Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

What is UnLtd?
A: UnLtd is the Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs, a UK registered charity set up in 2002. Our job is to reach out and unleash the energies of people who can transform the world in which they live. We call these people social entrepreneurs. Social entrepreneurs seek to solve social problems through entrepreneurial solutions. This can be anything from improving your community, breaking the cycle of re-offending, closing the attainment gap in education, solving health issues we face as a nation, or reducing isolation amongst elderly. UnLtd helps social entrepreneurs at the early stages of their journey.

What is UnLtd’s purpose?
A: Our vision is for a world in which people act to make it better. We believe social entrepreneurs are one of the keys to solving some of the biggest problems faced in society. Backing social entrepreneurs on their own ideas not only leads to social impact, it develops social leadership in society, strengthening and deepening social progress. Our charitable purposes are a balance of education through developing social leadership and community benefit through delivering a wide variety of social impacts.

Who are social entrepreneurs?
A: Social entrepreneurs are wonderful people who seek to solve social problems through entrepreneurial solutions – maybe you are one of them. They come from all kinds of backgrounds and are seeking to deliver social solutions in many different ways. We often find that those who have experienced a problem are more likely to see a solution and commit to solving it. They are people who are passionate about tackling a problem in society, have an idea for a solution, and the determination to make that solution happen. Read some of our stories to find out how people from all walks of life are coming up with social solutions.

Who does UnLtd support?
A: Unltd supports social entrepreneurs at the early stages of their journey, from the very first steps, to starting to build an enterprise and a team. Social entrepreneurs come from all kinds of backgrounds and are seeking to deliver social solutions in many different ways. Whatever their background, one thing unites them, a passion to solve a social problem, and an entrepreneurial flair to make it happen.

What do social entrepreneurs achieve?
A: Social entrepreneurs work in all areas of social benefit, together creating a wide variety of social and economic impact. In our biggest annual survey of 1,014 people we found that most UnLtd Award Winners improve society by providing services or activities, reaching an average of 100 beneficiaries per year. A smaller number of social ventures operate at a much larger scale; some reaching thousands or even millions of people each year. 43% employ at least one person and we estimate the annual wage value of jobs created by our 1,014 survey respondents at £45m. Over 75% create volunteering opportunities and 69% offer training opportunities. The vast majority, over 83%, create “social capital” by bringing people together to meet others outside of their normal social circle.
More details can be found at Social Entrepreneurs: The Facts.

What does UnLtd’s work involve?
A: UnLtd works in many different ways to support social entrepreneurs.

Since 2002 UnLtd has provided Awards, which are a package of early stage funding and support to individuals at the idea stage, backing thousands of people on their own ideas, and helping some to achieve big impact. Our support now includes finance, one-to-one support, networking and access to pro bono expertise, such as legal advice.

In 2010 we started to share our model with a range of partners with the aim of reaching far more people than we could alone, building a strong “ecosystem of support”. We now have a large number of partners who find, fund and support social entrepreneurs – partners like universities, colleges, community groups and housing associations.

We also do research, policy and advocacy work, to understand and develop a supportive environment for social entrepreneurs to start and thrive.

What types of organisations do social entrepreneurs set up?
A: UnLtd backs social entrepreneurs on how they see the best way to achieve the social benefit they want to create. Many social entrepreneurs decide they can best deliver support by forming an organisation. There are a range of business models and legal structures available. These include voluntary groups, mutuals and co-ops, charities, social enterprises, and also companies which are committed long term to social benefit (known as “profit with purpose businesses”). We call this broad range of organisations ‘social ventures’. We focus our efforts on helping social entrepreneurs to create organisations that have social impact as their number one purpose now and into the future.

What do you mean by the term ‘social venture’?
A: We describe the wide variety of organisations which social entrepreneurs set up as “social ventures”. A social venture can come in many forms of legal structure, but it must have social impact as its number one purpose. There are a broad range of organisational forms created, including voluntary groups, mutuals and co-ops, charities, social enterprises or “profit with purpose” business. We call this broad church of organisations ‘social ventures’. In the UK there are a wider variety of legal forms to choose from. The right choice depends very much on the focus of your social venture.

What is profit with purpose business?
A: A “profit with purpose business” is a company which can make and distribute profit, but which is committed to a social purpose for the long term, and which reports on its social impact. It’s a new concept, giving a name and structure to something many social entrepreneurs have been doing for some time. Our reason for giving this concept a name and structure is to make sure the social entrepreneurs keep focused on social benefit for the long term. An international standard has recently been set out for “profit with purpose business” which you can see here.

Why does UnLtd support social entrepreneurs to create profit with purpose businesses?
A: UnLtd backs the individuals – the social entrepreneurs themselves – and the approach which is right for them to support the people they are trying to help in the most entrepreneurial way. Some of the social entrepreneurs we support have really high potential to achieve great social benefits. But to do that they may need investment at the early, high risk stage. There are thousands of “angel investors” in the UK who provide investment and expertise in early stage enterprises like these, usually through taking an equity stake – taking a share in the business. That’s normally only possible if the enterprise is set up as a company that can distribute shares and distribute profit. So the social entrepreneurs may choose to form a company limited by shares, and we will help them make sure their social mission is strongly embedded in the company for the long term. UnLtd is working with partners exploring the development of this area in order to help social entrepreneurs make the right decision for them. We have recently worked on an international standard for profit with purpose business which you can see here.

Some people are worried that entrepreneurs who start profit with purpose businesses, or the investors who back them, may make big personal profits. UnLtd has supported 12,000 social entrepreneurs, direct and with partners, over 12 years and so far we have never seen this happen – we back people who are so committed to achieving social goals that it is unlikely. But we continue to research what happens and monitor closely.

