Jo Wedderspoon_2

Joanne Wedderspoon

Development Manager

Charities Aid Foundation

Support in extraordinary times

It's amazing what you can do over video

5 May 2020

Since the Covid-19 lockdown in the UK, CAF Venturesome has had many new enquiries for social investment and approximately a third of our portfolio, of over 130 social organisations, has asked for a variation to the terms of their existing loans.  In April, our Venturesome Investment Committee approved three new social investments for growth and varied the terms of dozens of our existing loans in the Development Fund

We don’t know how long the situation is going to last and what the effects will be in the medium to long term on our portfolio, but we hope we have helped to stabilise as many social organisations as possible.

Our Venturesome Investment Committee usually meets monthly at CAF’s London office and brings years of experience to the approval process – from finance to venture capital and charity leadership.  As well as senior CAF representatives, we have six external members.  In April the committee moved to Zoom and met several times over the month to review all the requests for support.  We are really grateful to the committee for giving us so much of their time and there are some beautiful curtains out there!

Laptop showing a video call

Our smaller fund, the SE-Assist Fund, has a portfolio of 24 social enterprises in Wales, Greater Brighton, Sussex and Croydon.  As the fund supports early stage social enterprises with interest free loans under £30k, we know that some of them will be greatly impacted.  Our SE-Assist Investment Committee for Wales, has also virtually met twice in April and we have been able to approve nine capital repayment holidays. The committee also provided them with some extremely useful and essential guidance on funding and support available for organisations based in Wales. Our Brighton/Croydon/Sussex Investment Committee is due to meet in early May to hopefully approve further repayment holidays. 

We are also delighted with the impact that our new Community Led Housing Fund is having.  Since we launched this 5-year fund, in early 2020, we have had 28 enquiries for social investment and our CLH Fund investment committee approved two new social investments to community led housing groups in Devon to enable them to develop and build 33 new affordable homes.   We are hopeful of a further three projects being approved at our next committee meeting in early June.

What we can do at this time

CAF Venturesome is dedicated to providing social enterprises and charities with the affordable, flexible finance they need to sustain and grow their social impact and we reiterate our promise to do all that we can to support high-impact social organisations during this very uncertain time.

We are very happy to support our current portfolio with repayment holidays and restructured loans – working with each organisation to provide the most appropriate support for them.

We will continue to assess new applications and requests for support (remotely for the time being) and our investment committees will meet via video calls for as long as they need to.

We know that we are not able to provide all of the repayable finance that is requested – we are working extremely hard with grant-makers and other partners to access more grant funding and risk finance for the organisations we support.

Sharing the positivity – some inspirational stories

We don’t usually talk about the social investments we approve until they have been offered and the funds have been drawn-down but, in these strange times, we thought we would share some of the positivity.

In the Children & Young People sector, we had a new growth project approved for a charitable nursery that plans to expand early in 2021.  They needed approved finance before they go to a local authority planning meeting at the end of April.  We are very happy to support this as, although we recognise that the project may be delayed due to the pandemic, we know that once things begin to return to normal there is a high demand for subsidised nursery places in this deprived area of the country.We also approved a capital repayment holiday for another charitable nursery in our portfolio.  They are only able to keep one of their sites open for the children of keyworkers and other vulnerable children.  They expect to resume all operations swiftly after lockdown ends.

In the Environment sector, we approved a new social investment for an organisation to launch a new food connect project to support vulnerable people during the crisis.  They are trialling a new low carbon, community-based ‘last mile’ delivery service to deliver surplus food and other essential supplies from supermarkets and other food outlets to vulnerable people. With this project they will combine their environmental commitments of reducing food waste and air pollution whilst ensuring that vulnerable people have what they need.

In the Health & Wellbeing sector, we have topped up one of our social investments to a healthcare charity that has been one of our investees since 2016.  They are trying to balance the need to continue essential services to 200 vulnerable, elderly clients, many of whom have dementia, and maintain viability of the charity so they can relaunch all services as soon as possible after pandemic situation.  This organisation is at the frontline of responding to vulnerable clients delivering food and drink, toiletries, medicines, hot meals and respite for carers.  They are increasing companionship/befriending calls matching clients with care workers they know well. They are creating opportunities to provide online group entertainment, exercise sessions and activities for clients to provide a focus for the day. They are also establishing a free take-away fast food service for essential workers, which will be run alongside their regular take-away hot meal service.

We have extended the length of time for a standby facility for another charity that supports people with Alzheimer’s in the West Country so that they have the continued security of knowing they can draw down finance when they are ready to use it.

In the Communities sector, one support organisation in the West Midlands is formally part of the emergency response to COVID-19 in Birmingham and is delivering parcels, advice and crisis intervention through a combination of a small staff team and volunteers.  However, they had to close their social enterprise subsidiaries, furniture recycling and a community hub with library and swimming pool, although some library services are being delivered virtually. They expect to re-open their services as soon as they can.

We also support several museums in the Arts & Heritage sector.  They, of course, are unable to open at this time but as they have been performing well up until the crisis and they have reacted sensibly to the lockdown we are happy to support them with repayment holidays until they can re-open.

We are delighted to report that Change Please, one of our long standing social enterprises that has gone from strength to strength supporting people who have been affected by homelessness back to work by training them as baristas, is serving free coffee to staff working at the NHS Nightingale hospital at EXCEL London.  As their coffee shops and carts across the UK have had to close, their trained baristas are volunteering to serve coffee at the hospitals.  They have launched a fundraising campaign to hopefully serve eight other hospitals.

We’d like to leave you with this thought from our investee Ubuntu, the community and education centre in Port Elizabeth, South Africa.


“The concept of ‘Ubuntu’ – described by Nelson Mandela as ‘the profound sense that we are human only through the humanity of others’ - is the very fabric on which Ubuntu is based, and positions them well to navigate this global crisis.”


Remember, we are here to support social enterprises and charities in any way we can. 
If you want to know more about a social investment from CAF Venturesome or want to use your philanthropic capital to support our fund, talk to our team on 03000 123 300 or email us at and we’ll be happy to help.