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  • Help and support

Further information and resources for community enterprises:

Guidance from the leading organisations in the community enterprise and development field
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Networks and support

Social Enterprise UK
SE UK is the national body for social enterprise.  They represent their members to support and help grow the social enterprise movement. We run campaigns, carry out robust and respected research to help paint a picture of the UK's social enterprise movement, build networks between social enterprises and raise the profile of people and social enterprises in the sector.

Unltd is a support network for social entrepreneurs in the UK. UnLtd resource community entrepreneurs to start-up; support those with more established ventures to scale up; and are committed to developing an eco-system of support to make it easier for those who need help to find it.

The Plunkett Foundation
The Plunkett Foundation helps predominantly rural communities to set up and run community-owned shops, co-operative pubs and community food enterprises, supporting rural communities to establish a wide range of other co-operatives and community-owned enterprises, advocating and raising awareness amongst policy makers, support organisations and rural communities themselves of the ability of rural communities to take control through co-operation and community-ownership of the issues affecting them, and championing and connecting rural co-operatives internationally.

Locality is the leading national network for community owned and led organisations, with over 470 community development trusts, settlements, social action centres, community land trusts and community enterprise practitioners as members, and over 3,000 associates and supporters.They can provide inspiration, advice, challenge, technical know-how, peer learning, whether you are at the very start of the journey, or have already travelled a good way and want to go still further.

Co-operatives UK
Co-operatives UK is the national association for co-operative and mutual enterprises and has championed and supported the growth of co-ops in sectors such as renewable energy and assisted fledgling and growing community enterprises with the use of community shares.

What is a co-operative enterprise?
Community co-operatives are opening at a rate of one new business every working day. Co-operative enterprises are businesses that are owned by the people that are directly involved. At a community level, the membership model offers the chance for local people to get involved and to shape what happens. While you can form a co-operative or mutual business under any legal form, the society model, such as the community benefit society, allows members to invest in the business ('community shares'), taking the risk and sharing the benefits of success. Membership both allows people to contribute their skills, talent and time and gives them rights in terms of ensuring that community enterprises have a formal accountability to the community through the members.

The Community Transport Association
The CTA is a rapidly growing national charity giving voice and providing leadership, learning and enterprise support to a wide range of organisations delivering innovative and flexible transport solutions to achieve social change in their communities.

Meanwhile Space
Meanwhile Space work all over the UK helping people access empty spaces to benefit the community. Since 2009 Meanwhile Space have helped 1000s of projects by offering them advice, resources and access to space. Meanwhile Space also works with landlords, landowners, developers and local authorities to advise and deliver projects that relieve them temporarily of liabilities (insurance, rates, security etc.) associated with holding redundant shops, offices, cleared land etc. whilst an appropriate commercial solution is being sought.

Our Digital Community
A peer-to-peer learning platform for community groups and ICT professionals who want to collaborate to develop digital assets and enterprises – ranging from community-led telecommunications networks through to digital services and e-commerce platforms. The website offers a dedicated resource library, information about the Our Digital Enterprise learning programme as well as activity summaries and regular blog posts from Our Digital Pioneers.

Supporters Direct

Supporters Direct represents over 180 supporters trusts’ and similar organisations across Europe, with over 400,000 members. We promote the value of supporter and community involvement in the ownership and running of clubs, enabling supporters’ trusts to secure influence and become a constructive voice in how their club is run. There are now over 30 clubs owned by their supporters including AFC Wimbledon, Exeter, AFC Telford and Wrexham.

National Community Land Trust Network
The National CLT Network supports and promotes the work of Community Land Trusts in England. Their mission is to inspire and promote a thriving CLT movement across England, in our villages, towns and cities. They also run a “See to to believe it” peer to peer learning exchange programme open to existing and prospective members of the National CLT Network. Grants – usually around £500 - pays for your community group to visit an established CLT.

What is a Community Land Trust?

A Community Land Trust (CLT) is a community-led organisation that provides land, homes and other assets to meet the long-term needs of its community. Its membership is open to anyone who lives or works in the local area, whether or not they themselves live in the properties the Trust provides. There are 160 Community Land Trusts in England and Wales and these Trusts deliver everything from homes to meeting spaces, workspaces, shops, pubs, farms and gardens. Because the CLT holds these assets in trust for the benefit of the local community, the assets can be made permanently affordable, and provide a long-term income stream for the community.

Community Development Foundation

CDF is the leading national organisation in community development and engagement. They work with partners to develop and deliver community engagement programmes which mobilise communities, apply expertise in getting resources and support to where it is most needed through grant programmes and networks, and act as an honest broker between different sectors and interests in communities and use the insights of this work to understand communities and encourage further action.

