Compass shows the way thanks to flexible funding from Somerset Community Foundation

May 24, 2022

Local charities and social enterprises seeking funding to start a new service or develop an asset could benefit from the Somerset Social Enterprise Fund (SSEF).

Run by Somerset Community Foundation, SSEF provides funding, typically between £20,000 and £100,000, through a blend of grants (money that does not need to be paid back) and unsecured loans.  

Twenty-three local organisations have now received social investment funding worth just over £1 million from SSEF since it was launched in 2017, providing transformational finance to local charities and social enterprises.

One of the first organisations to be awarded funding was Compass Disability. They used their money – a social investment award of £71,000 – to convert a building into their Compass Wellbeing centre. Compass Wellbeing hosts a range of specialist services, including a hydrotherapy pool and a sensory room for people with disabilities and their families and carers, alongside their fully accessible and inclusive Compass Wellbeing Cafe.

Compass Disability has recently completed paying back their SSEF loan, becoming the sixth organisation to have repaid their loan in full. The charity now has an asset that will continue to deliver great benefits for their clients well into the future, as well as a financial return to support their wider work.

Richard Pitman, CEO of Compass said: “The process of applying for the SSEF funding really challenged us – in a good way – to think about our business model and the way we ran the charity. We received a lot of support from Somerset Community Foundation during the application process and they showed flexibility towards us as we set up and started to run the centre. There is no doubt in my mind that the experience has had far reaching benefits across the organisation, making us stronger and more sustainable overall.”

The Somerset Social Enterprise Fund is designed for organisations that need capital investment or working capital to develop assets or services that serve local communities but that will also generate financial returns to the organisation. It was created with the help of a major grant from Somerset County Council supplemented by contributions from National Lottery Community Fund via the Access Foundation Growth Fund.

Chief Executive at Somerset Community Foundation, Justin Sargent, explains: “The Somerset Social Enterprise Fund was designed to help local organisations that are striving to become more financially sustainable and are interested in exploring flexible finance for the first time to help them on their journey. Compass Disability have been on that journey with us over the past five years and I congratulate Richard and his team on everything they have achieved for people with disabilities in our county.”

SSEF funding is typically between £20,000 and £100,000, with an average investment being around £40,000. Up to 33% can be in the form of a grant and remainder is an unsecured loan. Somerset Community Foundation takes a pragmatic and flexible approach to enable the organisations they invest in to succeed, for example through interest-only periods.

To find out more about the Somerset Social Enterprise Fund click here.

You can read how our funding has made a difference to some social enterprises in Somerset, here and you can watch a film here about the SSEF and hear from some groups who have benefitted from the fund. 


Somerset Community Foundation is a charity that helps passionate people in Somerset change the world on their doorstep by funding local charities and inspiring local giving and philanthropy. They aim to build stronger communities in Somerset where everyone has the opportunity to thrive. They provide rewarding and impactful ways for donors to give through them, to the causes and places they care about most. Together, they fund amazing organisations and the passionate people that change lives every day.

Since SCF were founded in 2002 they’ve awarded more than £17 million in funding, changing thousands of lives across Somerset.

Photo Caption: The Wellbeing Cafe at Compass Wellbeing, a fully inclusive and accessible centre which benefitted from social investment funding from the Somerset Social Enterprise Fund.

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