Lisa Hilder

20 years and £20million for women in Hull

Staff and volunteers from the Preston Road Women’s Centre in Hull – also known locally as the Purple House and Winner – are today celebrating 20 years of offering services to women and children across Hull along with the incredible cumulative fundraising total of more than £20million brought into the city and into women’s services since it opened.

The first purpose-built women’s centre in the UK, the Purple House was opened in October 2018 with a design which enhances the organisation’s ability to support women effectively and grow services according to women’s needs

The building has a low environmental impact to minimise ongoing running costs and many different types of spaces to be able to support the different services available and operating from the premises.

This pioneering design and build is just one of the achievements of the organisation over the last twenty years – achievements which have included:

  • Establishing itself as a multi-purpose anchor organisation for the community on Preston Road
  • Working with the Local Authority to bring 56 Empty Homes back into use
  • Establishing a not for profit family law firm, Affordable Justice, in 2016, the first of its kind in the country
  • Offering more than 200 safe homes for women and children across the city
  • Offering the Safe as Houses scheme for private landlords to invest ethically and offer their properties for use by the women’s centre
  • Developing plans for new-build properties to house vulnerable women
  • Winning a range of national awards for the quality and innovation of its services
  • Developing innovative social investment products in partnership with Big Society Capital and Social and Sustainable Capital
  • Supporting Women’s Sector organisations all over the UK to develop their own services and sustainable ways of operating
  • Bringing more than £20million of external investment into the city to deliver services, create jobs and contribute to the economic wellbeing of Hull

Preston Road Women’s Centre plans to go from strength to strength in the coming years – continuing to expand its reach, its services and its staff numbers to promote opportunities for women locally and nationally and support them to change their lives for the better.

Posted by Lisa Hilder in News

Interested in housing women safely? This grant could be for you – read on

We have been working with Big Society Capital and a range of grant funders, including most recently the Clothworkers Foundation, the John Laing Trust and the Mercers  to support women’s sector organisations across the UK to become more financially and operationally sustainable.

If you are interested in a grant to help you explore or implement the establishment of a property portfolio housing vulnerable women and children including those fleeing violence and abuse, then this grant fund could be for you

Winner Catalytic Grant for Social Investment

Winner’s Catalytic Grant is for women’s organisations in England and Wales accessing social investment to lease/purchase properties to accommodate women. The Grant provides a mix of expert peer support and additional staffing for women’s organisations to develop their governance, confidence, strategy, and business plans for social investment.

With homelessness continuing to rise, there is an urgent need to accommodate women and children bearing the brunt of social and economic inequalities and household volatility.

The Winner Catalytic Grant is designed on feminist principles to support women’s organisations to access social investment to purchase properties so they can accommodate more women and children. So far, the Grant has been awarded to 16 grantees and over £19m subsequently awarded to  grantees to lease/purchase properties.

The Grant is open on a rolling basis with quarterly deadlines for grant applications. It is designed and led by Winner, which itself has purchased 155 properties and leased another 45 in Hull using social investment. It is funded by Clothworkers Foundation, the John Laing Charitable Trust and the Mercers Company. Applications are assessed by an expert independent all-women panel.

See below:

Who can apply?

The Winner Catalytic Grant is open to women’s organisations in England and Wales with a demonstrable commitment and experience of supporting vulnerable women. You do not currently have to deliver accommodation-based services. However, you will be asked to confirm your Trustees are in support of securing social investment for the purpose of leasing/purchasing properties.

A women’s organisation is defined as:

  • Led by women, or where the service is part of a larger organisation, the service is managed by a separate board led by women; the chair and vice chair of the board, the chief executive, senior managers and a majority of the trustees are women.

To date, successful grantees have varied in size from upwards of £170,000 annual income. Around four in every ten grantees have an annual income under £600,000.

What we fund

The Grant buys capacity and support for organisations to ready themselves for social investment funded property purchase / lease. Organisations can put in place additional internal capacity and call on consultancy support from Winner and partners Support Solutions and CERT Ltd. The support from Winner is spearheaded by Lisa Hilder, Winner’s Treasurer and the Grant’s originator.

Activity is focused on building confidence, knowledge, systems, governance and strategic commitment to make grantees ready for social investment and the subsequent responsibilities and risks of lease/purchasing properties and accommodating women.

