Five ways loans can help strengthen social purpose organisations

Claire Penney, senior marketing executive at Charity Bank, takes a look at how some charities and social enterprises have used loans to innovate and grow their organisations.

The benefits of loan finance can be as far-reaching for the organisation taking out the loan as for their communities.

Here, five charities share how a loan allowed them to generate more income and improve their financial sustainability, making a bigger difference to the people they serve.

1. Income generation: Built a new self-funding boathouse

At Whitlingham Boathouses Foundation we’re passionate about water sports and we exist so that people in Norwich and Norfolk can enjoy both rowing and canoeing.

We formed as a registered charity in 2009. Our premises were in poor condition, of limited size and did not give easy access to the water but, thanks to a Charity Bank loan, we were able to build the first phase of our new state-of-the-art boathouse. We are repaying the loan from service charges from our member clubs and other users.


After a new fundraising round, we opened the first floor in 2015, including a café, changing and gym facilities, which is generating additional income and contributing towards the repayments. The support from our Charity Bank regional manager has been great and the loan was essential, quite literally, to getting us off the ground in creating the boathouse.

We can proudly say that all our facilities are fully accessible for everyone, including wheelchair users. With adaptive boats and a great boathouse, we’re getting more people out on the river.

Max Heron, Former Chairman, Whitlingham Boathouses Foundation

2. Replicating success: developing a second recovery home

Started in 1930, St George’s Crypt began as a classic bed and soup refuge, offering a night’s shelter and food.

In 2010 we became a 24/7 shelter with 15 independent bedrooms available to offer emergency accommodation and support, as well as providing training and employment skills. Our objective is to initiate real change and stop the revolving door of homelessness.

There are many possible contributing factors to homelessness and addiction is one we see time and time again, especially amongst men. In response to this, we developed an addiction recovery programme, Growing Rooms.

Men laughing

We started with one four-bed property, which provides a clean, supportive environment for the men to return to each day. It proved a powerful and successful set-up and we decided to develop a second dedicated recovery home, for which we required the support of loan funding.

We looked at several lenders but chose Charity Bank because of its understanding of the charity world and the needs of charities like ours.

The men who live in the property we purchased are being given a chance to turn their lives around.

Matthew Nice, Operations Director, St George’s Crypt

3. Creating an income generating social business: an environmental mission

We used our loan to open a shop in Shrewsbury, called Reviive, selling upcycled furniture and household goods, which would otherwise end up in landfill. As well as our environmental mission, we’re able to provide employment to the long-term unemployed and offer apprenticeships to young people who need work experience to enter the job market.

Charity Bank helped us with our set-up costs. We’ve gone from strength to strength and have recently opened another shop in Chester. Our profits, above and beyond running costs, go to the two charities that set us up; The Shropshire Housing Alliance and The Shropshire Furniture Scheme. In the past twelve months, we have sold 516 tonnes of furniture and recycled 200 tonnes, therefore in total preventing 716 tonnes from going to landfill.

Julian Price, Managing Director, Reviive CIC

4. Facilities upgrade: a new state-of-the-art outdoor education centre

Managed by YMCA Fylde Coast, Lakeside was founded almost 70 years ago, to give children and young people the chance to experience new challenges outdoors. Set on the shores of Lake Windermere, the education centre offers a wide range of activities, from abseiling and kayaking to bushcraft. Its aim is to teach young people valuable skills, challenge them to take risks in a controlled environment and help them to work in a team.

Lakeside has offered accommodation for school groups for a number of years, but by 2017 the facilities had become outdated. YMCA Fylde Coast needed to raise almost £7m for a new, purpose-built campus. While much of the money came from grants and bursaries, half came from a Charity Bank loan.

Canoe boats

CEO John Cronin says, ‘This is the second loan we’ve had from Charity Bank. It was cost-effective and we like the fact the bank is ethical and aligns to our ethos.’

Lakeside’s new schools centre – the Stoller Campus – will launch in summer 2019. It can accommodate up to 250 people, around a third more than the previous building.

John says, ‘With the new campus, we’ll be able to reach 10,000 young people a year – 3,000 more than we could before. We will continue to focus on helping children and young people to grow in confidence and self-esteem.’

5. Saving a community building: creating a vibrant activity hub

Burton Street Foundation brings the community together from across Sheffield and beyond, offering services and spaces for a range of activities, conferences and events.

Two Charity Bank loans have helped support the centre’s regeneration and growth over the past eight years.

Charity Bank regional manager Jeremy Ince with the Burton Street Foundation team.

Burton Street’s original incarnation was as Langsett Road School, which opened its doors in 1897 and closed nearly 100 years later. The school had been scheduled for demolition until members of the local community stepped in. They formed the beginnings of the Burton Street Foundation and began operating community services there.

Around 2008, we began to raise funds to upgrade the spaces and facilities to reflect the importance of the centre within the community. We secured several loans, one of which was from Charity Bank, to help with the site’s development.

Celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, the centre is a vibrant community hub, used by around 2,500 people each week. It houses a respected bistro, a fully equipped recording studio, a community gym, a café, boxing centre, spaces for activities ranging from dance classes to Alzheimer’s groups, and large conference and event spaces, alongside providing tenant office space for small businesses.

People from all walks of life integrate on a daily basis – this is what makes Burton Street Foundation so unique and successful.

Helen Bark, Finance & Administration Manager, Burton Street Foundation


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