ESG Investment: 12 Funding Opportunities For Businesses, Startups And Social Innovators

By citiesabc news - Jun 14, 2020

Here are 12 Funding opportunities that all businesses, startups and social innovators should be checking out 

Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) investment is a critical term that is often used synonymously with modern sustainable investing. This type of investment is based on three central factors to measure the sustainability and ethical impact of an investment in a company or business. In a world struggling with structural challenges, ESGs investment can actually make a difference for good in the funding and investment industry worldwide.

Here we present 12 funding funding opportunities for social innovators according to Social Innovation Academy

World Bank Funding and Grants

While the World Bank works primarily with the governments of developing countries, there are a wide variety of grant funding sources for Civil Society organizations that work worldwide. Please be advised to visit the following Grant Programs websites:

- Japan Social Development Fund

- Global Partnership For Social Accountability

More information about the work of the World Bank with Civil Society here:

Global Innovation Fund

The Global Innovation Fund is a suitable funding opportunity for social innovators who aim to tackle social issues in the developing world and improve the lives of millions. The Fund’s approach to investing is that the best ideas for solving some of the world’s most critical problems can come from anyone, anywhere. We can fund innovations focused on any developing country and can invest in any sector relevant to international development where there is a commitment to improving the lives of those living on less than $5 a day’. So, how do they drive social impact? Well, The Global Innovation Fund is determined to support social innovators in all stages of investing, by offering loans (including convertible debt), grants and equity investments in a range of $50.000 to $15.000.000. Social innovators can request funding from the organization when working on critical projects that could bring a major social impact, because the Global Innovation Fund can back innovations with large scale. The funding is meant for ideas, projects, concepts that benefit the poor in developing countries. Interested?

The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation is one of the historic largest foundations worldwide and in the United States has a great legacy in global development philanthropy. Its stated mission is ‘promoting the well-being of humanity throughout the world’. The private foundation has given more than $14 billion in current dollars to individuals that worked on projects that address societal challenges. Social innovators striving for the foundation’s support need to have thoughts on the greater good and have something catalytic to offer, if they want to get a shot at getting their hands-on Rockefeller’s money. The foundation’s current work focuses on fields such as Global Health, Climate & Environment, Urbanization and Social and Economic Security, as well as Basic Survival Safeguards. Do you think that you could be eligible for funding? Here is the site where you can directly submit your proposal.

EIB Social Innovation Tournament

The European Investment Bank offers the Social Innovation Tournament that aims in support of Europe’s best social entrepreneurs. The tournament takes place in different countries each year and awards social entrepreneurs and innovators that come up with ideas and solutions, which have as a primary purpose to generate social, ethical or environmental impact. Every year 15 finalists are selected from hundreds of applicants across Europe working on education, health, environment, circular economy, inclusion, aging and environment. At the final event ‘all projects compete for the General Category and Special Category 1st and 2nd Prizes of EUR 50 000 and EUR 20 000 respectively. In 2018, the Special Category Prizes will go to projects focusing on sustainable development with special emphasis on circular economy.  Projects also compete for a residency at IRIS (Incubadora Regional de Inovação Social) and for numerous mentoring vouchers’. Are you ready to take up the challenge? Take note that you need to be familiar with the Rules and Key Dates & Deadlines for the applicants.

European Investment Bank

European Commission

‘The Commission promotes commercialisation and uptake of innovation through the Horizon 2020 programme and the European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF). With the budget of EUR 80 billion, Horizon 2020 will help bring innovative ideas to life. ESIF will dedicate around EUR 110 billion to innovation activities, ICT, small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) competitiveness’. In that aspect, social innovators can come up with ideas, concepts, projects or products that could lead to crucial social impact and alter the lives of millions. Individuals interested in finding funding opportunities for social innovators from European Commission programs have to submit their ideas based on specific programs. All you have to do is go to the online portal and find which program fits you best.

