Closed Fund

Social Enterprise Start-up Fund 2022

Apply to our Social Enterprise Development Fund and Social Enterprise Start-Up Fund by Friday, March 11th 2022.

Shuttle Knit, Social Enterprise Development Fund Awardee 2021

What is the Social Enterprise Start-up Fund?

The Social Enterprise Start-up Fund is an €800,000 Fund delivered over two years: 2021 – 2022. The Fund was created by Rethink Ireland in partnership with the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund.

The Department of Rural and Community Development was established in 2017 to provide a renewed and consolidated focus on rural and community development in Ireland. The consolidation into a new Department of both policy and supports in respect of community and rural development provides the means for a greater focus on creating vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities. The Department has responsibility for ensuring arrangements for strong oversight of the charities sector through facilitating the Charities Regulatory Authority in carrying out its independent statutory role. In July, 2019 the Department also published Ireland’s first National Policy on Social Enterprise. The Policy is the Government’s framework to develop the sector in the years ahead both in terms of scale and impact.

What is this Fund’s objective?

The objective of the fund is to support social enterprises at the start-up / early stage of their life cycle, to embed strong business principles and, in turn, deliver social impact, create jobs and inspire an emerging, next generation of Irish social enterprises.

The Fund will provide critical support to the most innovative and impactful start-up social enterprises across Ireland, supporting them to:

  • Build a plan to grow their social enterprise,
  • Map their key stakeholders and customers,
  • Create networks within the social enterprise sector,
  • Increase their financial sustainability,
  • Communicate their vision and mission to a wider audience.

In addition to the Start-Up Fund we are currently seeking applications for the Social Enterprise Development Fund, which offers Awards for those with an income of over €100,000 in 2021. We are also seeking applications for our ‘Start a Social Enterprise’ Business Course for those looking to realise their social enterprise idea. For more information please click here.

What is a social enterprise?

A social enterprise is a business that works primarily to improve the lives of people. Its business is social good.

Social enterprises are at the heart of facing the greatest social challenges in Ireland. They are professional and experienced, and use business skills and clever thinking to bridge the gaps in our society. The money they make from their work is used to grow what they do so that they can reach all the people in society who need their help.

Social enterprises are innovating every day by inventing and developing solutions to Ireland’s most pressing social issues. They are creating meaningful jobs, tackling inequalities and supporting community development. We believe there is a need to foster and invest in these social enterprises to allow them to grow and spread their solutions throughout the country.

What does the Fund offer?

In 2022, the fund offers (up to) 20 Awardees:
1. Cash grants
2. Business supports
3. A place on the Accelerator Programme

1. Cash grants

In 2022, the Fund will support up to 20 social enterprises with cash grants of €10,000 each.

2. Business supports

The Accelerator Programme also includes business supports worth €4,500 each, tailored to the needs of each social enterprise, such as strategic planning, business modelling, and communications.

3. The Accelerator Programme

All successful applicants will win a place on our National Accelerator Programme specifically designed for social enterprises. The Accelerator Programme is designed to equip social enterprises with the tools and techniques needed to expand their business skills and deepen their impact within their communities.

It provides training from best-in-class experts across the private, non-profit and public sector. Training is provided across a range of functions including business modeling, financial sustainability and vision and mission. By joining the programme, organisations will also gain access to a peer network of the best social enterprises in Ireland.

Who can apply?

We invite applications from social enterprises (project) that are at an early stage of their development and are looking to fully establish themselves in the market. The following criteria must be met:

  • The social enterprise must address a critical social issue*
  • The social enterprise proposed must be innovative in an Irish context
  • The social enterprise must be based on the island of Ireland and must make its main impact in the Republic of Ireland
  • The social enterprise 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 social enterprise has passed the idea stage, i.e. has completed some market research, developed a prototype, made at least one sale etc.
  • Applicants need to be of a not-for-profit nature. Legal forms include e.g. a company limited by guarantee, a co-operative, a trust, and other not for profit legal entities**
  • If your organisation has charitable status then it will meet the above eligibility criteria
  • The social enterprise must have created some traded income to date
  • The social enterprise must not have created more than €100,000 income in total in 2021.***

If you have another legal form, but meet the definition of social enterprise under the National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland, the Fund may be able to support you. We will ask you further questions about this on the Application Form.

