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David and Goliath? The rising demand for social enterprise funding

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David and Goliath? The rising demand for social enterprise funding

Published: April 19, 2023

The theme of socially responsible lending has been explored in Netflix’s new film ‘Bank of Dave’, which is based on the true-life experiences of Dave Fishwick; a successful entrepreneur from Burnley who set up a community bank to help local businesses thrive.

It tells the David and Goliath tale of one man’s ambition to venture beyond the traditional economic model and puts ‘community’ at the heart of a business alongside commercial outcomes.

Jason James, Relationship Manager at Unity Trust Bank, discusses the rising demand for social enterprise funding across the UK:

There are more than 100,000 social enterprises in the UK, contributing £60billion to the economy and creating two million jobs[1].

Social enterprises align to Unity’s commitment of being a commercial bank with a social conscience, demonstrating how successful businesses can contribute positively to society.

Some social enterprises have historically struggled to get funding from mainstream banks.  The ability of the leadership team to forge partnerships with like-minded financial institutions and investors will be pivotal, determining whether or not they will achieve their funding ambitions.

Responsible Finance reports that last year, Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) lent £73million to 383 social enterprises and £65million to 890 businesses, supporting 2,520 new organisations to get off the ground as a result.

It also reports that 94% of the established businesses receiving loans had been declined by another lender[2], which highlights the significance of this investment stream.

Unity Trust Bank supports CDFIs across the UK, including First Enterprise, which was set up to support ethnic minority communities after the Nottingham Riots in the 1980s and has gone on to help thousands of SMEs. First Enterprise supports business owners who face barriers to mainstream funding and over the past decade has lent £48m to more than 1,600 businesses in the East Midlands, safeguarding over 3,350 jobs.

In 2022, 43% of our lending was deployed to organisations based in high deprivation areas, ensuring our funding reached the communities that needed it most.

‘Bank of Dave’ highlights the benefits of helping those that are least able to secure access to the type of investment that can facilitate greater social mobility.

Today, thousands of community-led businesses are driving real social impact for millions of people across the UK.

Unity will continue to help fund this sector and provide support through our nationwide team of relationship managers. This way we can help social enterprises to continue to help people to write their own script and shape their own future.

To find out more about Unity Trust Bank, visit


Article first appeared in NACFB Commercial Broker magazine

[1] Social Enterprise UK:
[2] Responsible Finance Annual Industry Report 2022: