Call for expressions of interest to become a social finance wholesaler under the Social Finance Fund: Closed
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Current status: Closed
Learn more about other funding opportunities
You can apply to this call for expressions of interest (EOI) between August 12, 2021 and September 29, 2021 at 3:00 pm Eastern time.
About the program
The Government of Canada is seeking 1 or more social finance wholesalers to implement the Social Finance Fund (SFF). Through the SFF, social finance wholesalers will have access to up to $682.5 million over 10 fiscal years (2021 to 2030) in conditionally repayable and non-repayable contributions. Wholesalers will use the funding to accelerate the growth of Canada’s social finance market over 16 fiscal years (2021 to 2036). The SFF is a foundational element of Canada’s Social Innovation and Social Finance Strategy, which also includes the Investment Readiness Program. The SFF has been designed with a social equity lens to ensure diversity and inclusion considerations are central to the fund’s management, investments, and impacts.
Social finance wholesalers are investment managers that invest in social finance intermediaries that, in turn, reinvest into social purpose organizations. Wholesalers will increase the availability of flexible, affordable, and patient capital for social purpose organizations (including charities, non-profit organizations, and for-profit organizations). Social purpose organizations play a critical role in tackling the socio-economic and environmental problems facing communities, and are essential partners in helping Canada work towards achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
Description of the funding
The SFF will make funding available using up-front multi-year contribution agreements. The total funding available under the SFF is $682.5 million over 10 fiscal years (2021 to 2030). Funding may be used to support ongoing investment activity until March 31, 2037, at which time all applicable repayments must be made to the Government of Canada.
Note: Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) will select 1 or more wholesaler(s). Successful applicants may be allocated less than the full amount of funding requested in their proposal.
The table below presents the annual availability of funds in each fiscal year for 2021 to 2025. Organizations must apply for a minimum of $50 million, up to a maximum of $400 million over the first 5 fiscal years.
An additional $282.5 million is available for 2026 to 2030. Organizations may apply for a minimum of $25 million and up to a maximum of $282.5 million over these 5 fiscal years, and may propose an annual allocation of funds of their choosing. For years 2026 to 2030, organizations can propose an allocation of funds of less than 5 fiscal years. For example, organizations may request funds for only 2026 and 2027.
Organizations must either apply for a minimum of $50 million over the first 5 fiscal years of the program, or a minimum of $75 million over the first 10 fiscal years of the program, as outlined above.
There are 2 categories of funds under the SFF: conditionally repayable contributions, and non-repayable contributions. Applicants may apply for 100% conditionally repayable funds, or a combination of conditionally repayable and up to a maximum of 10% non-repayable funds. Applicants must indicate the proportion of conditionally repayable and non-repayable funds they are seeking. For example, if you are seeking $250 million in total funding, you could request up to $25 million in non-repayable funds alongside $225 million of conditionally repayable funds.
Conditionally repayable funds
The majority of funds will be disbursed on a conditionally repayable basis. Repayable funds are to be used for social finance investments and costs related to administration and management of those investments. Repayable funds may also be used to secure additional capital to leverage into the Canadian social finance market (for example, by providing de-risking incentives for private investors).
Agreements between ESDC and successful applicants will establish the conditions for repayment. Recipients will be required to make all applicable repayments from investment proceeds no later than March 31, 2037. Private investors may receive a larger proportion of proceeds than the Government if this supports the objective of leveraging private investment into Canada’s social finance market.
Costs associated with managing social finance investment activity (management fees) will be paid on an annual basis out of the repayable portion of funds. The basis of calculation for annual management fees will be determined in the funding agreement based on the applicant’s proposal. If the wholesaler has attracted private investment into its fund, the private investors will share in the payment of management costs with respect to their relative contribution.
