Stepping Stones Fund FAQs

Below are some of the questions we are regularly asked regarding the Stepping Stones Fund and Social Investment. If you have a question which isn't included here, please email us at: steppingstones@cityoflondon.gov.uk

What is social investment?

Social investment is the provision and use of finance to generate social and financial returns. The range of expected financial returns can be from capital returned through to capital with interest. Social investment is repayable finance, which inevitably requires the investee organisation to have a viable and sustainable business model for revenue generation (trading activities or contracts to deliver public services) that allows for the repayment of some or all of the capital with or without interest. Revenue generated through trading or winning contracts is not social investment; it is the financing of such activities (their development and growth) that is considered social investment. It can take the form of debt, equity, guarantee and bonds or a combination of these. Social investors are equally or more interested in the social impact of their investment than in the financial return, therefore they tend to require rigorous impact monitoring and reporting. They are usually flexible and engaged in their approach and are willing to invest on the long run, with conditions that can be more favourable than those offered by commercial lenders or investors.

Also see more questions and answer relating to social investment on the City of London Corporation Social Investment Fund FAQs.

You can find the list of awarded grants so far on the Stepping Stones Fund here.

The case studies of some of the grantees of the first round of Stepping Stones Fund illustrate what social investment strategies organisations of different sizes are implementing and how Stepping Stones funding is helping them become investment ready.  See here.

What is meant by investment readiness?

Organisations with sustainable business models, which have the necessary business, management and financial skills to secure social investment. It includes the ability to compete successfully for public sector contracts and thus deliver better social outcomes, which makes the organisation attractive to investors. In addition to the social and business proposition, social investment readiness also means that the organisation has the necessary governance structure and management systems in place, which enable it to absorb and repay investment.

Who can apply to the Stepping Stones Fund?

Your organisation must be based in and serve beneficiaries in Greater London and fall into one of the following categories:

  • Registered charity
  • Registered Community Interest Company
  • Registered Charitable Incorporated Organisation
  • Charitable company
  • Exempt or excepted charity
  • Registered charitable industrial and provident society or charitable Cooperative (Bencom)

Although you can apply even if you already hold a grant from us, you don’t need to be a current or previous grantee of City Bridge Trust. Current grant holders of Stepping Stones Fund will only be able to apply again after their project has been successfully completed and their grant closed.

What kind of support is being offered?

The Stepping Stones Fund offers financing under 2 strands:

  1. Capacity building grants for charitable organisations
  2. Grants to pilot better outcomes

Grant funding is made available for capacity building support and for piloting outcomes (strands 1 & 2). See more detail about the 2 strands in the Application Guidelines.

How much can we ask for?

There is no minimum amount, but the maximum grant amount under the two strands can be expected to be £50,000. It is not our policy to award large grants to small organisations. Your proposal and the budget need to be realistic and reflect that you thought through the costs and possible revenues. As a general rule, the Stepping Stones Fund will not fund more than 50% of an organisation’s total revenue income. Please contact us if you would like further advice on this.

Can we apply under more than one strand at the time?

You can only apply under one strand. If a certain type and level of capacity building is required to pilot a new business model for better outcomes (strand 2), that needs to be built into the proposal.

Does the Stepping Stones Fund require match funding?

It is not a requirement, but we do look at which other funders and investors are already involved or have been approached, especially if your proposal requires more resources than what we are able to offer. We are also interested to see how much of your own resources you are willing to invest in the implementation of your proposal.

How do we apply?

You must complete and submit our online eligibility test first to check you are eligible to apply. If you are eligible, the online form will take you to our online application form, which needs to be completed and submitted together with the necessary documents as advised. We do not consider draft applications or proposals. Proposals will not be accepted after the deadline. During the application process City Bridge Trust may ask for additional information or documents. These will be shared with the Selection Panel at each stage.

Full details are on the application process page.

What is the duration of the funding?

The Stepping Stones Fund will use a milestone approach to payment of grants and risk finance and expects to see applications usually over a maximum duration of 18 months.

What is the deadline for receipt of applications?

The deadline for the call for proposals is midday, Friday 11th May 2018.

How many grants can an organisation have at any one time?

An organisation may usually only hold or apply for one grant at a time.

Do you ever fund national charities?

Yes, provided the proposal focuses on London and you can provide convincing evidence that the project will ultimately benefit beneficiaries living in London. Under Strand 2 pilots need to take place in the Greater London area. Organisations based outside London also need to demonstrate that they have the necessary skills and experience to work in London and that they are meeting a need that London-based organisations are not.

Do you fund churches, mosques or other faith groups?

We can fund any such groups as long as they satisfy the basic eligibility criteria, but not for work in connection with the promotion of religion. They also need to fit with the objectives of the two strands of the Stepping Stones Fund.

What do you mean by “Charitable Company”?

A “Charitable company” refers to an organisation which is both a registered company (normally a private company limited by guarantee) and a registered charity (all charities with an income over £5,000 p.a. being required to register with the Charity Commission).

Are grants awarded ‘all or nothing’?

No. The level of grant awarded may be different from that requested. The Selection Panel will talk to you about this at or after the personal interview, so it is unlikely to come as a surprise. This can be for a number of reasons (beside our own budget constraints). You may have over-budgeted; you may have added things which are not really part of the same project; you may have asked for more than is reasonable in relation to our usual funding patterns; or we may take the view that you could find some of the costs from another source.

What happens if my Stage 1 application is successful?

