Skip to main content
Brought to you in partnership with Locality, Plunkett UK and Power to Change

Understanding a Maturing Community Shares Market Report 2020

Blog post

Isla McCulloch headshot
Written by
Isla McCulloch
27th October 2020
585 share offers by 440 businesses – social media graphic

Less than 10 years ago, community shares were almost unheard of. Yet since 2012, £155 million has been raised by 104,203 people supporting more than 440 vital businesses – an impressive 92% of which are still trading.

Today we publish new research which demonstrates the significant impact that community shares has had on businesses and communities across the UK. Understanding a maturing community shares market is the most comprehensive report ever published on the community shares sector – funded by Power to ChangeCommunity Shares Scotland.

The report finds:

  • Since 2012, £155m has been raised by 104,203 people to support more than 440 businesses.
  • 92% of businesses that have raised finance with community shares are still trading.
  • 85% of businesses say that running a share offer has had a positive impact on financial performance.
  • 80% of people invest in community share offers because of the wider social or environmental benefits of the organisation – less than 20% stated the prospect of financial returns as a reason for investing.
  • For every £1 invested in community shares, an additional £1.18 is leveraged through grants, loans and institutional investment.
Understanding a maturing community shares market

Our findings and recommendations

1. We found: Community shares create and sustain successful businesses. Community shares are a flexible and effective way to raise finance – benefiting businesses, investors and the wider community. 85% of businesses say that using community shares has had a positive impact on the their trading performance.

We recommend: More specialist support for communities. Those advising and supporting communities and business should do more to help people explore community shares and the wider co‑op option for achieving their goals. They should ensure communities have access to specialist advice and support to access and use community shares effectively.

2. We found: Community shares make investment accessible – giving people a stake and say in what matters to them. Investments in community share offers can be from as little as £10, with an average investment of £395. People invest in the businesses they care about; they receive a financial return and a stake in the business.

We recommend: More support for Community Shares Standards. To protect investors, governments and funders should support the community shares standards framework – an existing network of key organisations and licensed community shares practitioners. This network should consider ways to address barriers to using community shares.

3. We found: Community shares has significant potential to reduce inequalities and level up society. 80% of people invest in community share offers because of the wider social or environmental benefits of the organisation – and 78% have invested outside of their own locality. Therefore, community shares has the potential to be part of a much broader approach to levelling up society and tackling inequalities.

We recommend: More community‑led economic development. Communities in deprived areas, or addressing specific challenges, should be effectively supported to use community shares; to understand the scope; and to invite investment from further afield without compromising their mission or governance.

4. We found: Institutions, funders and governments play a key role in growing the community shares market. Community shares work best when part of a ‘blended’ approach for raising finance. For every £1 invested by an individual in a community share offer, at least £1.18 of additional funding has been leveraged through grants, loans and institutional investment.

We recommend: More institutional investment in community shares. Governments (national and local), funders and impact investors should channel more money into institutional investment in the community shares market.

The future of business? As high street giants fall, community shares help businesses thrive

Help raise awareness of community shares

What are community shares?

Community shares is a flexible and effective way to raise finance – benefiting businesses, investors and the wider community. An innovative, accessible investment model, community shares has become a popular approach to raising  finance. It is unique to co-operative and community benefit societies – businesses owned and run by local communities across the UK.

If you’re a co-operative or community benefit society – or have a new business or community project you think could utilise community shares – visit

About the report

The report was written by Isla McCulloch and Alice Wharton who manage the Community Shares Unit at Co-operatives UK.

We would like to acknowledge and thank the research funders Power to Change and Community Shares Scotland.

We would also like to thank our steering committee for their input and guidance throughout the research:

  • Naomi Sampson, Ged Devlin, Amelia Byrne – Power to Change
  • Morven Lyon, James Proctor – Community Shares Scotland (Development Trusts Association Scotland)
  • Simon Borkin – Associate, Co-operatives UK
  • Hugh Rolo – Locality
  • Jim Brown – Baker Brown Associates
  • Carly McCreesh, Claudia Limpert – Community Shares Wales (Wales Co-operative Centre)
  • Tiziana O’Hara – Co-operative Alternatives
  • Dave Boyle – The Community Shares Company (also representing
  • Josh Brewer – Ethex
  • Chris Buckham – Illuminity Ltd
  • Sarah Thelwall – MyCake
  • Hannah Barrett – Plunkett Foundation
Related content