Organizations may propose performance incentive structures to support the achievement of the SFF’s objectives, including:
- an incentive applied to financial performance (such as, achievement of a target investment return)
- an incentive applied to non-financial performance (such as, achievement of the SFF’s program objectives)
ESDC will only consider performance incentives where there is a strong and clear rationale supporting the need for a financial incentive to achieve the given objective, and where measurement of performance against the objective can be fully and objectively assessed. The value of performance incentives must be proposed at the minimum level necessary to achieve the given performance target.
All performance incentives would be paid via deduction from proceeds otherwise to be repaid to the Receiver General of Canada.
Organizations may propose to use a small portion of funds on a non-repayable basis for activities that broaden the reach of investments undertaken with repayable funds, support the SFF’s objectives, and increase meaningful participation in the market by equity-deserving groups. This may take the form of blended finance or other market building activities. For example, non-repayable funds may be used to:
- reduce the cost of capital for social finance intermediaries and/or social purpose organizations (for example, subsidies to cover transaction costs, interest rate buy-downs)
- build the capacity of social finance intermediaries and/or social purpose organizations receiving SFF funding (where such activities are beyond the normal scope of technical and management support provided by an active investor)
- increase awareness of, and demand for, repayable investment from the SFF
- research, collect data, and measure impact to inform the use of non-repayable contributions towards achieving the objectives of the SFF
Costs associated with the management and administration of blended finance and other market building activities will be paid on an annual basis out of the non-repayable portion of funds.
The objectives of the SFF are to:
- support the development of existing and emerging social finance intermediaries
- extend the reach of social finance to underserved Canadian populations, sectors and regions, including rural communities and the North
- enable the sustainable growth of diverse social purpose organizations
- advance Canada’s progress towards the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals
To meet these objectives, wholesalers will:
- leverage new private investment to co-invest in social finance intermediaries and/or to invest in the proposed wholesaler fund towards the target of leveraging a minimum of $2 of private investment for each $1 of SFF contribution
- support existing and emerging social finance intermediaries with affordable and flexible financing as well as technical and management expertise
- work with social finance intermediaries to ensure diverse social purpose organizations can access affordable and flexible financing as well as technical and management expertise
- incorporate a social equity lens in the process of investment decision-making to ensure the full inclusion of equity-deserving groups
- contribute to the SFF’s goal of a minimum of $100 million dedicated to investments in gender equality
- work with social finance intermediaries and social purpose organizations to implement robust impact measurement and management approaches to ensure investments contribute to measurable social and environmental impacts
Social equity lens
The SFF aims to address systemic biases and inequities historically present in financial systems and investment decisions. Wholesalers will be required to incorporate a social equity lens to ensure diversity and inclusion considerations are incorporated into decision-making processes, so as to benefit equity-deserving groups that face barriers to economic inclusion and lack access to capital. Equity-deserving groups include, among others:
- Indigenous peoples
- low-income people
- Black and racialized peoples
- people with disabilities
- LGBTQ2+ communities
- official language minority communities
- recent immigrants and refugees
As part of its focus on investing in a feminist future, the Government of Canada has committed to allocating a minimum of $100 million of SFF funding to investments in gender equality.
Impact measurement and management
Impact measurement and management is important for ensuring that social finance investments generate social and/or environmental impacts alongside financial returns. The SFF aims to support and strengthen impact measurement and management practices within the social finance market. Wholesalers will be expected to work with social finance intermediaries and social purpose organizations to make clear the impact goals of their investments, to use evidence and impact data in investment decisions, and to manage the impact performance of investments.
ESDC will work with selected wholesalers to establish a flexible reporting framework to monitor financial performance, social and environmental impact performance, and the achievement of the SFF’s objectives. This framework will establish a core data standard to align data collection and sharing between social purpose organizations, social finance intermediaries, and wholesalers. Data collection requirements will be established through investment agreements between wholesalers and social finance intermediaries, and between those social finance intermediaries and social purpose organizations. ESDC will review and analyze the data collected through wholesalers’ reports to track and evaluate progress towards the achievement of program objectives.
Note: The impact data standard will be finalized following the signing of funding agreements.