School for Social Entrepreneurs

SSE supports individuals to realise their potential and to establish, scale and sustain, social enterprises and social businesses. Their courses cover all aspects of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship and they welcome social entrepreneurs from social enterprises, charities, public sector and private sector organisations.  


CAN Social Investment deploys a range of business support into social enterprises and includes the pioneering Breakthrough programme. They work with the corporate and finance sectors to leverage capital funds and strategic growth support into leading social enterprises. They also run the CAN Mezzanine which provides high-quality shared office accommodation for social enterprises and charities in prime locations.


Finding finance

Awards for All
The Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All gives groups a quick and easy way to get small Lottery grants of between £300 and £10,000. We want to fund projects which address the issues, needs and aspirations of local communities and people. We will fund a wide range of community projects aimed at developing skills, improving health, revitalising the local environment and enabling people to become more active citizens.

Reaching Communities

The Big Lottery Fund’s Reaching Communities funding is for projects that help people and communities most in need. Grants are available from £10,000, upwards and funding can last for up to 5 years. There is a specific strand to support projects that improve or replace existing buildings where a wide range of community activities take place.

UK Community Foundations
Community foundations are local organisations which support causes active in their area. There are 50 community foundations in England. You can search for your local community foundation on the UKCF website, the umbrella organisation for all community foundations.

Big Local
Big Local is a £200m run by Local Trust and partners and funded by the Big Lottery Fund. The funding allocated to 150 areas is to be used by residents to identify and address their priorities over the next 15 years. You can find out if your area is a Big Local area by visiting the Local Trust website.

Localgiving.com is the UK’s leading online fundraising platform for local charities and community groups. Localgiving.com’s goal is to help local charities and voluntary groups to raise funds and to enable people who care about their communities to find and support community enterprises.

Buzzbnk is a crowdfunding platform specifically established to enable social ventures, including both charities and social enterprises to raise grants and loans from supporters and others interested in helping make the project happen. Loans can be interest free, pay interest at a fixed rate or with a revenue share. All supporters may be offered some sort of benefit in return for their support, and these benefits are designed to engage the supporters more in the project or more generally in the work of the organisation. Buzzbnk will help projects get on line and provide fundraising advice for mobilising support.


Spacehive is the world's first crowdfunding platform for civic projects. We make it easy for lots of people, companies and councils to fund things that make places better - like new playgrounds or spruced up parks.
For people with great project ideas, Spacehive allows you to build support direct from your community. For everyone else it's an effortless way to transform where you live: just find a project you love and pledge a contribution. If enough others do too, it gets built!

What is crowdfunding?

Crowdfunding is a way of financing projects and organisations via donations, loans or investment from a number of sources. Contributions are made directly, often through an online platform, rather than through banks, intermediary organisations or stock exchanges, allowing people to scrutinise projects directly.

The Community Shares Unit
The Community Shares Unit is a dedicated support service for those interested in and involved with community share offers. Delivered by Co-operatives UK and Locality and backed by the Department for Communities and Local Government, it offers introductory advice for community enterprises considering or developing share offers, supporters who are interested in purchasing shares and advisers who provide support and assistance to enterprises considering and developing share offers. Microgenius is a new online tool to help societies co-ordinate share offers on the web.

Community First
Community First is an £80million government-funded initiative that will run for four years, until March 2015. The programme will help communities come together to identify their strengths and local priorities in order to plan for their future and become more resilient. Community First consists of two elements: a £30million Neighbourhood Matched Fund for some of the most deprived areas in the country and a national £50million community endowment Match Challenge. Groups can see if they are eligible and find out more about how to apply by visiting the website.

Community Development Finance Association

The Community Development Finance Association (CDFA) is the voice for providers of fair and affordable finance. They represent and support a national network of community development finance institutions or CDFIs.  The network of CDFIs are working together to bring Social and economic change to communities across the UK.

What is a CDFI?
Community development finance institutions (CDFIs) lend money to community enterprises, businesses and people who struggle to get finance from high street banks.  CDFIs help community enterprises to start and grow. They provide support as well as finance, giving extra help and advice where it’s needed. They also help people to pay bills, meet unexpected expenses or improve their home. They help people who may otherwise use high cost credit, such as payday lenders. There are currently around 60 CDFIs supporting customers in all regions of the UK. To find your nearest CDFI visit www.findingfinance.org.uk

The Community Land Trust Fund
The Community Land Trust Fund supports projects which meet the legal definition of a Community Land Trust, an are at least 50% housing in England and Wales. The fund is split into four tranches to support CLTs at each stage of development, from feasibility through to construction.

