Designing the NAB Impact Investment Readiness Fund (IIRF)
We strongly believe that Australia has the potential for a thriving impact investment sector, and the creation of the NAB Impact Investment Readiness Fund was a significant step towards realising that potential.
Melbourne – Australia
Most traditional not for profits and charities do not have business models that allow them to take on investment – money they have to pay back.
The gap in the market between organisations in need of funding, and investors actively seeking impact investment opportunities, is widely recognised. The Federal Government has previously attempted to address it through the establishment of the Social Enterprise Development and Investment Funds (SEDIF) which have highlighted the lack of capacity within organisations to meet the requirements of investment capital.
After reviewing the progress made by the UK’s Investment and Contract Readiness Fund (ICRF) Bessi advocated for an Impact Investment Readiness Fund in Australia for many years before we successfully managed to play an instrumental role in its establishment.
In 2014 NAB partnered with us and placed the first $1m into a catalytic grant fund seeking to leverage small amounts of grant funding for targeted capacity building that would enable enterprises to take on investment.
Bessi collaborated with NAB, Impact Investing Australia and other experts to design the NAB IIRF. The design was also informed by our work with social enterprises, impact investors, government and philanthropy in Australia, and our engagement with impact investment/investment readiness sectors in the US, Canada and the UK.
Research on other grant programs and the ICRF in the UK informed the Scenario Modelling used to identify the size of the grants and the framing of Payment by Outcomes to incentivise the right behaviour.
By integrating the perspectives of multiple stakeholders and incorporating the needs of the recipients we were able to uniquely design the NAB IIRF to:
- Help unlock, not only the potential of SEDIF, but also the broader growing interest in the field of impact investment from a range of potential investors
- Deliver solid outcomes that saw significant leverage of any catalytic grant capital distributed
- Take a Payment by Outcomes approach in order to provide the greatest potential for organisations to successfully access investment capital and ensure the funds available were used in the most efficient and effective way
- Incentivise Providers by prioritising their ability to successfully navigate an organisation to its targeted investment
- Intentionally focus on a broad range of organisations – we believe that a business with a social or environmental mission at the core of what it does can help solve some of society’s most complex problems, regardless of its legal structure
- Bring clarity to an organisations’ business model that needed assistance, by providing necessary funding to cover capacity building costs
- Attract funding from both Government and Philanthropy
In 2017 the NAB IIRF was renamed the Impact Investment Ready Growth Grant and in 2018 the Department of Social Services (DSS) made the decision to have their newly established $7m Australian Government Sector Readiness Fund (SRF) administered by Impact Investing Australia through an updated version of the IIA Impact Investment Ready Growth Grant.
While similar funds existed in other countries, this was the first time a fund of this nature had been initiated by a financial institution rather than by government or philanthropy. We saw this as a strong demonstration of the demand for impact investment opportunities in Australia, and an excellent indicator of the potential for successfully funding investable enterprises once their capacity was fully developed.
Along with other major players in the sector we were part of a strong push for SRF to become part of IIRF, rather than the establishment of a competing fund. For Bessi and the team at Benefit Capital this was an amazing moment of seeing the vision of the original design come to life fully through a merging of private sector and government catalytic funding.