How and why are more charity and social enterprise boards considering social investment? Chair of Dementia Adventure John Barnes shares their growth journey and exploring social investment as a funding option.
We are currently exploring social investment options as we look to expand and improve our holiday provision by designing and building Dementia Adventure holiday centres of excellence. We are both excited and cautious about this and plan to build our confidence and readiness to take on social investment.
Dementia Adventure is a multi-award winning social enterprise and charity. We are based in Essex but work nationally and have an international following. We provide training, research, and consultancy services - all with nature in mind. Income from these activities, donations and grant funding means we can provide Dementia Adventures from park walks to sailing holidays. Helping people live better with dementia.
It has long been a dream of ours to expand and improve on our holiday provision by building a purpose-built holiday centre. Our vision is that it would be designed with guest’s needs and wishes in mind, would reduce our operating costs and would provide valuable employment and facilities for its local community.
The traditional approach would be to fundraise to build our reserves in order to complete a development from our own resources. This requires enormous effort and takes considerable time even if it were possible for a young organisation like ourselves.
As a not-for-profit organisation, we have natural concerns about working with a profit orientated funder whose interests and objectives can easily change and will not necessarily dovetail with our own.
Social investment should resolve these concerns. Furthermore, it gives us access to significant additional skills and experience. Most importantly, it offers us the opportunity to move ahead immediately with compatible and committed partners who will share and support our vision.
We have already worked through the preliminary research stages with our advisors, Bates Wells Braithwaite and the outcomes of our studies illustrated that the concept has potential to be both commercially and socially viable. We also now know, with confidence, that we have various funding options and a number of interested partners.
As with any project, whether it is funded by social investment or not, it is vitally important to thoroughly model and test all expectations and assumptions. Trustees must be involved at every step of the way and be totally committed to the project. Professional advice and support is vital to ensure that all options and risks have been explored and to ensure that a valid, commercially viable decision is being made.
We are moving forward at a steady but sensible pace with the project being overseen by a dedicated working group reporting directly to the board. This group includes trustees and independent experts. We have learned that there are very experienced, skilled and supportive professionals available to help, and grant funding to pump prime projects can be found.
We are hugely excited by the opportunities that social investment could open up, not only to expand the work of Dementia Adventure but the sector as a whole.
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