The following entities can apply to be a SFF wholesaler:
- investment funds/funding vehicles
- for-profit organizations
- not-for-profit organizations
Organizations are permitted to apply in consortia arrangements to combine multiple expertise and resources to achieve the objectives of the SFF. Consortia arrangements may include joint ventures, legal partnerships or other formal arrangements.
For applicants proposing a consortium arrangement, all participating organizations/entities must be identified in the EOI. Newly-formed consortia are permitted to apply.
Organizations may only be involved in 1 application, whether as a single applicant or as a member of a consortium. At least 1 partner in any consortium must be legally registered in Canada.
Note: For the purpose of this Call for EOI, the following types of applicants are not eligible:
- provincial or territorial governments, institutions, agencies and Crown Corporations
- municipal governments
Organizations located and/or proposing to invest in Quebec
Please consult the Act respecting the Ministère du Conseil exécutif (RLRQ, chapter M-30). As per the Act, any wholesaler proposing to invest in Quebec public agencies or in social finance intermediaries that themselves invest in Quebec public agencies, as defined in law, will require additional authorizations from the Government of Quebec. ESDC commits to working with the Province and selected wholesalers who intend to invest in Quebec to secure such authorizations, but cannot guarantee the outcome or timing of the Government of Quebec’s decision.
The applicant guide includes specific instructions for organizations proposing to invest in Quebec. These additional instructions reflect the unique nature and mature state of the province’s social finance ecosystem, which has benefited from a series of action plans and investments by the Government of Quebec (see social economy and solidarity finance).
Your proposed investment strategy must meet the following criteria:
- proposed investment model meets the definition of a social finance wholesaler and must be based in Canada
- proposed investment approach meets the definition of social finance investments
- proposed investment approach demonstrates incorporation of a social equity lens
- all fund investments must be made in Canadian-based social finance intermediaries
- all direct investments into social purpose organizations or social finance projects, if applicable, must be made in Canadian-based organizations/projects
- organizations must apply for a minimum of $50 million and a maximum of $400 million over the first 5 fiscal years of the program
- all applicable repayments must be made to the Government of Canada no later than March 31, 2037
Note: For the purpose of this Call for EOI, investments in publicly traded securities, commodities, financial derivatives and cryptocurrencies are not eligible.
How we assess your proposal
This Call for EOI is the first step in a process to select a small number of social finance wholesalers.
The purpose of this Call for EOI is to collect proposals from interested and eligible organizations (or consortia of organizations) to act as a social finance wholesaler to achieve the objectives of the SFF. ESDC will select a single wholesaler or a complementary portfolio of up to 5 wholesalers that can, collectively, attract new private investment into the social finance market and cover a broad range of asset classes, sectors, and regions.
Note: Not all EOI applications submitted under this process will be screened in to proceed to the next step of the process, and not all applicants screened in will receive funding. Funding will not be provided on the basis of this first step. Decisions are final and there is no appeal process.
Read and follow the applicant guide to complete your EOI form. The guide includes details for each question of the form.
If your organization and proposal is eligible, we will assess it as follows:
Proposed investment strategy
Refer to questions 39, 40, 41, 45, and 46 of the applicant guide.
Your proposal must demonstrate that your vision and proposed investment strategy align with the objectives of the SFF. We will assess your investment strategy based on the extent to which:
- you demonstrate a clear understanding of the current context and future opportunities in the asset classes, sectors and regions in which you propose to invest
- your key financial and non-financial goals are well-defined and you provide evidence to support the likelihood of successfully achieving the stated goals:
- your financial and impact objectives are supported with thoughtful analysis and evidence
- your proposed investment decision-making processes clearly articulate how non-financial objectives will be considered alongside financial criteria when selecting and managing investments
- your proposed investment approach strongly demonstrates how you will increase access to social finance for intermediaries and social purpose organizations serving or led by equity deserving groups
- any assumptions made are realistic and achievable when compared to the organization’s past experience and other supporting benchmarks
- you provide a clear framework for risk identification and mitigation
- you provide information on your experience in investment management that demonstrates the capacity and expertise needed to deliver on your proposed investment strategy
- you provide evidence that supports the need for SFF funds to grow the targeted segments of the social finance market:
- evidence supports the need to de-risk investment opportunities to attract new investment from private investors
- evidence supports the need for investment in the targeted segments of the market on more patient, flexible or affordable terms than would otherwise be available
- you clearly describe how you would de-risk private investor capital using SFF contributions to meet the needs of the targeted segments of the market
(Optional) If you are proposing to invest in Quebec, you have clearly described how your proposed investment strategy would complement existing social finance activity in the province. This should include how your proposed investments will support the long-term growth and sustainability of the social economy ecosystem.
