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Frequently asked questions

What services do you provide?

We support charities, social enterprises, mission-aligned “for profit” businesses and renewable energy projects to raise “non-bank” finance.
A typical client is one who has a clear commercial proposition with equally clear social, cultural or environmental impact and who needs a form of finance that banks are typically unwilling to provide.

Many of our clients start by seeking bank debt but, often, lack the security or collateral required by those banks. Nonetheless, that does not mean they are not able to raise and service capital to grow and achieve sustainability – they simply need an alternative form of finance, often from alternative sources. It’s typically our role to help them access this capital.

When it comes to capital raising we:

  • Help our clients get investment ready – meaning that when they approach the investor market they stand the best chance of securing investment. This may involve writing business plans, building financial models to help forecast future performance, advising on suitable governance structures etc;
  • Advise on the right form of capital for the organisation and the best source of that capital;
  • Advise on the optimal terms of any capital and help negotiate with investors to secure those terms.

So are your services limited to capital raising?

No. In addition to capital raising services we also:

  • Help charities bid for competitively tendered payment-by-results contracts, help structure the investment required to fund those contracts (often through a social impact bond model) and then help raise that investment from social investors;
  • Through our Commissioner Advisory Services team, advise local authorities (and other potential local commissioners) on how best to commission services on an outcomes basis;
  • Undertake company valuation services;
  • Provide due diligence services – for example, a social investor may ask us to appraise the risks attached to a prospective investment opportunity prior to making any such investment;
  • Impairment reviews – for example, a charitable trust or foundation that holds several social investments may ask us to appraise the carrying value of those investments to see if there is any evidence of impairment;
  • Advise charities and mission-aligned “for profit” businesses on management buyouts and other forms of acquisitions, mergers and disposals.

We do not provide regulated investment advice.

When raising capital, where do you raise the investment from?

This depends entirely on the client. We first help to determine what kind of capital the client needs. We then ensure we find the right mix of investors to provide it.

We have unique access to over 5,000 individual ‘retail’ investors who are keen to make a positive impact with their money, as well as earn a financial return. We’ve raised approximately £50 million of capital for our clients from individual investors since 2011.

Over the last 20 years, we have also developed strong relationships with an increasingly wide range of other investors including:

  • Charitable trusts and foundations
  • Social investment funds
  • Family offices
  • Housing associations
  • Private banks and wealth managers
  • IFAs and financial planners

Since 2011, we’ve raised over £40m of capital for our clients from these sources.

I’ve seen you promote several bonds – do you always raise capital in this way? Are the terms always the same?

No. We raise the right form of capital to suit the client’s needs and objectives – factors such as legal constitution (i.e. charities can’t raise equity as the concept of shares does not exist), financial stability and existing borrowing levels also play a part in informing our thinking of what the right form of capital is.

An offer to investors can be structured in a number of ways – either as equity or debt (both secured and unsecured) or a blend of both. The terms will always vary from offer to offer – for example, we’ve raised capital that is repayable over 18 months to capital that is repayable over 20 years. Ultimately our offers are not ‘off the shelf’ but always tailored to the needs of our client and their specific business model.

What remains the case throughout is that we are raising repayable capital where investors expect to receive the capital back, with a financial return and to see their investment also facilitate significant impact.

On a retail bond offer, what does your role entail?

Our access to retail investors and the regulatory permissions to promote investment offers to that audience stands us apart in the social investment market.

When raising capital in this way our role for the client is to:

  • Design suitable investment terms that we believe are serviceable by the client but also likely to appeal to the retail investor market e.g. interest rate, availability of a tax relief, term of the investment, security rights and covenants for investors etc.;
  • Undertaking financial modelling in order to present realistic financial forecasts to those investors;
  • Writing an offer document and other financial promotions;
  • Approving all financial promotions in line with our regulatory permissions;
  • Designing and executing a marketing plan to ensure the offer is targeted at the right audience and ensuring the offer stands the best prospects of success;
  • Undertaking verification of the offer document to ensure the offer is fairly and clearly presented;
  • Designing an investor application journey that complies with the latest crowdfunding regulations;
  • Undertaking receiving agent and registrar functions in respect of funds raised from investors.

What’s the typical amount you raise for a client?

This varies from client to client. We’ve raised as little as £350k via a retail bond for a Bristol-based independent food retailer through to £10m (also via a large retail bond offer) for a national learning disability charity. Most projects are seeking to raise £1-5 million.