Typical grant size is £30 000 to £40 000 in two stages,  firstly to assess feasibility and secondly to pay for capacity to make the plans operational

‘We literally hit the ground running and Winner was able to match our pace. Nothing was too much trouble. We did have a lot of questions. They always had the answer and was really good at guiding us to make decisions’ – grantee

As a peer women’s organisation who has gone through the process of social investment itself. Winner’s support helps grantees create focus, overcome internal hesitancy, and resolve emerging risks and questions. 100 percent of grantees rate Winner’s support “extremely” and “highly” relevant to their needs. Examples of support from Winner include:

  • Mentoring and ongoing communication
  • Presenting to Trustees and hosting visits to the Winner property portfolio
  • Templates and guidance to develop housing management systems (e.g. specifications for IT; job descriptions)
  • Introductions to trusted social investors

Aims and impact of the Grant

There Winner Catalytic Grant has three aims:

  • Increasing the availability of safe accommodation to women and children provided by specialist women’s organisations
  • Recapturing the autonomy of women’s organisations by empowering a shift to unrestricted, secure, and sustainable income, through social investment
  • Pioneering a model of feminist grant-making.

Grantees have used the Grant to ready themselves for social investment by:

  • Building internal skills and knowledge on social investment, and housing and tenancy management
  • Developing clear and ambitious strategies for property/lease purpose, and plans for housing and tenancy management
  • Developing detailed feasibility studies to present to social investors
  • Successfully securing informed commitment from Boards
  • Establishing new forums and legal entities to safeguard organisations from risk
  • Engaging and beginning talks with social investors.

To date there have been 16 grants approved which have/will support the purchase/lease of 228 safe homes for vulnerable women and kids

Case studies

Winner, which has pioneered this grant and the model of safe homes through social investment, has used a variety of investment approaches to purchase 155 properties in the last 15 years. The value of these properties was recently determined to be £15.9million with £6.4million owed against them – giving £9.5million worth of equity across the portfolio. This capital asset provides a firm financial foundation for the charity and its services.

Thrive Women’s Aid based in Port Talbot accessed this grant and as a result is in the process of purchasing around 20 properties as move on accommodation from refuge for women it looks after

Juno Women’s Aid has been awarded £4.8million through the Social and Sustainable Housing Fund to purchase 28 properties in Nottinghamshire as dispersed accommodation for women leaving refuge or unable to access refuge.

Daizybell Homes in Bradford accessed £3.8million worth of leased properties through the WISH Fund and is making a difference for 30 families in Bradford fleeing violence and abuse.

Feminist grant-making

‘It hasn’t felt at any time that Winner have come in and said “you need to do this.” It’s been collaborative, very open, and the sharing of staff. They have come back to us. When we’ve had difficulties around housing issues they’ve got a direct number to help chivvy us along. It’s felt comfortable, its felt collaborative. They really want to see us do this. You know how you sometimes get a bit of protectionism with partnership? Well, there’s been none of that. And we’ve laughed a lot’ – grantee

The Winner Catalytic Grant is a feminist grant (grantees themselves describe it that way). It rejects the normal funder paradigm of power and control, instead empowering grantees from the position of shared herstory and culture. The Grant aim is to empower women’s organisations, and we foster empowering relationships all the way through the process.

The Grant is shaped by Winner’s expertise from using social investment to create a portfolio of 195 properties in Hull. The Grant’s feminist, expert by experience approach is unique in social investment and pioneering amongst wider grant funders. The values of the Grant mirror those of the women’s organisations it funds: inclusive, patient, empowering, trust-based, and trauma-informed.

How to apply

‘a lot more informal. It was a very different approach. Lisa was very supportive in a way that most funders don’t have time for. To be able to meet her and feel confident before submission was really helpful’ – grantee

We keep the Grant process as simple as possible. Women’s organisations apply by submitting an application. Applications are assessed at quarterly meetings by our all-women grants panel. Each application is assessed on its own merit and not in competition with other organisations.

The application steps are as follows:

1: Informal conversations

Contact us for an informal chat to discuss your situation, your aims in investing in property, and to request an application form. This is also a chance to ask us questions. Contact us on

2: Submit application

Our application form is simple and straightforward. There is no deadline. The application questions cover:

  • Your current housing portfolio / housing management experience (not necessary)
  • Your future housing portfolio ambitions
  • Your understanding of level of need
  • What support and funding you want from the Grant
  • What impact you want to achieve through the Grant
  • Your governance structure.

3: Assessment

Applications are assessed quarterly by our independent all-women panel. We will let you know when this is.

4: Award and payment

We will inform you of the decision immediately. We will discuss first steps with you. Payment is made in advance.

Frequently asked questions

We have never owned any housing and don’t have experience of housing management, can we apply?


We aren’t sure if this is suitable for our organisation, can we speak to you?

