IMPACT Awards 2022

Impact project/investment of the year - arts and culture: Nesta's Arts & Culture Impact Fund

The Arts & Culture Impact Fund is a £23 million ($28 million) social impact investment fund offering loans of between £150,000 and £1 million to help UK organisations in the arts, cultural and heritage sectors.

At the time of its launch in 2021, Arts & Culture Finance, a division of UK foundation Nesta, said it was believed to be the largest arts and culture social investment fund in the world.

It builds on the success of Nesta's previous impact fund, the Arts Impact Fund, which committed £8.8 million across 27 arts organisations in the UK between 2015 and 2018.

The new Arts & Culture Impact Fund has an expanded remit: it is open to impact-focused arts organisations of all sizes across the UK that are seeking finance, including heritage and creative industry organisations for the first time.

The fund was launched together with impact investor Big Society Capital, Arts Council England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Bank of America, Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and the Freelands Foundation.

In the period of eligibility for the IMPACT awards, the Arts & Culture Impact Fund awarded its first £1.2 million of investment across five organisations.

It is also expected that investees of the Arts & Culture Impact Fund will benefit from additional support around better measuring and articulating their social impact for both individuals and communities.

Fran SandersonFran Sanderson, director of arts & culture investments and programme at Nesta, commented: "We are delighted to receive this award in recognition of the hard work of the incredible Arts & Culture Finance team, and the sustained support of our family of stakeholders.

"Our work over the past seven years has established that the arts, culture and creative sector really benefits from a dedicated investor that is committed to developing the skills, networks and experience to drive an evolving understanding of its particular needs and features.

"This also benefits our investors because the knowledge and expertise of the team reduces risk. In addition, the funds have demonstrated the power of blended capital structures to support public, private and philanthropic money to drive greater impact by working together."

With its predecessor, the Arts Impact Fund, unsecured loans provided access to finance that may not be readily accessible via traditional routes, and was backed by a blend of public, private and charitable funders, all of whom committed additional capital to the Arts & Culture Impact Fund.

An example of the impact made by the Arts Impact Fund is Titchfield Festival Theatre, which took a loan from the fund in 2015 to renovate its theatre space.

In the years between drawing down the loan and its repayment, Titchfield Festival Theatre completed its renovation works, more than doubled its income, and grew the value of its fixed assets by more than 25% and its reserves by 20%.