Closed Fund

Entrepreneurship Impact Fund 2023-2026

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Closing Date
26/01/2024

The Entrepreneurship Impact Fund 2023-2026 is a three year fund, through the support of a private donor, which aims to have impact across three strands:

  • Strand 1: The Social Innovation Growth and Scaling Fund 
  • Strand 2: Youth Entrepreneurship Incubators
  • Strand 3: The Minority Entrepreneurship Fund 

The first open call which is now closed covered Strand 1, worth a total of €3,000,000. The open-calls for strands 2 & 3 are expected to be announced in 2024. 

The Entrepreneurship Impact Fund – Strand 1 aims to support mid-stage and mature social innovations to achieve higher levels of impact by scaling their innovations and reaching the next stage of growth. 

Ireland faces continuing critical social issues across health, education, equality, and the green sectors. One of the key problems confronting social innovations is the difficulty of scaling their operations and social impact. Insufficient funding in terms of both scale and duration to align with their aspirations, as well as a shortage of suitable capacity-building supports are key main barriers. 

The Entrepreneurship Impact Fund’s Strand 1 will address the challenge of scaling and reaching growth by providing multi-year funding and targeted support in the areas of scaling, investment and procurement readiness, organisational resilience, leadership, impact measurement, and financial sustainability. 

This strand has two investment areas: the Growth Fund and the Scale Up Fund. 

The Growth Fund

The Impact Goal of the Growth Fund is to enable mature social innovations and social enterprises to: 

  • Scale up/out their operations to national level: through a well-defined scaling strategy aligned with their strategic plan
  • Reinforce the financial sustainability: through growing their income with support from expert consultants and Rethink Ireland 
  • Achieve national transformative impact and/or system change

The Growth Fund will support up to three awardees for three years and provide an annual cash grant ranging from €160,000 to €200,000 as well as capacity building supports*.

The Scale Up Fund

The Impact Goal of the Scale Up Fund is to enable mid-stage social innovations and social enterprises to: 

  • Scale their operations to new geographies/locations: through a well-defined scaling strategy aligned with their strategic plan
  • Increase financial sustainability: through growing their income with support from expert consultants and Rethink Ireland 
  • Increase their social impact to new levels

The Scale Up Fund will support up to four awardees for three years and provide an annual cash grant ranging from €40,000 to €60,000 as well as capacity building support*. This Fund will focus on scaling mid-stage social innovations and social enterprises that have proof of impact, but require additional support to reach the next stage of growth.

Capacity building supports include:

  • a place on Rethink Ireland’s Accelerator Programme
  • bespoke business and one-to-one consultancy supports delivered by experts consultants and designed in consultation with the successful projects on topics such as scaling, financial sustainability, investment readiness, organisational resilience, and impact measurement.
  • access to Rethink Ireland’s networks.

* The Rethink Ireland Board will decide how much money to award, which may be less than the amount requested. The final amount of the award will depend on how many organisations are selected.

 

Who can apply?

This fund is open to organisations that have a not-for-profit legal form, e.g. charity, social enterprise and other voluntary organisations that meet the following criteria:

Eligibility & Criteria

Projects must meet both Rethink Ireland’s criteria and the specific criteria for the Entrepreneurship Impact Fund, as set out below:

Rethink Ireland Criteria 

  • The project must address a critical social issue
  • The project proposed must be innovative in an Irish context
  • The project must have potential and a desire to scale or replicate in Ireland (it may also have potential internationally, but this is not a requirement)
  • The project must provide evidence that it is up and running, or has been tested at least in a minimal way
  • The project must be based in Ireland and make its main impact in the Republic of Ireland
  • Applicants must come from an entity that has a not-for-profit legal form, e.g.
    • A company limited by guarantee
    • A co-operative
    • Trust
    • Charity

Entrepreneurship Impact Fund – Strand 1 Core Criteria 

The criteria that applicants for the Growth Fund will need to demonstrate are:

  • Proven track record of scaling and measuring impact  
  • Has a well developed, Board-approved, multi-year strategic plan and financial projections that clearly map out scaling strategy
  • Proven sustainable income/business model, over 5 years, with sustainable and diverse income streams and multi-year funding
  • Existing impact measurement/management plan
  • Clear vision for scaling nationally and strategic objectives to achieve it as well as a proven track record of scaling the social innovation/social enterprise in the past
  • If the applicant is a social enterprise, existing and projected traded income streams needs to be clearly outlined in financial projections

The criteria that applicants for the Scale Up Fund will need to demonstrate are:

  • How the social innovation or social enterprise impacts on a critical social issue
  • Proven business model, multi-year funding, with stable income streams that support current operations 
  • Social innovation has potential and desire to scale and has the ambition to further explore their business model with a view to scale to new geographies/locations 
  • If the applicant is a social enterprise, the applicant must have generated traded income.  

Advantageous criteria 

The criteria below will be considered advantageous in applications, however, organisations that  meet the core criteria but do not meet the advantageous criteria are encouraged to apply. Projects applying to either the Growth Fund or Scale Up Fund incorporating any of the below in their application will have an advantage:

  • Is beneficiary-led or involves members of the beneficiary community in decision-making roles
  • Social enterprises that have a positive effect on Ireland’s Green Transition through their activities/interventions

Projects applying to the Scale Up Fund will have an advantage if they can demonstrate: 

  • Having a well developed, Board-approved, multi-year year strategic plan, supported by financial projections that outline plans to scale

Which projects cannot apply?

Projects that are not eligible to apply are:

  • Projects where research is the primary activity
  • Projects seeking funding for capital assets (such as buildings, vans or equipment)
  • Projects promoting or aligned with a political party
  • Projects that only accept participants of a particular faith or religious denomination
  • Projects focused on animal welfare 
  • Projects based outside the Republic of Ireland
  • Projects led by people under 18 years of age
  • Projects that are an idea (only) and that have not yet started

Which applicants cannot apply? 

Applicants that are not eligible to apply are:

  • Applicants under 18 years of age
  • Commercial companies, sole traders and individuals
  • Any staff member from Rethink Ireland and their family members. Family members include siblings, parents, spouses or civil partners or children.
  • Individuals, statutory or public bodies, local development companies, LEADER companies, companies limited by shares, and organisations that are funded 100% by state bodies or agencies and continue to be in receipt of that funding.
  • Any consultant currently working with Rethink Ireland

If my organisation has previously been in receipt of an award from Rethink Ireland, can I still apply?

Yes. If you have previously been funded by Rethink Ireland, you can still apply but if you have already participated in a Growth Fund, you are not eligible for this Fund. Previous awardees must be able to demonstrate they have performed well on a previous programme and capture in the application form how the new funding being applied for is a logical continuation from the original investment, fitting the new Fund criteria in particular.

If my organisation/project is currently in receipt of an award from Rethink Ireland, can I still apply?

Projects on one of our Funds that have cash grant payments remaining before the commencement of the new fund programme are not eligible to apply. 

Organisations on one of our Funds that have cash grant payments remaining before the commencement of the new fund programme are still eligible to apply with a different project and different project lead.

Is this just for large-scale, national organisations?

No, it is not, we welcome applications from mid-stage and mature social innovations and social enterprises that have a not-for-profit legal form (see criteria above).

Can I apply for this funding even though I am still on the ideation stage? 

Unfortunately no, this fund is specifically for mid-sized and mature organisations that are up and running with a proven track record.

Can organisations make multiple applications? 

Yes, there is nothing stopping your organisation from making more than one application for separate projects. However, due to the competitive nature of this Fund and its selection process, it is very unlikely that we will fund more than one project from any organisation. We encourage organisations to submit one strong application rather than multiple applications.

If my organisation is funded by a Government/state agency (HSE, TULSA etc) are we eligible? 

Yes, you can apply if you are in receipt of funding from a government or state agency. However, if your organisation is 100% funded through state sources then you are not eligible to apply to the Fund.

Is it possible for organisations to collaborate in an application (e.g. a community development organisation and an educational provider)?

They can and one organisation should take the lead. Please refer to the eligibility criteria to ensure that your project is eligible for funding.

What does the fund offer?

Strand 1 will support a total of up to 7 awardees across the following Funds:

Growth Fund – up to three awardees for three years. Annual cash grant ranging from €160,000 to €200,000.

Scale Up Fund – up to four awardees for three years. Annual cash grant ranging from €40,000 to €60,000.

Both funds will also provide: 

  • A place on a 3-year Rethink Ireland Accelerator Programme: 

Rethink Ireland’s Accelerator is a unique offer, equipping awardees with the skills needed to expand and deepen their impact. It provides training from best-in-class experts across the private, nonprofit and public sector. Training is provided across a range of functions and may include:

  • Impact measurement and management 
  • Communications, strategy and social media storytelling
  • End-game and scaling strategic planning
  • Financial sustainability 
  • In addition, the awardees will receive a budget for business supports in the range of €24,000-€30,000 each. Business supports will be tailored to the specific needs of each project and carried out by approved consultants, focusing on creating social impact in line with their theory of change and strategic plan.

What can cash grants be spent on? 

The cash grant must be spent on the project that won the award and must be ring-fenced for work you are undertaking. The specific use of the cash grant will be agreed between Rethink Ireland and the Awardee.

The funding may be used to cover operations/staff costs but you must be able to demonstrate in your application how this is facilitating you to run the project that you are applying for. Cash grants may not be used to pay off debts or for capital items such as renovations, or for vehicles, land, buildings or large equipment. 

What non-financial supports will be provided to successful applicants?

Rethink Ireland’s non-financial supports have been called our ‘secret sauce’ that help projects to really develop their capacity and sustainability, in addition to the benefit of the cash supports. Non-financial supports will include:

  • a place on Rethink Ireland’s Accelerator Programme. Each Awardee’s project lead and potentially other relevant staff will take part in the Accelerator programme which consists of a series of interactive training workshops to increase the capacity building of our awardees. 
  • bespoke business and one-to-one consultancy supports delivered by experts consultants and designed in consultation with the successful projects on topics such as scaling, financial sustainability, investment readiness, organisational resilience, and impact measurement.
  • access to Rethink Ireland’s networks and the opportunity to develop networks and contacts with the other Awardees of the Fund which are often very valuable in the longer term.

