Closed Fund

Social Enterprise Step Up Fund 2023-2024

In partnership with:

Supporting established, mid-size social enterprises to be ready to scale.

KASI, Social Enterprise Development Fund Awardee 2021

The Social Enterprise Step Up Fund 2023-24 is a €700,000 two-year Fund created by Rethink Ireland in partnership with Tomar Trust and the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund. This Fund welcomes applications from established, mid-sized social enterprises with the aim of supporting them to be ready to scale. The Fund will provide cash grants and business support for social enterprise leaders to deepen their business models. We will support organisations to ultimately scale out to other locations, or scale up their services across Ireland. Targeted training in areas such as public procurement, developing service level agreements and acquiring accreditation for training delivery are just some of the areas that could make a significant difference to the scalability and sustainability of the enterprises and thus their impact.  

This new Fund focuses on elevated funding for enterprises at the next stage and will help support and expand the social enterprise ecosystem in Ireland.

You can apply to the Social Enterprise Step Up Fund via the online portal from Wednesday September 7th to Wednesday October 19th at 1pm. 

If you would like to know more, please join us for one of our application clinics:

Wednesday, 21st September 12pm: this link 

Thursday, 6th October 12pm: 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.

What is this Fund’s objective?

The objective of the Fund is to find and back social enterprises that add to the social and economic fabric of their community by way of social impact. 

The Fund will provide critical support to the most innovative and impactful social enterprises across Ireland, helping them to:

  • Increase their social impact
  • Increase their traded income
  • Create (more) jobs
  • Develop long-term, effective and sustainable solutions.

What are the Social Enterprise Step Up Fund criteria?

The key criteria that applicants will need to demonstrate are:

Core Criteria

  • That the social enterprise addresses a critical social issue 
  • That the social enterprise is innovative in an Irish context
  • That the social enterprise is based on the island of Ireland and is making its main impact in the Republic of Ireland
  • How the social enterprise is a sustainable business, generating traded income from goods or services
  • How the social enterprise is mid-sized and at the right stage of development for this Fund, rather than at start-up or mature stage
  • That the social enterprise has the ambition to further explore their business model with a view to scaling out or up after the programme
  • That applicants come from an entity that has a not-for-profit legal form, eg: 
    • A company limited by guarantee 
    • A co-operative 
    • Charity 
    • And other not for profit legal forms

The applications will also be assessed on how well they demonstrate their social enterprise:

  • Has the potential to create additional jobs

Advantageous Criteria:

  • Social Enterprises based within the Munster region
  • Social Enterprises with a well developed, Board approved, 3-5 year strategic plan supported by financial projections that outline plans for scale
  • Social Enterprises with the involvement of minority and/or beneficiary groups in leadership roles

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 organisations whose mission is to have a positive effect on society.  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.

What does the Fund offer?

What does the Fund offer?


The fund offers (up to) 6 Awardees an Awards package of up to €133,750:

  1. Cash grants for up to 6 Awardees of €118,750 
  2. A Business Support budget worth €15,000
  3. A place on the Accelerator Programme

Cash Grants

Up to 6 Social Enterprises will receive a package of supports worth a maximum of €133,750 each in total. This will include cash grants of  €118,750, paid in four instalments upon delivery of agreed milestones.

Business Support Budget

In addition, Awardees will receive a budget for business supports worth €15,000 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.

Accelerator Programme

All successful applicants will win a place on Ireland’s first National Accelerator Programme specifically designed for social enterprises. The Accelerator Programme will equip social enterprises with the skills they need to scale and deepen their social impact.

The intensive and practical 2-year Programme provides training from best-in-class experts in the private, nonprofit and public sector on key functions such as Strategic Planning, Impact Measurement, Financial Management, Governance, Business Modelling, Pitching, Storytelling and more.

“Rethink Ireland helped us set out clear indicators for growth across our social, economic and environmental impact. The marketing support helped to generate leads in almost every county in Ireland. After working with Rethink Ireland our vision changed from working on a regional level to becoming a national social enterprise”.

Martin Ward- Bounce Back Recycling

“I know we’ll be able to deliver on our ambitious strategic plan because we’ve such a great foundation now in terms of our structure, which was why it was great getting the non-financial support as well the cash. For us the mixture of the two was just perfect and we were delighted with both.”

Helen Nolan, Spraoi agus Spórt

Who can apply?

For a cash grant:

We are seeking applications from social enterprises that:

  • Have a clear social mission that addresses a critical social issue
  • Generate income from goods or services
  • Are already up and running
  • Reinvest any surplus into achieving their mission
  • Have a not-for-profit legal form
  • Are separate from Government and State Agencies
  • Have their main impact in the Republic of Ireland

  *Social enterprises can sit within larger not-for-profit organisations, such as charities and voluntary organisations

How can you apply for Awards?

Applications to this Fund have now closed.

Frequently asked questions

What is expected of Awardees?

Awardees will be expected to take part in a two-year Accelerator Programme, with a minimum of two days per week devoted to working on your awarded social enterprise. 

Can you make more than one application? 

Yes, there is nothing stopping your organisation making more than one application for separate social enterprises. However, it is very unlikely that we will fund more than one social enterprise from any organisation.

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.

What can cash grants be spent on? 

The cash grant must be spent on the 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.

Who will decide who wins the awards? 

 Final decisions are made by the Board of Rethink Ireland.

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

Who is not eligible to apply?

  • A person who is younger than 18.
  • Any staff member from Rethink Ireland, Tomar Trust 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
  • Any project currently being funded by Rethink Ireland. We define a current Awardee as an organisation and or project on one of our Funds that has grant payments remaining this year.

Terms and Conditions

By applying for the Social Enterprise Step-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

How can I get more information about the Fund and the application process?

We will run application clinics, providing you with an overview of the application process and what to expect and to give you a chance to ask any questions you may have.

Alternatively, you can email us at with any unanswered questions you may have.

Please contact should you require further information.