Frequently asked questions

This section offers additional guidance to voluntary, community and social enterprises as well as those looking to become approved providers.

What is the Big Potential programme?

Big Potential, originally a £10million grant programme, launched in February 2014 with an aim to improve the sustainability, capacity and scale of voluntary, Community and Social enterprise (VCSE) organisations enabling them to deliver greater social impact. Big Potential supports organisations looking to grow through securing repayable investment, to buy in specialist support from a range of expert ‘providers’ to improve their investment readiness. We are looking to achieve the following outcomes from the programme:

  • Supporting VCSE organisations to develop their capabilities to deliver social and charitable impact at greater scale for communities across England
  • Improving learning and awareness of investment readiness approaches for VCSE organisations.

Big Potential is delivered by the Social Investment Business Foundation (SIB) in partnership with Charity Bank, Social Enterprise UK (SEUK), Locality and the University of Northampton.

What is changing on Big Potential?

Big Lottery Fund has committed a further £10 million over 3 years to expand the programme to support more organisations at different stages of an investment readiness journey. The expansion (which we are calling the ‘Advanced Route’) will look to support more developed organisations seeking larger investments (over £500,000) or contracts (over £1,000,000).  Support for organisations seeking smaller investments, at an earlier stage in their social investment journey, will continue to be able to get support through the original Big Potential offer, which we are now calling the ‘Breakthrough Route’.  

Who is Big Potential for?

Breakthrough Route – VCSEs based and operating in England on the beginning of a journey towards securing investment, who are looking to develop a more sustainable funding model and be less dependent on grants but require support to do this. Applicant’s ambition will be to raise up to £500k of repayable investment. Grants available are for the purchase of expertise and typically range between £20,000 and £75,000

Advanced Route – VCSEs based and operating in England with an ambition to raise more than £500k of repayable investment or win contracts of at least £1m. VCSE’s will have a strong proposal and be sufficiently ambitious to be able to develop a project of the desired scale in a set time period. VCSE’s applying to this route will be expected to have a sufficiently strong grasp of what it means to take on social Investment and understand their social investment needs. Grants available are for the purchase of expertise and typically range between £50,000 and £150,000

More information about each of the routes is available at

How do I become a provider on Big Potential?

Information about how to become a Big Potential provider can be found at here. Due to the different needs of applicants, providers can apply to be a Big Potential Breakthrough or Big Potential Advanced provider. Potential providers have to apply separately to each of the two fund pathways, due to the different skills and experience required to support the different target applicants.  Applications from potential providers will be judged on the evidence that they supply around their ability to provide support to clients to progress in line with the different targets of the two pathways. Organisations can apply to be both a Big Potential Breakthrough and a Big Potential Advanced provider if they can evidence they have the relevant experience for each pathway.

Providers previously registered as ICRF or any other readiness programme will need to apply to Big Potential as ICRF was a separate programme now closed.

Specific guidance: 

Big Potential Breakthrough FAQs

Big Potential Advanced FAQs