Yes, we want to speak to everyone informally before applying. We’ll only encourage you to apply if you are suitable.

What are the key terms and conditions of the Grant?

Terms and conditions are standard as for most grants – the money ,must be spent on the purpose for which it is granted and must be identified in your annual accounts.

What is the payment schedule?

A Payment schedule will be agreed with you as part of the application process – tailored to your need and your grant.

If we’re successful, what happens next?

As part of the grant submission process we will work with you to understand what your needs are. After signing the grant agreement, we will begin working with you on the pre-agreed implementation of your project.

How is the Grant monitored?

We will ask you to provide a short report on the use and impact of the grant at the end of the first year and we will ask you to take part in our in-depth evaluation process each year. This will involve completion of a feedback survey and a one to one interview with our independent evaluator.

If we’re successful, what happens at the end of the Grant?

At the end of the grant we will have helped you to arrive at a decision as to whether social investment is right for your organisation and if that is the case we will have helped you embark on accessing the investment which you feel comfortable with. We will help you through the due diligence process with your social investor of choice and if you choose our midwife support we will help you through the first 2-3 years of your property acquisition and management journey.

Our Board are very afraid of risk: can the Grant fund early-stage explorations?

We want applicants whose Boards are serious about wanting to purchase properties and take on the responsibilities of property and tenant management which will follow property lease/purchase. However, most Boards are concerned about social investment because it feels like a new form of funding (even though lots of organisations have experience repaying other loans and mortgages).

This is why we want all applicants to speak with us informally first, so we can discuss your situation and whether this is the right time to apply for the Grant.

Can we come and visit you or have you speak to our Board?

You are welcome to come and visit us in Hull and understand our integrated service model, talk to our housing team and get a “hands-on” feel of how it all works. We are also happy to speak to your senior staff and Boards proper to grant application and through the investment due diligence process – to support in the way you would find helpful

What is social investment and who are social investors?

Social investment is repayable financing (e.g. loans) available to voluntary sector organisations, charities and social enterprises.

Social investors are the institutions who provide social finance. They get their money from private individuals, trusts and foundations, and other investors who want to fund social good, but are also seeking a financial return on their investments.

We recommend Good Finance to learn more about social investment and social investors.

Isn’t social investment anti-feminist?

Social investment can be criticised both for making returns on investing in social issues, and for being inaccessible to women’s organisations and Black and minoritised organisations.

These criticisms can sometimes be valid – in fact, we have experienced much of this first-hand. However, we are motivated by the fact that social investment is a rare opportunity to draw down large-scale funding to meet women’s needs, and to create permanent autonomous assets for the women’s sector.

We have worked hard over years to identify and build relationships with social investors who are accessible and collaborative with women’s organisations. We have invested time and energy in educating the social investment sector, and where social investors have fallen short, we have held them to account and where necessary, severed relationships.

We have also worked with Big Society Capital and a range of social investors to design funds which meet the needs of the voluntary and community sector and in particular the women’s sector. We co-created the Social and Sustainable Housing Fund, which has invested more than 25% of its funds into the domestic abuse sector and continues to support more women’s sector organisations to access investment. This amounts to more than £25million just from this one fund.

Social investment is a field with systemic problems. However, we are passionate about making it accessible and suitable for women’s organisations, despite these barriers, and will continue to advocate for change.



Posted by Lisa Hilder in About Us, Grants we offer, News, Services

Our response to Covid 19

In light of the current Covid-19 advice from the Government Purplehouse will continue to provide services, however most of this will be done over the phone. Please contact us on 01482 790310 we will take some details and may have to ring you back. If you have a support worker here please ring them on the mobile number they have provided to you. Alternately please use this link to use our automated contact service.

Posted by Lisa Hilder in News

Our national work


We have been working recently with Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC) and Big Society Capital to develop new ways of funding housing work for women fleeing violence and abuse

We co-produced a new loan finance product with SASC which helped us to draw down £2 million to buy 33 properties across the city of Hull which provide new homes for women rebuilding their lives after the trauma of violence and abuse. This product has been so successful that it has been taken up by other organisations around the country to help them in their work to provide housing for many different client groups.

You can read more about SASC’s work here

As well as developing new products with SASC, we have been working with Big Society Capital (a national provider of social investment funds) to advise on the development of their new Vulnerable Women’s Housing Fund, due to be launched later in 2019

Below is a video clip of our Treasurer Lisa Hilder, explaining a bit more about the women’s centre’s work and how we are contributing to addressing gender disadvantage locally and nationally

Posted by Lisa Hilder in News