Things that have a bearing on our thinking on the optimal deal size include: the level of capital the client needs to raise in order to achieve their aims (i.e. to build a new nursery, to construct a ground-mounted solar scheme, to launch a third retail outlet for an organic supermarket); if raising capital via debt, the debt capacity of the organisation (i.e. how much debt can they reasonably service given their financial position); how much investor appetite we feel there is for a proposition of this kind.

We’re always open to a conversation to understand a prospective client’s needs to ascertain whether it is something we can assist with.

What fees do you charge? How are these structured?

This depends on the level of work and resource involved, the complexity of the project, the amount being raised (if a capital raising project), the length of time we are involved for and the availability of grant funding to cover our fees etc.
On a capital raising mandate, our fee is typically structured as an up-front engagement fee plus a success-fee based on a percentage of funds raised. The contingent success fee element ensures our incentives are clearly aligned with the client (i.e. on successfully raising the capital).

On other mandates we may decide a time-based fee is more appropriate.
Specific pieces of discrete work – such as drafting a valuation report, preparing a financial model, drafting a due diligence or advisory report – typically attract a pre-agreed, fixed priced fee.

Given the range of work we undertake and hence the variety of fee levels and fee structures adopted, we’d advise that fees are something we’d need to discuss on a case-by-case basis.

What common characteristics do your clients have and what are the criteria for working with you?

As you can see from our track record section, we work with a hugely diverse range of clients, operating across a breadth of sectors. What unites our clients is their positive impact on people and the planet and the fact that their values and ethos are aligned with ours. This can be subjective but if we feel that a prospective client is seeking to bring about positive change then we’re open to engaging with them to see if we can help. At all times we comply with the bank’s minimum standards which can be found here.

Of course, the organisation or project needs to have the ability to service repayable finance and hence we need to feel comfortable that it has a clear and robust business plan - we’d also need to get comfortable with its financial position and performance (both historically and projected), the quality of management and with its track record in its sector. Some clients are much earlier in their journey than others and may not yet have ‘all the boxes ticked’ but we are open to exploring their needs and ambitions and we may feel that, with investment readiness support over a period of time, we can help them get to a position where they are well placed to take on investment.

Do you help start-up businesses raise capital?

Typically, our clients have a degree of sector track record and financial history against which we can appraise their performance. However, we have worked with several ‘new’ renewable energy projects where they have Feed-in-Tariff pre-accreditation (and hence visibility over future, government-backed income streams) and where we are familiar with the management team and construction partners involved from other projects. Equally we might consider working with an established charity looking to develop a new social enterprise arm if the business case is compelling. We have also worked with one or two genuine start-up organisations where we felt the business case was robust, the impact was high and the quality of management clear. So if there is clear visibility, or better still, contractual security over future income streams and cash inflows, we’d be happy to explore this with a prospective client but with the caveat that the majority of our clients are further progressed along their journey.

Are you effectively providing just a brokerage service and, if so, what’s to stop us approaching an investor directly?

Our retail distribution arm gives us a unique position in the social investment market and enables us to raise capital from an audience that our clients would otherwise struggle to access (particularly as any offer to that investor audience requires sign-off and approval from an approved person as defined under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000).

In terms of institutional investors, such as charitable trusts and foundations or ethical funds, we have a very clear understanding of their individual investment criteria and of how best to structure an offer to meet this criterion. We also have a very strong track record of negotiating the best terms with those investors, of creating a competitive environment between investors to secure optimal terms for clients and of getting investments through due diligence and ‘over the line’– the risk of deal collapse due to approaching investors without a fully considered proposition is often a sufficient motivation for clients to draw on our expertise.

Do you guarantee we will be successful with our capital raising?

No – we do not guarantee or underwrite our offers and all investment offers are carried out on a best efforts basis. Clients are effectively engaging us based on our proven track record of completing deals successfully. With £133 million raised, we’ve demonstrated our success in raising the capital for 30 individual clients across multiple sectors. This success is largely because we have a proven ability to judge what organisations we feel are ready, or could be with our support, to take on investment and which will deliver impact that resonates with the target investor audience. Our access to retail investors, a unique route to the investor market in our sector, is often an important consideration for prospective clients.

A meaningful proportion of our fee is typically contingent on a successful capital raising so this ensures we’re commercially motivated to deliver.

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