(Optional) If you are proposing other market building activities, the objectives of these activities are well-defined and evidence is provided that demonstrates how these activities support the proposed investment vision and strategy, and contribute to the SFF’s objectives.
Refer to questions 34, 43, and 44 of the applicant guide.
Your proposal must demonstrate that your organization (whether individually or in consortium) has the capacity and expertise necessary to execute the proposed investment strategy. We will assess your capacity based on the extent to which:
- your organization’s current mandate and key areas of activity are relevant to your proposed investment strategy
- your organization’s past experience is recent and relevant
- your proposal demonstrates strong oversight through the planned governance framework and structure of the wholesaler
- your planned human resources structure demonstrates the appropriate expertise is or will be in place
- your proposed financial model is coherent, competitive, and demonstrates appropriate financial management capacity
Impact measurement and management plan
Refer to question 42 of the applicant guide.
Your proposal must demonstrate a comprehensive impact measurement and management approach. We will assess your approach based on the extent to which:
- you clearly identify the Sustainable Development Goal(s) and specific types of impacts you intend to contribute to through your investment strategy
- you clearly identify the knowledge, processes, tools, technology, and resources needed to track and report impacts. This includes tracking of the Government’s target for a minimum of $100 million in gender equality investments and tracking of other social equity lens investments
- you demonstrate consideration for the role social purpose organizations and social finance intermediaries must play in impact measurement and management, including identifying, measuring, managing and reporting impacts up to the wholesaler
- your proposed approach demonstrates alignment with recognized standards, frameworks and principles (for example, the Impact Management Project, the Common Approach to Impact Measurement and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals)
Note: ESDC does not expect proposals to include fully developed impact measurement frameworks for this EOI. Further details (for example, detailed indicators and targets) will be required at a later stage. ESDC will work with selected wholesalers to align their proposed approach with an impact data standard to be finalized within 12 months after signing funding agreements.
Social equity approach
Refer to questions 39 and 41 of the applicant guide.
Your proposal must demonstrate a strong understanding of social equity and a comprehensive approach to strengthen the use of a social equity lens in alignment with the objectives of the SFF. We will assess your social equity approach based on the extent to which:
- you demonstrate knowledge of market gaps and barriers to accessing financing for equity-deserving groups in the context of social finance
- you demonstrate that social equity considerations have been incorporated in the investment strategy and will be reflected in investment decision-making processes, the planned reach of investments, investment terms, and impacts for equity-deserving groups
- you demonstrate that social equity considerations have been incorporated in the governance and operational plan, including representation and meaningful participation by a diverse range of investment decision-makers (such as the inclusion of members of equity-deserving groups in decision-making roles)
Steps to apply
Gather your supporting documents and information
- Audited financial statements for the 2 most recent years available
- Copies of annual and quarterly financial reporting for most recent year available
- A document including any wiring diagrams, figures, tables, continuation of responses that exceed the space allowable in the form (up to the maximum page count indicated in the applicant guide), or other supporting information
- Letters of concurrence from partner organizations (if proposing a consortium arrangement)
Apply by email
- Read the applicant guide to complete your application form. This guide includes details for each question of the form
- Complete the application form
- Send your complete application package before September 29, 2021 at 3:00 pm Eastern time by email to:
After you’ve applied
After you have applied, you will receive a confirmation of receipt of your application within 72 business hours. We will use the email address provided in your application.