All applicants will be advised in writing of the decision on their application around the end of May 2018. Organisations that make it to the shortlist will be asked to prepare and submit additional information and invited to a personal interview as Stage 2 (final stage) of the process. The date and time of the interview will be agreed upon individually.  All interviews will take place in Central London.

What happens in the personal interview at Stage 2?

You will be asked to present your proposal and answer questions of the Selection panel, who will be familiar with your application and the additional documents you submit. The interview will last a maximum of 1 hour and it is your chance to explain your plan, how you plan to use Stepping Stones Fund support and demonstrate how implementation of your proposal will take you closer to being ready for social investment and achieving better social outcomes. You may, but are not required to, create and use visuals for the occasion. The interview and the detailed proposal will be considered together; invitation to the interview does not mean funding has been approved.

What information is required as part of the additional information at Stage 2 of the application process?

We require a more detailed description to assess the strength of your application. You will receive a few guiding questions from us that will help you expand the original application. Applicants under strand 2 will be asked to submit a business plan including financial forecasts and basic analysis. It should also include more details of what you already explain in your application form about the service or product you plan to offer, the market need and opportunity, the customer, background, your targets, how the business will operate, building plans (where appropriate), workplans, startup costs and the annual operating costs, your sales and revenue projections, your assessment of the key risks and their mitigation, how you will measure the success of your business (financial and social) and how it fits into your organisation’s overall objectives. In addition, we will ask you to complete a financial proforma to help us understand your organisation’s most recent financial year and budget for the coming year.

The detailed description should not exceed 15 pages, including the financial projections in the case of business plans. Please contact us if you require further details on this.

What other documents should we submit, if we make it to Stage 2?

It is essential that you submit a detailed description/business plan, your financial projections and the minutes of the Board meeting of your organisation, where the application was discussed and approved. Apart from this, you are welcome to submit a few key documents, such as strategic plan and (draft) contracts or technical descriptions (e.g. for a new product) that you feel will support your application and give the Selection Panel a better understanding of your business model.

Will I receive support from City Bridge Trust during the application process?

CBT will offer open information sessions while the application process is open. The dates of these will be announced shortly. Social investors will be invited to at least one of the information sessions, so interested participants will be able to learn more about social investment practices directly from them. Further details about time and venue will be available on the Stepping Stones Fund website.

Telephone feedback will be available for unsuccessful applicants after stage 1 on request.

To help successful applicants prepare for the stage 2, City Bridge Trust will offer telephone consultations while they write their detailed proposal/business plan. Before the personal interview, surgery sessions will be offered to shortlisted organisations with the participation of UBS volunteers. The surgery sessions are aimed to provide constructive feedback to applicants about their presentation and the content of their business plans.

Do you consider partnership/consortium bids?

Yes. If this is the case, you must select one organisation to be the actual applicant on behalf of the consortium, and the financial/organisational information must be that of the applicant organisation. Any grant will legally be the responsibility of the trustees of that charity. You must also give a clear account of why a consortium is the best approach and how it will steer the work. Being the lead in a consortium bid will not affect the organisation’s own funding relationship with the Trust and they will still be able to hold a grant in their own right.

What support service providers can we include in our capacity building proposal?

Applicants may seek support from intermediaries, advisors, consultants to help them deliver their goals. In this case, the City Bridge Trust will ask the applicant to justify the use of a particular organisation in their application. City Bridge Trust does not create a list of approved providers, but is happy to provide a non-exhaustive contact list for applicants to approach. See some relevant links below (this is not an exclusive list). Any grant applicant seeking advisory services must carry out their own assessment of the ability of the advisor to provide the support required. The Trust will reserve the right to deem a support organisation not appropriate to provide the support requested and to make alternative suggestions should this be necessary or appropriate.

Advisors to Big Potential

Social Enterprise UK advisors and services

NCVO consultancy services

New Philanthropy Capital consultancy services

Social Finance UK 

Bates Wells Braithwaite

 

What happens if I am successful at the personal interview (Stage 2)?

The Selection Panel will make recommendations to the City Bridge Trust Grant Committee about support from the Stepping Stones Funds. The final decisions will be made in September 2018. All interviewed applicants will be advised in writing of the Trust’s decision on their application within a few working days of the meeting. If the application is successful, the letter will be accompanied by a copy of the Trust’s standard Terms and Conditions, which must be signed by the organisation’s Chair or Treasurer and returned promptly. This does not constitute a request for payment.

The organisation should write to the Trust when it is ready to start using the grant – this letter should be signed by whoever signed the Terms and Conditions. Payments are made by bank transfer and take a couple of weeks from receipt of request, providing any or all relevant conditions have been met. Further details can be found in the Payments section of this website.

We have been rejected, when can we re-apply?

If unsuccessful, you can apply to the next round of Stepping Stones. Providing you are not an existing or recent grant-holder, rejection under the Stepping Stones programme does not prevent you from applying under another City Bridge Trust programme. You are free to contact the City Bridge Trust to ask for feedback on your unsuccessful application before re-applying.

What are the key dates in the application process?

Please note that some of the following dates are subject to change:

20th March 2018Call for proposals announced
20th March – 11th May 2018Inquiry e-mail and phone line open
TBC (see above)Information sessions
11th May 2018Stage 1 Application deadline
End of May 2018All candidates informed about Stage 2 selection (shortlist)
28th May – 8nd June 2018Phone consultation with shortlisted candidates
18th– 29th June 2018Surgery sessions offered by UBS volunteers
29th June 2018Additional stage 2 documents deadline for shortlisted candidates
16th – 27th July 2018Selection interviews
September 2018Final grantees approved
w/c 14th September 2018Grant offer letter sent