£1.6m still available to support community share movement

The organisers of the Community Shares Booster programme, which offers a combination of development support and match funding to community businesses, are urging community groups not to miss out on their share of the £1.6m funding that is still available.

Community shares are a popular approach to raising finance, in which local people invest often small sums of money and become co-owners of vital local enterprises. Since 2017, the programme has supported 19 community businesses including farms, bookshops, solar parks, a railway pier, community-led housing schemes and even a skatepark. Over 5,000 people across the country have invested £2.1 million in community shares so far, matched with £1.2 million of funding from Power to Change through the Community Shares Unit. This equates to £2.34p of community investment for every £1 invested by Power to Change.

The programme is funded by Power to Change and run by the Community Shares Unit (delivered by Locality and Cooperatives UK). It awards successful applicants with a development grant of up to £10,000 to help them set up their community share offer. At a later stage, organisations who successfully launch their share offers can access up to £100,000 match funding, with every pound raised by the community matched by the programme.

Naomi Sampson, Programme Manager at Power to Change said: “Community shares are an incredible way for people to support businesses that improve lives in their neighbourhood while claiming a stake in them at the same time. But we know setting up a share offer can be daunting if you’ve done one before, so we designed this programme to help anyone interested in getting their project off the ground as well as matching their income.”

Ed Mayo, Secretary General of Co-operatives UK said, “With the right support, communities relish the opportunity to look after the places that are important to them.  Community share offers can only be run by co-operatives or community benefit societies, as through their investment they become members who own the asset and have a say in decision making. We are seeing a rise in this type of organisation being formed as more and more people take control of community life.”

One successful recipient of the Booster programme is Sutton Community Farm in Wallington, South London, who received match investment of £48,731. The community-owned seven-acre smallholding was started in 2010 in response to a community need to increase access to fresh, healthy, sustainable food. It provides locally grown produce through a veg box scheme to around 300 customers across south London, as well as events, workshops and a shared space for people to cultivate skills, exercise and make new friends.

Funds raised through two community share offers are being used to build a new barn, providing more sheltered space to pack the veg boxes and host community activities. And this expansion is needed as, unusually for a veg box scheme, 50% of veg in the boxes is grown on the farm, making them London’s most productive veg box scheme, growing 17 tonnes of veg last year alone.

Alice Brown, Farm Business Manager, said, “As a membership organisation the farm has a life of its own beyond any one individual, with the community having a sense of accountability and ownership. This helps to ensure a focus on fulfilling community needs not simply making as much money as possible.”

The Booster programme supports and stimulates public involvement with community share offers in England, through all the key stages of the community business: development, offer period and post-launch. This five-year programme is delivered by the Community Shares Unit and funded by Power to Change, the independent trust supporting community businesses in England.

For more information and to apply go to https://communitysharesbooster.org.uk/

About Community Shares

Community shares is a popular approach to raising finance, in which local people invest often small sums of money and become co-owners of vital local enterprises – from affordable housing to community pubs to green energy.

The term ‘community shares’ refers to withdrawable share capital; a form of share capital unique to co-operative and community benefit society legislation. This type of share capital can only be issued by co-operative societies, community benefit societies and charitable community benefit societies.

Community shares can save local shops and pubs, finance renewable energy schemes, transform community facilities, support local food growing, fund new football clubs, restore heritage buildings, and above all, build stronger, more vibrant, and independent communities.

Since 2009, over 120,000 people have invested over £100m to support over 350 community businesses throughout the UK.

About the Booster Programme

The Community Shares Booster Programme is a funding scheme to support community share offers. It invests equity up to £100,000 to match community shares in societies that can demonstrate higher than average levels of community impact, innovation and engagement. Match funding is in the form of equity held on equal terms with other community shareholders.

The programme also provides development grants of up to £10,000 to help societies get investment ready and meet standards of good practice.

Power to Change has provided £3m funding for the Booster Programme over a five-year period from 2017-22. The programme is expected to match fund around 60 share offers in the first three years of the programme (to 2020) and then provide active investor support to societies on a continuing basis. The programme is run by the Community Shares Unit, a joint initiative between Co-operatives UK and Locality.

About the Community Shares Unit

The CSU is a joint initiative between Locality and Co-operatives UK, which since 2012 has had an overriding objective to grow a sustainable market and ensure the long-term success of the use of community shares to raise equity finance and participation, with due process and protection for investors, in a range of community and co-operative enterprises. Unlike other shares, community shares operate on a one member one vote system rather than number of shares. Members have the right to vote, and have an equal say in the direction of the business.