The Big Venture Challenge
The Big Venture Challenge supports ambitious entrepreneurs with access to business support, powerful connections and match funding to help them raise investment and deliver social impact at scale. Big Venture Challenge will open again in January 2014 - with a focus on social ventures working in the Midlands and those working to help educate young people. You can register your interest in applying in 2014.

Social Incubator North
Social Incubator Fund is Government initiative that offers investment, bespoke business support and access to expertise to grow entrepreneurial ideas from a grassroots level. It’s a unique opportunity to submit your business idea, whether you’re an established organisation with a new concept or a charismatic individual with a brilliant idea. Successful applicants will not only receive up to £25k investment but tailored one-to-one business support, and even access to business premises.

CAN Breakthrough Fund
CAN Breakthrough provides grant funding and management support specifically to enable established social ventures with a minimum turnover of £500k, three years’ trading and a scalable business model to scale up and maximise their social impact.

The Social Investment Business
SIB’s Community Assets and Services grants help organisations thinking of running a local service or taking over the management of a local building or land of community value. This includes Pre-feasibility grants of up to £10,000 to help you through the early stages, and Feasibility grants of up to £100,000 to help you prepare to take over the asset or service.

Investment and Contract Readiness Fund
The £10m Investment and Contract Readiness Fund enables social ventures to access new forms of investment and compete for public service contracts. Grants between £50,000 and £150,000 will be available on a rolling basis to ambitious social ventures who will go on to raise at least £500,000 investment, or who want to bid for contracts over £1 million.   

Community Led Project Support funding
The Community Led Project Support funding programme is a revenue funding programme which helps communities to achieve their development ambitions for their local area. The fund will provide revenue funding to help community groups to build their capacity to either submit a Community Right to Build order, which is an alternative way for communities to deliver the development they want – be it homes, shops, businesses or facilities – where the benefits of the development will be retained by the community for the community, or to apply for planning permission.

Build your own home – the London way

For groups in London, the Greater London Authority has launched a fund ‘Build your own home – the London way’ which includes £3m of revenue grant funding to support Community Right to Build. This funding is available to any community group or parish council that is considering applying for a Community Right to Build Order.

Resources and tools

For groups who want to set up or develop a community enterprise:

Start Up Donut is a resource centre for starting a new business, including free resources, advice and tools.

Start your social enterprise
is a free guide available to download from Social Enterprise UK which takes you through the start-up essentials and includes the advice of those who have been there and done it.

Locality’s Fit for Purpose healthcheck toolkit is designed to help community enterprises, and organisations wanting to become community enterprises, become effective and resilient organisations.

The Key Fund provides simple to use documents and templates that new and existing social enterprises may find useful in planning and operating their businesses. They include a cash flow template, a business plan template, a loan illustrator and a personal survival budget.

Village SOS is an exciting initiative by Big Lottery Fund to launch a rural revival and inspire people to start community businesses that will breathe new life into their areas and create jobs. The website contains useful information on how to develop your ideas into a business, how to win community support, how to put your plans into practice and how to grow your enterprise.

Action for Market Towns’ Town Team Toolkit will be useful to existing town partnerships, town and parish councils and other community organisations that are working to revive and sustain their towns and who want to review their organisational development needs, strengthen their foundation or undertake some strategic planning.

REconomy have a number of how-to guides listed on their website, including how to set up a energy services enterprise and how to start a community scale transport enterprise.

3Space is a charity which works in partnership with landlords and leaseholders to offer organisations that benefit the community temporary free of charge access to otherwise empty properties. Its resources page includes information about meanwhile use, regeneration and useful links.

The Energy Saving Trust can provide help, advice and support for social enterprises working with sustainable energy sources.

For groups who want to build, own or manage a local asset as part of their community enterprise:

My Community Rights is a site is for community groups who want to take over land and buildings, set up social enterprises to run local services, drive forward a new development in their community, shape the future of their neighbourhood, or work with others to co-design local services. It includes easy to use information on the powers in the Localism Act (Community Right to Bid, the Community Right to Challenge, Community Right to Build) as well as Neighbourhood Planning and the government’s new My Place initiative (Neighbourhood Community Budgets).  

Locality’s website has a number of resources and documents which provide extensive guidance to community asset transfer, including a general handbook, a guide to community ownership of threatres, arts venues and civic buildings; a guide to community ownership of parks, gardens and woodlands; a guide to community ownership of heritage buildings; and a guide to community ownership of swimming pools.

The National Community Land Trust Network has various resources and toolkits on its website, including a step-by-step handbook to forming and running a Community Land Trust, from the first idea to long-term management; the CLT Legal Toolkit, providing guidance on governance and legal structures; a financial appraisal tool and a project feasibility tool.

Locality’s Building Calculator will help you assess the future costs of a community building (new or existing) including its repair, maintenance and other operating requirements.