Working in partnership – with the Co-op Foundation

Most people know Co-op and Community Finance as the lender for social purpose, providing loan finance to co-ops, employee-owned and community-owned businesses for nearly 50 years. But that’s not all we do!

We also provide a comprehensive range of fund management services to organisations that share our values. We provide tailored loan management, back office, consultancy and project work to meet individual needs that save time and money and help partners meet their objectives and maximise impact. One such organisation is The Co-op Foundation; in the Summer of 2017, we won a competitive tender to support them in designing and delivering their Community Spaces interest-free loans fund which ran until 2020.

 The Co-op Foundation is the Co-op’s charity. It helps people challenge inequality and co-operate for change, so they can share a fairer future.    

 Its interest-free loans programme was launched to help community enterprises increase their trading activity so they could reduce their reliance on grants and become more financially sustainable. This, in turn, would enable them to improve community spaces longer-term. Making the loans interest-free made them accessible for organisations who may not have considered repayable finance before. For the Co-op Foundation, making loans rather than grants meant that the funding could be recycled, supporting our own financial sustainability. 

Over the two years to 2020, we helped the Foundation design its community spaces loans fund, its application and appraisal processes, and then went on to support them in assessing over 60 applications resulting in more than £2.1 million awarded in interest-free loans and grants UK wide, helping community spaces all over the UK build their trading activities and become more financially sustainable. Spaces supported included a community-run lido in Cornwall, a village hall in the Scottish Hebrides and a co-operative farm in Northern Ireland. Grangetown United, a community centre in the north east of England, received £80,000 of investment to help turn a derelict building into a vibrant hub for local people. Watch their story here.

This year, as more of the Foundation’s portfolio began to pay back their loans, following a repayment holiday, the Foundation approached Co-op and Community Finance (CCF) to manage the ‘back office’. Effectively CCF handle the financial administration and practicalities of the loan portfolio such as collecting payments, dealing with changes to terms, dealing with missed payments, rescheduling the profile of a loan, providing statements, etc… For the foundation, outsourcing this element of administration means they can get on with helping more communities.

Ella Smyth, Funding and Partnerships Manager said: 

“Over the past four years, we’ve built a really positive relationship with Co-op and Community Finance. Their expertise in lending to co-operatives and social enterprise helped us make our interest-free loans for Community Spaces fund the best it could be.”

“We’re pleased to be entering into a new phase of our partnership. Their financial administration management of our Community Spaces loans fund will free up our time so we can focus on supporting partners throughout the lifetime of their fund, ultimately allowing them to use their loans in the best way to help communities thrive. ”

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Over the last 48 years we’ve developed highly effective systems of financial management and control which we can offer to other lenders, public bodies and charitable foundations. Using our services will almost certainly save time and money and avoid reinventing the wheel.

Our clients include Big Issue Invest, Co-op Loan Fund, Radical Routes, Co-op Foundation and the Ministry for Housing Communities & Local Government. We also manage funds that have been donated to us for a specific purpose.

Could we help you this way? For more information visit our Services page