Funding for social enterprises old and new
One of the longest established and one of the newest community organisations in Mendip are two of the latest social enterprises to have benefitted from the Somerset Social Enterprise Fund (SSEF), administered by Somerset Community Foundation (SCF). They join a growing number of organisations to have received social investment from the fund, totalling almost £400,000 over the past three years.
Frome Memorial Theatre, which first opened its doors in 1925 as a memorial hall in remembrance of the fallen of World War II, has secured support to upgrade its stage lighting system. The theatre, established through public subscription, is run entirely by volunteers and plays an important part in Frome’s cultural life. The award was made, in part, in recognition of the positive impact the organisation has on its volunteers, of which there are more than 100.
Roger Hatherell, Treasurer and Trustee at Frome Memorial Theatre, said: “We are delighted that Somerset Community Foundation has been able to support us, enabling the upgrading of our stage lighting system to be completed. We are also grateful for the help and advice we have received in conjunction with the funding, enabling us to extend our social impact into the community by encouraging and supporting more local groups to enjoy our facilities and become part of our theatre family.''
Root Connections CIC, on the other hand, was incorporated in August 2018, although it builds on a project that has been running for some time by the Elim Church in Wells. The social enterprise is based on a farm near Stratton-on-the-Fosse, providing accommodation and support for people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness in the surrounding towns and countryside. Clients are encouraged to get involved in growing produce on the farm, helping them in their recovery while also generating income for the project. The social investment is designed to help them develop and grow a ‘veg box’ scheme as part of the project.
Suzanne Addicott, Manager at Root Connections CIC said: “We are delighted that Somerset Community Foundation is supporting the work of Root Connections by offering blended finance in the form of both a grant and loan. This will enable the Root Connections market garden to establish itself. Income generated from the project, including the sale of veg boxes, jams and chutneys, will go towards our work at Dairy House to end rough sleeping and also provide vulnerable adults with the opportunity to participate in the market garden. We want to thank the Foundation for all the work it does in the community partnering with organisations like ours."
Justin Sargent, CEO of Somerset Community Foundation said: “Both of these projects demonstrate, in very different ways, how significant social impacts can be achieved in financially sustainable ways. The SSEF was established to help organisations like these in their mission, not only providing financial capital but also advice and support to each organisation. Social enterprises will become ever more important in the future and we are very keen to see more groups come forward for support.”
Councillor David Hall, Cabinet Member for Economic Development, Planning and Community Infrastructure, said: “It’s fantastic to see the money that we invested years ago continuing to have an impact now. This fund gives community organisations that little bit of help they need to develop, become self-sustaining so they can carry on making a real difference to people’s lives in the long-term.
“I’m delighted that this fund and our work with Somerset Community Foundation has gone from strength to strength, supporting charities and social enterprises to continue their work for the benefit of Somerset people.”
Andrew Gnaneswaran, Programme Manager at Access Foundation, said: “The Growth Fund was established to tackle a financing gap that existed for organisations delivering real social impact. With the latest investments, SSEF has shown it is meeting the financing need for VCSEs across the spectrum – from the start-up social enterprises, to those who have been around for decades.”
The Somerset Social Enterprise Fund (SSEF) was established with funding from Somerset County Council. It is part of the Growth Fund, managed by Access - The Foundation for Social Investment, with funding provided by the Big Lottery Fund and Big Society Capital. Somerset Community Foundation runs the SSEF programme which provides a blended package of loans and grants to local charities and social enterprises. To find out more call 01749 344949.