Big Potential Breakthrough FAQs


Do you have any guidance to help users navigate the Big Potential website easily?

We have a useful guide to help you register for a new account and navigate around the website to help you make the most of your Big Potential experience.

If you are registering as a provider please contact us and we will email the guide over to you.

Download the website guide


What is the difference between Big Potential and other programmes (Power to Change and Big Assist) which help organisations get support from a provider?

All of these initiatives aim to develop the skills, knowledge and confidence of voluntary and community organisations and social enterprises, enabling them to get an independent organisational ‘health check’ and then to choose expert support from a quality assured support provider.

They each have a different focus, as follows:

  • Big Potential is about support for VCSEs to get ready for social investment.
  • Power to Change is about funding and support for community-led enterprises.
  • Big Assist is about enabling VCSE infrastructure organisations to get support in areas such as demonstrating impact, organisational strategy and developing new business models.


We have raised repayable investment before – are we eligible for Big Potential Breakthrough?

Big Potential aims to give VCSE organisations the chance to consider the usefulness of social investment as part of its broader financing or fundraising strategy. We will give priority to those looking to secure repayable investment for the first time.

However, grants are available to those who have secured investment before where they can demonstrate a clear need due to the difference in investor requirements, relevant skill gaps within the organisation and be able to demonstrate ultimately the level of transformation that can be achieved by the grant fund request.

An example might be a difference in the size or type of investment sought – if an organisation has experience raising loan investment but is now looking to do a community share issue. The organisation in question might be able to show a clear need in terms of a skills gap and meeting the expectations of a very different set of investors.

Can a consortium of organisations apply to Big Potential?

We will accept an application from a consortium for an investment plan grant but not for a preliminary grant. Our approach is as follows:

Preliminary grants

These are aimed at VCSE organisations who are seeking to improve their investment readiness. Individual organisations will have their own strengths and areas of improvement and it is important that an organisation can make the most of their preliminary grant to become investment ready. For this reason, we would not consider applications from consortia for a preliminary grant although these grants may offer support to an organisation who in the future wishes to secure investment as part of a consortium.

Investment grants

We appreciate that consortia of VCSEs can benefit from an investment plan grant and we want to support organisations working in this way to secure investment. Consequently, we will consider applications for investment grants from consortia of VCSEs. An application from a consortium of VCSEs is subject to the following criteria:

  • All members must be VCSEs eligible for Big Potential (please refer to our ‘Are you eligible’ page to check this).
  • The total investment to be sought should be up to £500,000.
  • Individual members must have completed a Big Potential diagnostic tool and attended a 1:1 Support Advisor session. Their diagnostic tool and 1:1 should cover working and securing investment as part of a consortium. We ask this as we want to ensure that all members of the consortium have had access to advice, including how they can ready themselves for working in a consortium to secure investment.
  • Individual members do not need to have received a preliminary grant; organisations are free to choose how they address any areas of improvement identified as a result of their Big Potential 1:1. However, as part of the assessment process, we will want to understand how any issues in relation to members working as a consortium have been addressed.

What organisation types will you consider for Big Potential Breakthrough?

Applicants must be a VCSE organisation: a non-governmental body that principally reinvests its surpluses for social or environmental purposes. This may include organisations such as: registered charities, social enterprises, companies limited by guarantee with charitable aims, Community Interest Companies, mutuals etc.).

A VCSE organisation must be constituted to apply to Big Potential i.e. have a constitution or Articles of Association and Memorandum which set out why you exist and how you are managed. Community Interest Companies (CICs) and companies limited by shares must demonstrate that any profit or assets are used principally in the pursuit of the company’s social objectives and for the benefit of staff and the wider community.

If a private company/company limited by shares wishes to apply to Big Potential Breakthrough, they must have an asset lock in their articles of association, with at least 51% of profits principally reinvested in the organisation. 

Can a VCSE organisation apply for Big Potential Breakthrpough grant if they have received an Investment and Contract Readiness Fund (ICRF) grant previously?