You will be notified of whether your application has been retained following assessment of EOI applications. ESDC will invite highest scoring applicants for an oral presentation and interview. ESDC may request additional information and documents, including references, to support the review process. Successful applicants, with whom ESDC intends to enter into a funding agreement, will then be invited to develop and submit a comprehensive plan to act as a social finance wholesaler.
Additional detail on the subsequent steps will be provided to the organizations selected to proceed.
If you have any enquiries about this process, please send them by email to EDSC.FFS-SFF.ESDC@servicecanada.gc.ca.
Information sessions regarding this Call for EOI were held on July 27, 2021 (in English) and July 28, 2021 (in French). Copies of the presentation are available upon request. If you would like copies, please send a request by email to EDSC.FFS-SFF.ESDC@servicecanada.gc.ca.
If you would like to be added to a mailing list for future information about the Social Finance Fund, please indicate so in your email.
Use of non-repayable contributions alongside repayable contributions for investments to broaden their reach into segments of the market that could not otherwise be reached (for example, due to high perception of risk by private investors).
Conditionally repayable contributions
Contributions, all or part of which are repayable if conditions specified in the funding agreement come into being. More information can be found under Appendix G of the Directive on Transfer Payments.
A monetary payment made to a third party. A contribution is subject to performance conditions specified in a funding agreement. A contribution is to be accounted for and is subject to audit.
An agreed upon format for the structure, components, and definitions of data to be collected and transmitted to allow for aggregation and portfolio-level analysis.
The Government of Canada’s fiscal year runs from April 1 to March 31.
Refers to a broad range of entities that use a defined investment strategy to allow investors to contribute capital and generate financial and, for the purpose of the SFF, social and/or environmental returns.
Impact measurement and management
Impact measurement and management includes identifying and considering the positive and negative outcomes of interventions on people and planet. Organizations plan their intended impacts, use performance measures, collect useful information, gauge performance and impact, and report on results. Impact measurement & management is iterative by nature.
Investment in gender equality
The definition of an investment in gender equality will be finalized in partnership with selected wholesalers, building upon existing definitions of gender lens investing in use in the social finance sector and considering intersectionality (for example, age, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, ability, education, language, regional disparities, immigrant status, sexual orientation, et cetera). For the purposes of this Call for EOI, “investments in gender equality” may broadly refer to capital directed towards:
- social purpose organizations that are majority-owned or led by women
- social purpose organizations aiming to become more gender inclusive; in other words, that promote workplace equity through gender-related policies on equal compensation, career progression or other employment-related topics
- social purpose organizations that offer products or services aiming to address the root causes of social issues affecting the quality of life and/or diverse needs of women and girls
The use of the word ‘gender’ in this EOI refers to the socially constructed roles and relationships, personality traits, attitudes, behaviors, values, relative power and influence that society considers appropriate for men and women on a differential basis. Gender equality refers to the equal rights, responsibilities and opportunities of people of all genders.
Additional investment attracted to the social finance market through a wholesaler’s investment strategy. Leveraged investment increases the amount of capital available to social purpose organizations. Sources of additional investment can include but are not limited to endowment funds, foundations, private and public pension funds, family offices and other institutional, accredited or retail investors. Leveraged investment can be at the wholesaler, intermediary, or deal level(s).
A form of contribution not subject to repayment.
Sources of private investment can include but are not limited to endowment funds, foundations, pension funds, family offices and other institutional, accredited or retail investors. For the purposes of this Call for EOI, “private investors” excludes Crown financial institutions.
A form of contribution, all or part of which is subject to repayment. Funding agreements for repayable contributions establish the conditions that determine whether repayment is to be made and the amount to be repaid.