What is expected of Awardees?

The project lead will be expected to take part in the Accelerator Programme, which includes attending approximately 6 workshops per year and spending time working 1:1 with a business/strategy consultant.

How do we apply?

Applications are made via our funding portal. The application form asks you for information about:

  • your project and organisation
  • the problem your project tackles
  • what makes your project different from others
  • who it benefits
  • how your project meets the fund conditions
  • how you test or evaluate how well your project is doing 
  • referees
  • other details
  • It also asks you to send us financial documents (listed below) and a short video about your project (this is optional). 

What kind of video do we need to submit? (Optional)

Don’t worry – you don’t need to produce a high quality or expensive video. You can use a smartphone or tablet. We just want to hear you telling the story of your project in 2 – 3 mins max. Please tell us:  

  • who you are
  • why you are applying for the award
  • the problem/issue your project is trying to solve
  • how you will do that 
  • how your solution is innovative or creative. 

You can then upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo and password protect it if you wish. You can insert the URL link and the password in the application form.

What financial information do we need to submit with our application?

  1. The documents you need to complete depend on whether you are applying in relation to a project within an organisation or you are applying as an organisation as a whole:
    • If applying for a project within a larger organisation, the project’s management accounts and the organisation’s most recent audited/full accounts are needed.
    • If applying for an organisation as a whole, the most recent audited/full accounts are needed.
  2. All applicants must outline how they intend to use the funds from Rethink Ireland if successful and upload a three-year budget . A spreadsheet template is provided in the relevant section of the application form.

How do we upload our project budget (planned income and expenditure)?

In the relevant section of the application form you will be provided with a link to a budget template in excel. Please click on the link provided and DOWNLOAD this document to your computer. Then fill in your financial information and save the document with your project’s name and then upload it in the relevant section of the application form. 

Accessibility

We have tried to make the application process as accessible as possible but we understand that there may still be some difficulties for applicants. If you have access needs or are struggling with the application form, please contact entrepreneurship@rethinkireland.ie

What happens after we submit our application?

  1. Applications will go through a rigorous selection process (for more information see below).
  2. Successful applicants will be informed in April 2024.
  3. The cash grants will be delivered in six instalments – one at the beginning of the programme and the remaining ones tied to agreed performance milestones. 
  4. The Accelerator Programme will run across the lifetime of the fund
  5. The Accelerator supports will be designed in consultation with the awardees and reflect organisational/project needs. 
  6. The Fund will close in December 2026

How does the selection process work?

The selection process is very rigorous and consists of a number of stages:

  • Stage 1 – Open call for applications (16th November 2023 – 26th January 2024)
  • Stage 2 – Internal and external reviews of all applications (January 2024)
  • Stage 3 – Interviews for shortlisted applicants (February 2024)
  • Stage 4 – Due Diligence/Governance checks on short-listed applicants (February 2024)
  • Stage 5 – Final decision by Rethink Ireland board (April/May 2024)

Who will decide who wins the awards?

All applications will be reviewed thoroughly through a rigorous process. The Board of Rethink Ireland will make the final decision on successful applicants and the number and value of the final awards given.

How do applicants find out where they are in the selection process?

We will contact all applicants by email to let them know whether or not they have been shortlisted and invited to interview.  Interviews will be conducted via online video link. When final decisions have been made on the successful applicants, we will contact all shortlisted applicants by phone or email to let them know whether they have been successful. 

 

Terms and Conditions

By applying for the Entrepreneurship Impact Fund, you agree to the following terms and conditions.

  • You are 18 years of age or older.
  • You have given full and truthful information, both verbal and written, at all stages of the application and selection process. 
  • You are eligible to apply. This means that your organisation meets the criteria for Rethink Ireland and, as described.
  • You have the right to apply. This means that you hold the necessary rights to carry out the project.
  • By sending in your application, you accept these terms and conditions and our Privacy Statement. If you do not comply with these terms and conditions, you may be disqualified and may have to return any award granted. 
  • Rethink Ireland will hold the personal details which you submitted with your application form. We will only share this information with the third parties administering the application and selection process unless we agree otherwise with you. Please see our Privacy Statement for full details.
  • The Awardees must take part in publicity about the grant. Rethink Ireland reserves the right to publish the names of organisations that are successful in their applications.
  • If you decline an award or if the award is taken back because you did not comply with the terms and conditions, the Directors may select an alternative Awardee.
  • Rethink Ireland reserves the right to disqualify any entrant, to change the terms and conditions without notice, or to cancel the application process at any stage.
  • Where relevant, applicant organisations must be fully compliant with guidelines, regulations and legislation applicable to their project, for instance, Children First guidelines and child protection regulations.

If you have further questions, please contact us at: entrepreneurship@rethinkireland.ie