FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Can we apply for less than £25,000 or more than £150,000?

  • No. We believe there is a gap in this range of funding available to community organisations. The PICNIC Fund will not accept applications outside this range.

What can I use the investment for?

  • The loan funding will be used to help organisations develop new projects, operations and revenue streams. Whilst every organisation’s needs will differ, we expect the funding to be used for projects and activities such as:
  1. Working capital
  2. Equipment to support revenue streams
  3. Recruitment, training and deployment of staff and volunteers
  4. Equipment to support business functions, including finance, project management and governance
  5. Other operating costs

Can you fund maintenance of our facilities?

  • No. We cannot fund the “bricks and mortar” of a capital redevelopment such as a new roof, but we would consider investment to support a community café (new revenue stream). This could include café kit and equipment, training deployment of new staff and volunteers, management support to get the café operating and funding towards marketing the new venture.

Do I have to have all the other funding that a project must have in place before applying to the PICNIC Fund?

  • If your project involves capital investment, you can apply for funding before all of this is in place but you should be working towards this being completed. Having all, or most, of your capital funding in place make your project close to being ready for investment and therefore give it a greater chance of success.

Can we get grant funding for our project?

  • Yes, in part. Up to 20% of an investment from PICNIC can be in grant form so long as it enhances or accelerates the expected outcome.  The grant would sit alongside a simple, repayable loan.  We believe a loan provides funding and an incentive for organisations to be financially sustainable.  However, if you need support to become ready for investment – i.e. you need help to develop your organisation’s capability and capacity to be in a position to take on a loan from us – there may be grant funding available from the Access Reach fund, which we can refer you to. See our website for further information.

PICNIC will fund organisations that have, or want to develop, a business model that develops sustainable revenue. What does that mean?

  • We will only invest in projects that are forecast to generate income to help them to deliver the products and services they want to and be able to repay the capital and interest payments without putting the organisation under undue financial stress. We will look at the organisation’s financial track record and / or a sufficiently robust business plan and financial model in assessing this.If you have a business plan it should also show clearly how the organisation has the capacity and capability to deliver the project; it will need the right number of people, with the right skills and experience and an appropriate governance model to succeed.

What do you mean by parks or urban greenspaces?

  • Parks or greenspaces that are open to the general public and based in urban areas. The main aim of the fund is to support social enterprises currently operating or delivering services out of parks and urban greenspaces (or planning to), and to maximise the benefit derived from these spaces for the community.

What regions does PICNIC operate in?

  • PICNIC plans to make approximately 60 investments across three cities. Newcastle will be our first focus. We are working with the Future Parks Accelerator to determine the other two cities. We have some discretion to invest outside of these cities, however it is limited.

What do you mean by “community”?

  • We can support organisations that have a clearly defined community focus. This can be defined geographically, for example in urban locations this could be a neighbourhood, ward or section of a city; in rural locations, or it could be a village or collection of villages. It could also be defined as a community of interest, so a group of people with a common interest or activity.

What do you mean by “Community based trading”?

  • Community based trading means your organisation either now, or in the future plans to:
  1. deliver community-based services to meet the needs of local people and/or the environment; and
  2. have a sustainable business model that generates revenues through trading that support the organisation’s activities.

What do you mean by “trading”?

  • Many organisations may rely in part, or fully, on grant funding or donations. To be able to invest in your organization should:
  1. generate a significant part of your income through trading currently, or
  2. have a clear plan to generate a significant part of your income through trading by the end of the project.

The PICNIC Fund will only fund eligible VCSEs. What are eligible VCSEs?

  • Eligible VCSEs are voluntary, community or social enterprise organisations. They must either be:  
  • Regulated organisations such as charities, Community Interest Companies or Community Benefit Societies which pursue charitable objective(s); or 
  • Unregulated organisations (other incorporated organisations) who must have: 
  1. A mission lock. The organisation must have a clear social mission written into its governing documents and a commitment to dedicate a proportion of the organisation’s operations to further its social mission. These can “locked” into governing documents to help social ventures avoid mission drift and stay true to their purpose as they expand, reducing the risk of private benefit overwhelming public goals;
  2. An “asset lockIn the event that the social venture fails, an asset lock ensures that any residual assets can only be distributed to organisations with similar objectives
  3. Restrictions on profit distribution. A social venture should ideally be profitable. To ensure the organisation can grow and increase its social and/or environmental impact there must be a commitment to reinvest surpluses into pursuing their social mission. Distributions (e.g. dividends) must be less than 50% of post-tax profits.
  4. Be for public benefit. The organisation must offer its products and services for public benefit without restrictions and barriers (such as affordability). Any private gain because of these activities must be incidental and minimal.
  5. Be transparent. The organisation must be able to articulate, evidence, measure and report on its social impact and purpose. It must be open to undertaking an independent social impact audit. Its remuneration and benefits policy must be open, and reasonable and proportionate relative to the market practice for social sector organisations.

Will the PICNIC Fund consider applications for activities across the UK?

  • No, unfortunately, due to the requirements of our funders, we are only available to fund organisations and activities based in England.

I’m not sure if my organisation is incorporated – can you provide any more guidance?

  • The PICNIC Fund can only invest in incorporated organisations. This means that your organisation is recognised as a legal entity rather than as being a collection of individual people. Examples of incorporated organisations include:   
  1. Company Limited by Shares  
  2. Company Limited by Guarantee  
  3. Community Interest Company Limited by Shares  
  4. Community Interest Company Limited by Guarantee  
  5. Charitable company  
  6. Charitable Incorporated Organisation  
  7. Community Benefit Society  
  8. Charitable Community Benefit Society  
  9. Cooperative society  
  • Examples of unincorporated organisations, which we won’t fund, include charitable trusts and unincorporated associations.  If you are in the process of becoming incorporated, or considering it, you can still apply, but, if successful, we can only invest once incorporated.