Big Potential is a specialised grant programme aimed at VCSE organisations who might not have considered social investment before and who are looking to secure investment of up to £500,000. Organisations who have received an ICRF grant will have been given support to access investment and/or contract readiness support to secure significant investment (over £500,000) or contracts (over £1,000,000). For that reason, we would not expect to fund organisations through Big Potential Breakthrough who have received an ICRF grant.

Our organisation is not constituted. Can we apply?

We cannot accept an application from your organisation if you are not constituted. You may wish to consider whether funding from an incubator would be helpful. Information on alternative sources of funding is available on our funding sources page.

How much can I apply for? When could we apply for more than £75,000?

VCSEs can apply for preliminary grants between £20,000 to £30,000. A preliminary grant is available to VCSEs that are at the initial stage of their social  investment journey and are yet to determine what type of social investment will be appropriate to their  needs.

VCSEs can apply for investment plan grants between £40,000 to £50,000. An investment plan grant is available to VCSEs that already have a social investment proposition and know what the deal might look like.

VCSEs can apply for a preliminary grant and subsequently an investment plan grant. If you receive a preliminary grant you will need to complete this before applying for an investment plan grant. Over both grants, VCSEs will not usually receive more than £75,000. However, in exceptional circumstances, the Big Potential panel can choose to consider an application for an investment plan grant which would bring the level of request across the two grants over £75,000 (and up to £150,000 at a maximum). These circumstances would include:

  • exceptional innovation which would benefit other parts of the sector
  • where the project constitutes an exemplar which would help significantly promote the programme or the concept of investment readiness
  • a clear focus on a specific area which has been underserved by this kind of support historically, for example areas acute deprivation.

If a VCSE and their provider think they have such an exceptional application, they should contact the SIB team in the first instance to discuss this. If you are looking for grants of between £50,000 and £150,000, you should consider applying to Big Potential Advanced. 

How much of the grant can be for VCSE costs?

A maximum of 40% of the total grant requested can go towards VCSE costs.

Big Potential cannot contribute towards core costs or cover salaries for existing members of staff. VCSEs can request Big Potential funding to cover the cost of backfilling existing members of staff whilst they work on the Big Potential project. Additionally, Big Potential can fund additional hours for part time members of staff to enable them to work on the Big Potential project. Please note that the basis for costing for backfill must be based on the actual salary of the member of staff.

Can organisations working UK wide apply?

Big Potential is focussed on organisations based and operating in England. Consequently, any investment readiness support must be wholly for the benefit of England based operations.

Organisations may seek support for the England based operation with a view to then using this increased knowledge and skills to apply it to their operations and activities outside of England in the future. However, the support from a provider they would need to pay for through a grant would have to directly benefit the England business only.

When making an application, such organisations would have to make clear how the work would only go towards immediate benefit their England based operations.

Can we get support for contract readiness?

Big Potential grants are directed towards investment, not contract readiness. You can apply for a grant to help you become investment ready and to secure investment funds. It is up to you how you would use such an investment and it could be towards helping you secure a contract. However, you cannot apply directly for a Big Potential grant to directly cover contract readiness work.

Our constitution prevents us from accepting funds generated by the Lottery? Have you any non-Lottery funding available?

Organisations unable to accept grants from Lottery money will be unable to benefit from initiatives which are exclusively funded by the National Lottery, such as Big Potential.  We are aware that there are some organisations which cannot use Lottery funding but which still have an interest in accessing support around social investment and they might like to consider looking at other initiatives funded by government and other funders which might help to support them. You can find more information on other sources of funding from the Big Potential website.

Can we apply for a grant for another organisation?

The VCSE that applies for a Big Potential Breakthrough grant must be the VCSE that the investment readiness project is for. Additionally, the VCSE the receive the grant must be the VCSE that will be seeking and receiving any repayable investment as a result of the investment readiness work. For example, if a parent charity has a trading subsidiary and are seeking repayable investment for the trading subsidiary, it must be the trading subsidiary and not the parent charity that applies to Big Potential Breakthrough. 

Can we change provider?

VCSE organisations that are awarded a grant from Big Potential may choose to make a change in their approved provider (subject to panel approval of the reasons). If you are considering changing provider, please discuss this with your SIB representative at the earliest opportunity in order to make the change as quickly and effectively as possible.