What difference does UnLtd make?
A: UnLtd has a long term commitment to measuring the outcomes and impact of our work.

One of our most important tests of success is if people feel more able to create social change as a result of their award from us. In our last year’s surveys we found 83% of our Award Winners felt this after a year of running the venture with our support. 71% say they would have struggled or not have run their social venture without our support, and 26% say they would have developed more slowly or at a smaller scale.

The social entrepreneurs we support go on to create impact by providing services or activities, reaching an average of 100 beneficiaries per year, some reaching thousands or even millions each year. Based on the last two years of end-of-award surveys, the social entrepreneurs we supported created a median average of 2 jobs, 6 training opportunities and 36 volunteering opportunities.

As well as our regular surveys, we run a number of evaluations in house and with independent partners. Our research and evaluation series can be found here.

Where does UnLtd work?
A: UnLtd works throughout the UK, supporting social entrepreneurs directly with individuals as well as with a large number of delivery partners and a network of social entrepreneurs supporting other social entrepreneurs. Although we don’t do direct international work, we are the founder member of the Global Social Entrepreneurship Network, an international knowledge sharing network of agencies that support early stage social entrepreneurs.

How can I get help from UnLtd?
A: If you have an idea, or want to grow your social venture, have a look at our Looking For Support? Page. Choose the option that best suits your needs, who you are or where you’ve come from. You’ll be invited to complete a short Expression of Interest form, which will be sent to our team to review. If you are eligible for support you will be invited to apply.

How can I help UnLtd?
A: Thanks for asking! There are lots of different ways to work with us. If you are interested in funding, investing or mentoring social entrepreneurs, or supporting our research, policy and advocacy work on behalf of social entrepreneurs, you can contact us through Partnering with UnLtd page.

Who does UnLtd work with?
A: UnLtd works directly with start up social entrepreneurs, and also partners with a wide variety of people and organisations to help find, fund and support social entrepreneurs. We also have a number of funding partners, who fund our work of direct support to social entrepreneurs, or for our work with supporters of social entrepreneurs. We also have a number of strategic partnerships with organisations that share similar goals, for example the Social Economy Alliance on our policy work, or most recently, Youth Business International – looking at how we can create a social entrepreneurship support package for their members.

How are we resourced?
A: UnLtd is committed to ensuring social entrepreneurs get the resources and support they need to help them start and thrive. As a foundation UnLtd oversees a £100m endowment called the Millennium Awards Trust. The interest raised from this endowment is used to fund UnLtd’s work to help social entrepreneurs start up and thrive in the UK. This can only reach a small proportion of the people who want to start up as social entrepreneurs, so Unltd raises additional funds for social entrepreneurs from a range of Trusts, Foundations, Institutions and Corporates.

How is UnLtd run?
A: UnLtd has a dedicated Board of Trustees who have governance oversight of UnLtd as an organisation, and the continuing management of the Millennium Awards Trust, with legal oversight from a government-appointed Protector who is a leading lawyer. The Senior Management Team consists of the Chief Executive and five directors who are responsible for the day-to-day management of the organisation. We have a brilliant team of staff who support social entrepreneurs, support our partners to support social entrepreneurs, as well as provide central services so that it all works smoothly. Meet the team at Our Team and Our Board.

How are the MAT funds invested?
A: The Board of UnLtd, in its capacity as Trustee of the Millennium Awards Trust, is responsible for the investment of the Endowment. We delegate to an expert Investment Committee the tasks of advising us on the full range of investment issues including policy, strategy, the appointment and monitoring of professional advisers, and the monitoring of performance.

We invest so as to meet the various different objectives of the Trust Deed. In practice this involves investing across a number of different asset classes, balancing expected return, volatility, income and operational considerations.

We review strategic asset allocation formally every five years, as part of an overall Investment Review. Our asset allocation aims to provide an optimum balance between stable income – necessary to meet UnLtd’s operational needs – and meeting objectives stipulated in the Trust Deed of seeking to maximise financial returns and whilst also seeking to maintain the real value of the endowment. More information on our investment approach can be found in our Annual Report and Accounts.

How much money is in the MAT fund?
A: The total portfolio was valued at £130 million as at October 2014. We set a long term spending rate at 3.75% of the total portfolio valuation.

What about UnLtd’s wider income and reserves?
A: UnLtd is aiming to generate sufficient free reserves to support the development of an appropriate programme of activities in addition to Millennium Awards Trust activities. UnLtd needs to develop sufficient reserves to support these activities with a robust financial platform as the basis for future developments. In the longer term UnLtd therefore aims to build reserves equal to three months of expenditure other than the work from the Millennium Awards Trust.

What is a social enterprise?
A: Social Enterprise UK describe social enterprise as an approach taken by an organisation which has a clear social and/or environmental mission (set out in governing documents), generates the majority of its income through trading, and reinvests the majority of its profits to further the social mission. UnLtd supports social entrepreneurs who go on to set up a broad range of social ventures, many of which are social enterprises as described above. We also support social entrepreneurs who create other types of social ventures. For more information on the full spectrum of organisations our social entrepreneurs create, see ‘What do you mean by the term social venture?

How do I make a complaint?
A: We take all complaints very seriously and have designed a comprehensive Complaints Policy to reflect this. The purpose of UnLtd’s Complaints Policy is to set out how we will investigate complaints made by individuals. Our aim is to resolve the issues and to enable our organisation to learn from any mistakes. Please read our full Complaints Policy here.