MIT IDE Inclusive Innovation Challenge

‘The Inclusive Innovation Challenge (IIC) is the flagship initiative of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy (IDE). In 2018, the IIC launched a global tournament (in five regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America and North America), and seek applications from early and growth stage start-ups, and entrepreneurial organizations that are 1) using technology to reinvent work and create economic opportunity for working people below the top rung of the economic ladder; 2) demonstrating traction and impact and enhancing shared prosperity today; 3) are beyond the “idea phase”. Any age, size, or type (for-profit or non-profit with plan for financial sustainability) is welcome to[i] apply. For more information check out the webpage application deadlines are varying in each region’.

The Young Foundation

The Young Foundation is a non-profit, non-governmental think tank based in the UK specialising in social innovation against structural inequality. The foundation is a leading centre for social innovation and it tackles societal challenges by creating new solutions through social enterprises, movements and campaigns. The organization states that «we work with entrepreneurs with a great social business idea that they can demonstrate works. The organisations we support typically meet the following criteria: focus on changing peoples’ lives for the better (i.e. prioritise positive social impact), target customer groups inadequately served by existing private or public provision, disrupt existing markets by introducing more innovative or lower cost products or services, operate a robust, sustainable business model, have the potential to grow and broaden their social impact (UK wide or Worldwide) ». Are you interested in keeping up with the organization’s mission? To find more about the pioneering social innovation and investment work you have to get in touch with  James Teasdale (Head of Venture Development).


Nesta is a global innovation foundation that has as a mission to ‘seek out, spark and shape powerful new ideas, joining with others to take on the big challenges of our time and shift how the world works for everyone’. The foundation is located in the United Kingdom but works globally and always with the form of partnerships. They bring together the ‘very big, such as national governments and global technology firms, with the grassroots, such as community groups and local activists, to make change happen’. The charity has supported many projects so far and found itself among many success stories. Nesta is an expert on social innovation initiatives, which means that a social innovator wanting to apply for its grants or collaborate with it, would benefit greatly from such cooperation. Interested in finding more about the foundation’s work, becoming a partner or seeking for funding?

Nesta Foundation

McConnell Foundation

The McConnell Foundation, which is a private Canadian foundation, works on developing innovative approaches to cultural, economic, social and environmental challenges. To address those challenges, it provides grants and investments for social innovation initiatives, such as capacity building, convening and co-creation with the grantees, partners and public. Its mission it to «engage Canadians in building a society that is inclusive, reconciled, sustainable and resilient—and that advances progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals». In order to deliver its mission McConnel Foundation created the Social Innovation Fund, which supports social innovators and social entrepreneurs to strengthen their capacities to become capable of scaling greater impact.

Gulbenkian Foundation

Gulbenkian Foundation approach to funding is that they do not accept unsolicited applications. This is because they do not fund projects or organisations reactively. Gulbenkian Foundation thinks of their approach as being ‘interactive’ rather than ‘reactive’ or ‘proactive’.

What they do - The UK Branch works programmatically, selecting a limited number of specific causes where we believe we can make a demonstrable difference.

Their approach is firstly to:

Undertake desk research and consult with relevant actors in civil society and beyond and they seek proposals on an open or restricted basis.

They use this work to identify potential partners. This then informs the organisations they work with to develop proposals which invariably involve working in coalition with others. This then becomes the work they fund.

Their parent body in Portugal gives grants in a number of different fields.

Crowdfunding Funding Opportunities

Crowdfunding has emerged in recent years as an important source for individuals, to raise grants and investments for the development of business ideas or new ventures. People interested in the method can use online platforms to pitch their ideas on a proposed project to an online audience. The most famous platforms to seek crowdfunding investments are Kickstarter and Indiegogo. These platforms allow backers (online audience) to contribute money in exchange for rewards. For social innovators, crowdfunding helps engage citizens in a conversation. In this way citizens are investing in their communities or in solutions for issues dear to their hearts. Interested in pitching your project for a social grant? Have in mind that some of the best platforms that promote initiatives for social good are Crowdrise,  Openideo and

Directory of Social Change

The Directory of Social Change produces a number of guides and directories for those seeking funding. DSC has helped make tens of thousands of charities stronger since their Maida Vale moment, and they continue to help people today.

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