* In the context of this Fund, a clear ambition, supported by some research or a clear plan, to impact a critical social issue shall be deemed sufficient.
** Where the proposed social enterprise is developed as a partnership, it is sufficient if the lead applicant is operating as a not-for-profit organisation.
*** In this context please take every type of income, not just traded income into account. If your social enterprise is part of a larger organisation, you may have to provide separate financial records to demonstrate the income level for 2021. If you have created income above €100,000 you may want to apply for a Social Enterprise Development Fund Award here.

How can you apply to the Fund?

Applications open from January 28th

Applications are open from Friday, January 28th until Friday, March 11th. Applicants are invited to complete a short application form. Based on this application, Rethink Ireland will identify a shortlist of applicants who have met the required criteria and award 20 applicants from the shortlist.

Application Clinics

The first clinic will be held to support potential applicants with any questions they may have on Friday, February 4th at 1pm – 2pm. You can attend under this link.

Announcing winners

The Social Enterprise Start-up Fund will inform the successful applicants by June 2022, and the public awards announcement will follow. The Accelerator Programme will commence in July 2022.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is expected of Awardees?

Awardees will be expected to take part in a four-month Accelerator Programme, with a minimum of two days per month devoted to working on your awarded project.

Can you make more than one application?

No, one social enterprise may only submit one application for the purposes of the Social Enterprise Start-Up Fund. Please note that you cannot apply with the same social enterprise for both a Social Enterprise Start-Up Fund Award and the business course and/or a SED cash grant.

What can cash grants be spent on?

The cash grant must be spent on the social enterprise/project that won the award. The specific use of the cash grants will be agreed between Rethink Ireland and the Awardee. Cash grants may not be used to pay off debts or purchase vehicles, land or buildings or to fund research.

What do you mean by innovation?

At Rethink Ireland, we define social innovation as the successful delivery of new approaches to meet social needs more effectively and sustainably than those currently available.

Just as innovation is necessary for economic growth, we believe innovation is critical to societal and economic progress.

What do you mean by income created?

Traded income is that which is generated from the sale of goods and services. It includes contracts (service level agreements) with state bodies or other state/semi-state bodies where clear deliverables are completed in exchange for a fee. It does not include fundraising income, donation income, or cash grants from government / philanthropic organisations.

If your social enterprise is part of a bigger (parent) organisation, you may need to differentiate between the income generated by both entities. This could be done via management accounts for the social enterprise specifically.

Who will decide who wins the Awards?

As outlined above, an internal team will review and shortlist applications. Final decisions are made by the Board of Rethink Ireland and the Minister for Rural and Community Development.

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

We will contact all applicants by phone or email after final decisions have been made.

What projects are not eligible?

  • Projects seeking funds for scholarships
  • Projects seeking to fund capital items – buildings, vans, and so on
  • Research projects
  • Party political projects
  • Projects that screen beneficiaries in or out by faith or religious denomination
  • Projects that do not provide a benefit to people or the environment, for example, projects that benefit animals only
  • Projects where the main impact is outside the Republic of Ireland
  • Projects that are an idea (only) and that have not yet started

Who is not eligible to apply?

  • A person who is younger than 18.
  • Any staff member from Rethink Ireland and Department of Rural and Community Development staff, Directors and their family members. Family members include siblings, parents, spouses or civil partners or children.
  • Any consultant currently working with Rethink Ireland

Terms and Conditions

By applying for the Social Enterprise Start-Up 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.
  • You consent to the Government of Ireland Statement on Public Finances if selected as a winning applicant.

Any further questions?

If you have any further questions please join us for some of our application clinics.

  • Friday, 4th February 1 pm: An overview of our offerings and the application portal under this link
  • Friday, 11th February 9 am: Spotlight on our €30,000 Awards under this link
  • Friday, 18th February 4 pm: Spotlight on our €14,500 Awards for early-stage social enterprise under this link
  • Wednesday, 23rd February 3 pm: Spotlight on our new Start a Social Enterprise Business Course under this link
  • Friday, 4th March 1 pm: Final questions on our offerings under this link

Each session will entail a short presentation followed by an open Q&A session, offering you an opportunity to bring any questions you may have regarding the application process to the Fund team.

Please contact if you have any further queries.

Contact the social enterprise team at