mistakes in this work, but one thing we got right was being very open about how we are doing things; that has allowed us in turn to be more open to ideas and insight; and that has made what we've all done better and more effective for the organisations we are here to support.
3. New thinking is possible on charitable endowments: due to the Government’s CBILS scheme, endowments had a high degree of protection on their investments; the effect of the guarantee scheme is to return 90-95p on the £1. For many foundations, this was an elegant way of leveraging their assets for even greater impact.
Since RRLF launched, thanks to the swift action of policy makers, grant makers and others, the liquidity environment for charities and social enterprises has improved through a variety of emergency finance initiatives. However, for many organisations, significant solvency questions remain. We will continue the conversation with foundations on the changing needs of charities and social enterprises over the challenges of the coming months.
In the meantime, we wish to celebrate and recognise publicly the sector’s responsiveness to commit resources and capital to RRLF. Foundations have shown leadership in demonstrating how they can leverage their endowments to complement their grant giving at this moment of need.
For more information about RRLF, contact the Enterprise and Development Team at SIB: RRLF@sibgroup.org.uk.
For more information about foundations and social impact investing, contact the Social Impact Investors Group or Jo Heywood at Big Society Capital email@example.com.
Guy’s and St Thomas’ Charity’s thinking on using all their assets in support of their mission is at https://www.gsttcharity.org.uk/get-involved/news-and-opinion/views/what-endowment
Nick Temple, CEO
Social Investment Business
Kieron Boyle, CEO
Guy’s and St. Thomas’ Charity