Social investment: 

Finance that provides a social as well as a financial return.


Social investment

Funders & Partners

Funders & Partners

Funded by IVAR, Barrow Cadbury Trust & Access –The Foundation for Social Investment, with the support of the Charity Commission.

IVAR is currently working on new research on small and medium sized charities’ experiences with social investment.


By concentrating on the voice of small and medium-sized charities and communicating what we learn to other charities, investors and intermediaries, we aim to provide a bridge between those in the field of social finance.

This is a live project and we’ll be sharing our thinking as we go along. Below you will find our latest research findings and some of the background work that underpins it.


Seeking, securing & managing social investment.


Understanding more about the experience of small & medium-sized charities.

This work builds on findings from our 2013 study into charities and social investment on behalf of the Charity Commission, which highlighted the need for improved mutual understanding between investors and investees.


We found that motivations for engaging with social investment were generally to support organisational survival or strategic change. We concluded that charities needed independent advice, help with business planning, peer learning and access to simple social investment products. Link to the full report. 


Today, the importance of hearing and fully understanding what it is like for a charity to receive social investment is unchanged. Access to finance from any source is tough. Social investment products and processes, while improved, remain complex and complicated for small and medium-sized charities. Future policy and economic prospects for many of these organisations and their beneficiaries are bleak. At the same time, the Government has reaffirmed its commitment to social investment and announced new policy and fiscal measures to support this.




  • A review of existing evidence: For insights into the experiences of small and medium-sized charities
  • Interviews: With charities that have sought social investment and with charity infrastructure bodies

Latest research report

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Research reports:

Small charities and social investment

Leila Baker, Niamh Goggin

A close look at the ‘social investment journey’ of 25 small charities, providing in-depth insights into their motivation, experience of the process, challenges encountered and the support they received.


Read the latest research and share it with those who may be interested.

Latest blogs

Photo of Leila Baker

02 December 2016

On the shoulders of giants: Charity leaders call for a ‘humble and modest’ social investment market

Leila Baker

Leila Baker, Head of research at IVAR shares some of the points made by speakers and guests during the lively Q&A session at our recent launch event for Small charities and social investment.

read-more read more


We welcome comments & reflections, particularly from organisations with an income of under £1m.


Please contact


Image of a road with a pound sign

27 November 2016

Small Organisations: The Journey to Investment

Niamh Goggin

Associate researcher Niamh Goggin reflects on her experience of our recent research into charities and social investment.

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Background reading

CSI Briefing 1 front cover image

Briefing papers:

Briefing One: Points from the literature

Leila Baker, Niamh Goggin

Our previous study into charities and social investment on behalf of the Charity commission flagged a need to improve mutual understanding between investors and investees. Our starting point for this new research was to review existing literature and insights. In our first briefing we argue for more detailed market segmentation in social investment research and for more effort to integrate social investment research with wider charity and charity finance research. We also suggest that, for smaller charities, social investment is a means to deliver on their mission and not a goal in its own right.

Front cover image briefing two

Briefing papers:

Briefing Two: Early research considerations

Leila Baker, Niamh Goggin

This is the second in a series of briefings to share what we have learnt from charities about their experiences of social investment. After spending time with trustees and senior staff from fifteen charities we look at some of the points and issues they have raised including:  

  • The reasons why they applied for social investment
  • The experience of applying for and managing loans from the trustee perspective
  • The importance of the relationship with the investor 

Locality slides 8Nov2016

Conference Papers:

Locality Convention 2016: Charities under £1m and social investment

Leila Baker, Niamh Goggin

Slides on the findings of our recent study on charities and social investment presented at the Locality Convention 2016.

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