Social economy and solidarity finance
In Quebec, the social economy encompasses all economic activities with a social purpose carried out by enterprises that are operated in accordance with a set of key principles defined in law, including, among other principles set out in the Social Economy Act: the advancement of a purpose to serve members or the community, rather than to generate profit; democratic governance by members; and independence from government. Organizations operating in this field are known as social economy enterprises and may include co-operatives, mutuals and not-for-profit organizations (but not other types of for-profit corporations).
Solidarity finance refers to investment in the social economy, either through co-operatives, non-profit organizations, mutuals, or community trusts. This kind of investment is made with the goal of generating sustainable socio-economic or community economic development. Solidarity finance instruments bring together diverse community actors, and can take many forms, including guaranteed and non-guaranteed loans as well as patient capital.
Social equity lens
Incorporation of a gender, diversity and inclusion analysis into processes and decision-making, including consideration of intersectionality. A social equity lens will be incorporated into all elements of the SFF’s design and delivery to encourage processes and decisions that remove barriers, address systematic bias, and promote equal opportunity for all.
Social equity lens investment
The definition of a social equity lens investment will be finalized in partnership with selected wholesalers, building upon existing definitions in use in the social finance sector. ESDC may also work in partnership with the selected wholesalers to further strengthen the use of a social equity lens in alignment with the objectives of the SFF. For the purposes of this Call for EOI, “social equity lens investments” may broadly refer to capital directed towards:
- social purpose organizations that are majority owned or led (more than 50%) by equity-deserving groups
- social purpose organizations that promote workplace equity (in other words, have processes in place to address structural disparities and constraints around the leadership of equity-deserving groups, such as the existence/development and implementation of policies around compensation, career progression, et cetera)
- social purpose organizations that offer products or services aiming to address the root causes of social issues and the diverse needs of equity-deserving groups (for example, a project that educates and engages boys and men to prevent violence against women)
Social finance intermediary
Financial entities (for example, community loan funds, venture capital funds, housing funds, credit unions) that raise money from investors to make social finance investments.
Social finance investment
Investments made for the purpose of generating social and/or environmental impacts alongside financial returns. A social finance investment may be made into a) a social purpose organization or b) a project that has a clearly articulated social and/or environmental purpose. An impact measurement and management framework should be in place to support social finance investments and ensure intended impacts are achieved.
Social finance wholesaler
Investment managers that invest primarily in social finance intermediaries, rather than directly in social purpose organizations or securities. In limited cases, wholesalers may invest directly in social purpose organizations or projects if investment cannot be raised from an intermediary. This may occur if the organization or project operates in a region not served by any social finance intermediaries, or if the size of investment needed is too large for any intermediary to serve.
Wholesalers play a key role in attracting new investors to the social finance market, whether by fundraising to leverage investment directly into their pool of capital, or by investing on terms that will enable social finance intermediaries to draw other investors into their fund or to invest alongside them in SPOs or projects.
Social purpose organization
An organization dedicated to a clearly articulated social or environmental purpose. To be considered social or environmental, an organization’s purpose must aim to deliver positive outcomes in an area related to the well-being of individuals and communities, including, but not limited to:
- the prevention or relief of poverty
- the promotion of economic opportunity, beyond the creation of jobs in the normal course of business
- the preservation of the natural environment and/or climate action
- support for civic engagement and participation
- the advancement of the arts, sports, sciences, education or knowledge
- the delivery of supports to individuals in vulnerable situations
An organization’s purpose is not considered social or environmental if that purpose is primarily oriented toward conferring private benefits to its owners, members or to other individuals who are not in a vulnerable situation, except in cases where the organization can demonstrate that its activities are also of benefit to the wider community.
A social purpose organization is autonomous from government unless that government is an Indigenous government. A social purpose organization may be a registered charity, a non-profit organization, a non-profit co-operative, a for-profit co-operative, a hybrid corporation or a for-profit business.
Up-front multi-year contribution agreements
A form of contribution where funding is payable to a recipient to meet expenditures for more than 1 year. More information can be found under Appendix H of the Directive on Transfer Payments.
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