What happens once we submit our diagnostic tool self-assessment to you?

We will review your diagnostic tool and on the basis of the information you have given us we will check:

  • whether you are eligible for Big Potential
  • whether your organisation would benefit from doing some further work before continuing on with a Big Potential application.

If you are eligible, we will invite you to progress and book a 1:1 with one of our Big Potential 1:1 Support Advisors.

If we identify that your organisation is eligible but may be not be at a stage to benefit fully from Big Potential, we will advise you that this is the case and you will need to decide whether you wish to continue with the Big Potential process. For instance, you may need to develop your experience of trading your products and services or your understanding of the market for your work. From experience, we have found that organisations at an early stage are less likely to be able to make a compelling application for funding and may have less chance of being successful.  For this reason, such organisations may also find it more challenging to secure a Provider to work with on their Big Potential application.

If you are ineligible, we will write to you explaining the reasons and where possible highlighting alternative opportunities for support.

We will provide a response to all diagnostics within ten working days of their submission.

How do you assess applications?

We look at your performance in the following areas:

  • your track record in providing services/products
  • the social impact of your work
  • your organisation’s management and governance
  • your organisations financial performance and controls.

The scores on your diagnostic tool do not form part of the grant scoring criteria. Where your investment readiness report has identified improvements that need to be made in these areas, we will take into account how your application will deliver these improvements.

We will also consider:

  • the appropriateness of your planned work (in relation to the investment readiness report prepared after your 1:1)
  • the appropriateness of your budget (in relation to the work outlined in your plan)
  • the degree of the impact that the investment readiness project will have on your organisation and its investment readiness.

Who makes decisions on which applications to fund?

Our Big Potential investment panel consists of representatives from organisations around the country working in the social investment and third sectors. This panel makes recommendations to the Big Lottery Fund, who take the final decision on which applications to fund.


Are you holding any events where people can find out more about Big Potential?

Yes, we will be visiting each region of the country over the next three years. You can find details of upcoming events on our Attend an event page.

In addition, to these Big Potential events, any events which our partners on the fund (Charity Bank, Locality and Social Enterprise UK) are holding in relation to investment readiness will be publicised on this page.

How can I book a place at events? Can I book more than one?

Booking for Big Potential events opens a month before the event takes place. YOU will be able to book your place online through our Attend an event page.

Spaces are limited so we ask that only one person per organisation attends; when you work through the booking process you will only be able to select one ticket.


I need some help registering on the website, do you have some guidance available?

Yes, we have a useful guide you can download before setting up an account on the website. You can also contact our enquiry line if you have any specific issues you need resolved.

Download the website guide for providers

We have many more than three areas of specialism; is it possible to tick more than three in our application?

No - we ask providers to select just their top three areas. After a VCSE organisation has attended their 1:1 Support Advisor session they receive an investment readiness report which lists the three priority areas of development for their organisation. These areas of development match provider specialisms and this is one of the ways in which VCSE organisations can filter the list of providers on our website to shortlist the most relevant provider.

Is there a deadline for applications to become a provider?

There is no deadline to become a provider. Our Big Potential panel meets every month (apart from in August) and will consider provider applications received in the previous month.

Can a sole trader apply to be a Big Potential provider?

Yes. However, if approved we will monitor and review a sole trader’s capacity on a case-by-case basis to deliver Big Potential projects.

Can organisations based outside of England be a Big Potential provider?

Yes. However, we will want to see evidence through the application form and references of your experience working with organisations based in England. We will also want to understand how your organisations links in with English networks of VCSE organisations.

We would like to become a Big Potential provider but we are also a social investor. If we provide investment readiness services to a VCSE, would we also be able to invest in them?

If you have provided investment readiness services to a VCSE through Big Potential, you would not be allowed to invest in the organisation in the subsequent investment round i.e. you would not be able to be provide the investment sought by the organisation through the Big Potential grant. We require this to ensure there is no perceived conflict of interest in the advice given when a Provider helps a VCSE approach potential investors; the panel wishes to ensure that opportunities to invest are made available to as many potential investors as possible in order that the VCSE find the best and most appropriate finance for their needs.