We are a registered charity – are we an incorporated organisation?

  • Unless you are a Charitable Incorporated Organisation, registration with the Charity Commission is not the same as incorporation. We will accept applications from registered charities which are incorporated. Please verify your organisation is incorporated before applying.

Do I have to be VAT registered to apply?

  • No.  If you are VAT registered, your VAT number will help us confirm your organisation’s identity (part of our required “know your customer” checks).  If you are not VAT registered, you do not need to register to apply but make sure you know what the VAT thresholds are and whether they apply to your business as it grows.

I still need to secure most or all the funding I need for my project, can I still apply?

  • You can apply for investment before all of your funding is in place, however we will need to understand what other sources of funding you are seeking. Your project will stand a much greater chance of success if you have secured most or all of the other funding you require. We are happy to work with other funding partners, however can only participate where your organisation is planning to receive a maximum of £150,000 of funding in loan form. Please call us to discuss.

I don’t have planning permission yet, can I apply?

  • If your project is part of a wider scheme that needs planning permission then it is not essential for you to have already secured this in order for you to apply. When submitting your application, you do need to have clear plans in place as to how you will complete your project in your proposed timeframe and how your request for planning permission fits into your project plan. It is a condition of funding however that planning permission is granted before our loans can be approved.

I am the only person involved in my project, do I have to have staff and volunteers to be eligible?

  • You don’t have to have paid staff or a team of volunteers to apply, however, as part of our assessment on whether your project is suitable for investment, we will evaluate what resources you need (e.g. a team of people with relevant skills and experience) to deliver your project.  As part of the process to become ready for investment you may need to recruit a number of people to enhance the capability and capacity of your organisation to deliver your project successfully.
  • PICNIC does not lend to individuals.

I don’t have a business plan can I still apply?

  • Yes. If you don’t have a business plan, tell us in your own words, or show us in a video, what your organisation will do over the next few years, how much money you will make and how you plan to repay the loan. If your project sounds like a good fit for us, we may be able to work with you to attract grant funding to help you to develop a business plan and financial model.

I don’t have 3 years’ accounts information, what should I do?

  • You are still eligible to apply. You will need to provide us with the trading history you have and clear evidence you can demonstrate how your plans would work out given you have a short trading history. We may ask for stronger evidence to support your assumptions (for example on costs and projections) to help us make a true assessment of the proposal.

What do you mean by unrestricted and restricted funds?

  • Restricted funds can only be used for a designated (stated) purpose. Often grants have restrictions in what they can be used for, for example a grant to pay for a new coffee machine cannot be used to pay salariesConversely, unrestricted funds can be spent on any of your activities.

What do you mean by social impact?

  • We want to know what social impact your project will, or aims, to have.  One way to think about this is to consider what are the changes that will happen for people as a result of your project or activity through developing a “theory of change”. To help us better understand and assess your project we want to know what difference you want to make through your organisation, project or activity, and how our investment will help you to do that.  If you have been running your organisation, project or activity for a while tell us about what changes or benefits (impact) you have already helped to deliver.

What do you mean by monitoring and evaluation systems or framework?

  • We want to invest in projects that have an impact, and therefore as part of any investment in your organisation, we will need you to monitor and report on the work you are doing and the impact this is having. This shouldn’t be onerous, but we will need you to do it.    If your organisation currently monitors and evaluates its impact, then we will try to fit our requirements into your existing processes.   If you don’t currently do this, we can discuss what you will need to do as part of the process to become ready for investment. Funding and support may be available to help you to put appropriate systems and processes in place.

How long will the application process take?

  • The application process will vary depending upon a number of factors, in particular how ready for investment you are. We anticipate the minimum amount of time from application to investment will be 10 – 12 weeks and most successful applications will take longer.   To keep the process moving we will respond within 10 working days to your initial expression of interest and aim to schedule a call and follow up questions within 3 weeks. These questions will be straightforward and will mostly rely on information you should already have.   If you have any concerns (for example due to illness or annual leave) please let us know and we will work with you to complete the information requested as quickly as possible.

If my application is unsuccessful can I apply again in the future?

  • If you are unsuccessful, we will give you feedback on why you are not right for us at this time. You may apply again, however, to be considered you would need to demonstrate that you have successfully addressed any issue or concerns highlighted in the feedback. You should not simply resubmit the same application.

My project is not scheduled to commence right away? Are there restrictions on when the funds are to be drawn down?

  • Following investment committee recommendation and subsequent signed legal documentation, we require that your organisation must start drawing down the loan within 6 months. If you do not, PICNIC reserves the right to withdraw your offer of investment.

Are there any other reporting requirements if I am successful in getting investment?

  • As well as telling us about the impact the investment helps you to deliver, we will also need some regular information about the financial health of your organisation.    
  • We will agree with you in advance what information we will need but a “typical” reporting package would require:  
  1. Quarterly management accounts including commentary on your financial position and impact   
  2. Annual Accounts   
  3. Annual forecast financial budget and discussion on actual performance versus last year’s budget  
  4. Annual summary of social outcomes   
  •  As part of the process to become ready for investment there may be support available to put the appropriate reporting systems and processes in place.

How much will the loan cost?

  • Our loan investment is repayable and attracts interest. The rate of interest will depend on a number of factors including the impact you hope to deliver and how risky the investment is. We expect all investments to attract an interest rate of between 5% and 10% per annum.    Our investment will attract a one-off fee of 2%. This will be netted off the investment on day one e.g. if you borrow £100k, you will receive £98k in your bank account on day one, and £2k will be retained to cover the lending fee.