BD Giving Notes #36 – “Reaching out to local businesses about the GROW Fund‘’

We have already started to adapt our outreach strategy to ensure that information about the GROW Fund is available in local community hubs, places of worship and local businesses on the high street.

On Monday 30 January 2023, we launched the GROW Fund. This blog is about how we reached local business owners to let them know about the unique opportunity.

GROW is a flagship new fund exclusively for businesses and not-for-profits in Barking and Dagenham. The fund includes a £25,000 grant, a free seven-month accelerator programme, and the chance to apply for further investment from some of London’s top social investors.

This project has been in the works for about two years. From its inception to the opening of applications, the fund has been designed by and for local people with a vision towards a more prosperous borough where the people affected by decisions get involved in making them’.  Decisions have been made by our Community Steering Group (CSG), using a participatory approach facilitated by our team and Curiosity Society and overseen by our Board of Trustees. 

What we set out to do

For the launch of the GROW Fund, we needed to reach entrepreneurs with a track record within Barking and Dagenham; i.e. a one-year presence in the borough, either through work or volunteering; and ideally, for social impact to be at the heart of their mission. They must have a strong desire and commitment to improving the lives of people in Barking & Dagenham. 

As a young, small charity, we knew reaching these people would pose a challenge as we are not a part of the local business community and they aren’t part of our existing network. We had to identify the businesses, introduce ourselves and the fund, and invite them to the launch.

… And what we did

We knew that 99.9% of the UK business population comprises SMEs (small and medium-sized businesses) – and we knew that Barking and Dagenham has one of the biggest small or micro business populations in London.

Our starting point was Companies House. We used it to identify SMEs in the borough and it gave us around 8,000 entries!

We filtered this list using the industry codes for 5 or 6 industries. We chose industries which we believed may benefit from the GROW Fund.  The Food sector, a burgeoning industry within the borough, particularly with the relocation of three historic food markets – Smithfield meat market, Billingsgate fish market, and New Spitalfields fruit market was one of our targets and we reached out to as many businesses within the sector as we could. However, it was also important to us that we reached out to other sectors such as Media, Arts and even Education given the fact that there is a new data centre in the borough, and there is the ongoing construction of what will be London’s largest film studio happening in the borough.

We then set out to retrieve contact details so we could let each business know about the GROW Fund.

What were some of the challenges to the desk research?

The size of the list was daunting. Even after filtering by industry code, there were 100-200 entries per industry code. We did not have the time or resources to reach everyone so after some tedious and unfruitful desk research, we decided to use a sampling method to garner a cross-section of businesses in Barking and Dagenham.

Nonetheless, we were still faced with the fact that many businesses in the borough do not have an online or digital presence. Some had social media accounts such as LinkedIn, but this didn’t help, as we wanted to keep most communications via email as it made it easier to track who we had reached out to and if they had checked our correspondence, and cross reference this with ticket orders on Eventbrite. It also helped to prevent us from sending the same content/messages to the same people. We did not want to give them email fatigue or end up in their spam inboxes.

This left us feeling as though we had not gotten very far at all, as mentioned earlier, it was a huge list with lots of businesses that did not have an online presence which was frustrating to us, we wanted everyone to know about the opportunity the fund was setting out to provide.


Despite our worries, over 90 people turned up to the launch. Many indicated they had heard about it through word of mouth (some from friends and family), which goes to show the importance of community outreach and informal networks in reaching out to people within the borough.

The event was buzzing. The crowd was engaged and energised. The space radiated positivity as guests participated in the various activities we had lined up. They interacted with our Community Steering Group, who have been at the heart of our community-led investment journey, and spoke passionately about their aspirations for the borough.

For more on the event itself check out this blog post.


While it may have seemed tedious, the research process helped us reach a variety of organisations and businesses in the borough. 

But there are still some parts of the process we’d like to improve on.

More face-to-face business outreach could have been even more effective in reaching out to local SMEs. For instance by going into the community and handing out fliers. We have already started to adapt our outreach strategy to ensure that information about the GROW Fund is available in local community hubs, places of worship and local businesses on the high street.

We’re also aware of the power of word-of-mouth communication so as we build the GROW Fund brand by investing in local people and local businesses, we hope to gain traction and build our reputation over time. 


We want people to know that the GROW Fund is for them- anyone in the borough who meets the eligibility criteria and that it is here to stay.

The eligibility criteria are also really easy and straightforward;

  • Attachment and at least one-year track record delivering work or activity in Barking and Dagenham
  • Aged 18 years or over
  • Annual turnover was below £300,000 last year
  • A commitment to at least 2 hours per week throughout a 7-month development programme, running from April – October 2023
  • An ambition to seek further development in the form of an investment

Do you have any suggestions that could help us reach an offline audience? We would also like you to share this information with your networks, and help us spread the word!

Thank you!

BD Giving Notes is a weekly blog aimed at sharing some thoughts on running a social infrastructure charity. Each post focuses on a couple of things we have learnt or done in the previous week; what’s gone well and what didn’t.

Want to know more about this?

More news

More notes