About Us

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 info@purplehouse.co.uk

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.



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Our History

In December 1999 a group of women got together to put a bid forward for some funding for the women of Preston Road Estate. This project became known as WINNER which stands for: Women Improving Now Not Ever Retreating. The bid was successful and delivered evidence based research to prove the need for a women-only space on Preston Road.

Whilst the research was happening, women were invited to come along to drop-ins to socialise and make their views known. By January 2000, Women were accessing WINNER regularly and were asking for activities and courses.

Later on that year, Preston Road Neighbourhood Development Company came into being and received £55 million to regenerate the Preston Road area.

The research undertaken by Winner formed the basis of a successful bid to launch a women’s project for the estate and at this point the services began to take shape.

First to appear was a range of accredited courses for women, closely followed by a specialist domestic violence and abuse service, a specialist sexual health service and then an outreach support service, helping women isolated in their own homes.

The one room which originally housed these services soon became far too small and work began to identify suitable larger premises. Hull City Council kindly gifted two properties on the front of Preston Road which were remodeled and repainted in Women’s Suffrage colours (green, purple and white) to create Preston Road Women’s Centre, which opened in January 2002.

In February 2004, the centre became a company limited by guarantee and in November of the same year was registered as a charity.

As a successful independent offshoot of the Preston Road Regeneration programme, the organisation formed partnerships with other delivery organisations and funders to offer facilities and services according to local women’s expressed needs.

In the last ten years, many thousands of women have benefitted from the courses, services, support and safety offered by the women’s centre and have gone on to achieve great things. It is the determination and dedication of women in those early days, overcoming many barriers and obstacles, that has enabled local women to benefit for more than a decade.

Winner, the Preston Road Women’s Centre is led and owned by the women of Preston Road. It continues to go from strength to strength, despite the current challenging economic climate, as a result of the vision, compassion and commitment of all the women involved.

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If you would like to find out more about us you can access information on our page on the Charity Commission website here. You will be able to see our Annual Reviews and Annual Accounts as well as information on our compliance with regulation.

Over the years, we have also participated in a number of research projects, including those listed below

Breakthrough research – in conjunction with Hull University and  Hull Women’s Network Ltd

breakthrough logo

Pdf documents detailing the research can be downloaded from these links:

Breakthrough Research document 1

Breakthrough Research document 2

Breakthrough Research document 3

Breakthrough Research document 4

Breakthrough Research document 5

The aim of the ‘Breakthrough’ Research Project was to explore women’s life histories and experiences specifically in relation to education and employment trajectories throughout the Yorkshire and Humber Region. The project ran from April 2006 until December 2007 and was funded by the European Social Fund, The Learning and Skills Council and Hull Women’s Network.

Although it is generally acknowledged that women face barriers and challenges leading to inequalities at all levels in our society, the underlying causes of these are more difficult to agree upon. This research provides a qualitative focus on women’s voices and experiences, contributing to the future planning, policy and delivery of services for women in the region.

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Surviving and thriving in the Women’s sector

One of our Trustees, Lisa Hilder is undertaking some research into longer term funding mechanisms for ferminist women’s organisations in the voluntary and community sector.

Based on the work at Preston Road Women’s Centre over the last fifteen years and experience of generating income through grants, contracts and social investment, this research will focus on the opportunities and barriers for women’s organisations to become more financially resilient.

Many organisations are trapped in the hamster wheel of short term revenue funding through grants and contracts and beholden to commissioners and funders with differing levels of understanding in relation to women’s needs and the feminist agenda. Generating self finance means women’s organisations can maintain an independent voice and be responsive to emerging needs presented by women who walk through the door of local services.

A key part of the research will be to produce a toolkit for women’s organisations to use to start to generate their own funds – this toolkit will be available to any organisation taking part. The toolkit will be available early in 2019.

Click here to download an extract of the research proposal

The data collection phase of the  research has now finished and the interim findings are available to look at below in the research participants brochure and the presentations from the day. If you or your organisation are interested in finding out more, please e-mail us on info@purplehouse.co.uk

Research participants Brochure

Surviving and Thriving feedback

HWN Presentation – 16 Nov. 2018

Lately, as a result of the profile of this work, Lisa has been speaking with Big Society Capital about the women’s centre, and about a feminist approach to women’s services.

Have a look at the video interview here

Below you can see women from the organisations who took part in the Surviving and Thriving research coming together to hear about the findings and talk about working together to build financial resilience for women’s services.

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Quality through and through

At Winner we take the quality of our services and the way we operate very seriously. This quality has been recognised in many ways, some of which are below:

Leading Lights

SafeLives Leading Lights status is the mark of quality for domestic abuse services and is increasingly being recognised by commissioners and funders across the UK.

The Leading Lights accreditation programme offers services, partner agencies and commissioners a set of standards for supporting victims of domestic abuse. The programme was launched in 2009 and many services have been offered coaching, workshops and assessment since that time, with over 40 gaining accreditation.

Investors in People

Since 1991 Investors in People has set the standard for better people management. This internationally recognised accreditation is held by more than 15,000 organisations in 75 countries across the world. The Standard defines what it takes to lead, support and manage people well for sustainable results. Based on 25 years of leading practice, the Investors in People Standard is underpinned by a rigorous assessment methodology and a framework which reflects the very latest workplace trends, essential skills and effective structures required to outperform in any industry.

Investing in Children

At the women’s centre, we work with CHildren and Young People in an empowering way, promoting and respecting their rights and their dignity. As a result of this we have attained the Investing in Children quality mark which recognises services that value children and work to help them achieve their full potential

Investing in Volunteers

Investing in Volunteers is the UK quality standard for all organisations which involve volunteers in their work

Over 800 organisations have achieved this quality accreditation throughout the UK, ranging from small community groups that are totally volunteer-led to large national multi branch charities that have thousands of volunteers.

This standard ensures that our volunteer management structure is adhering to good practice


we value the confidentiality of the women we support. Click here for a copy of our GDPR policy

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Charity Governance Award winners

Success at UK Charity Governance Awards 2017


On May 24th 2017 at a Gala reception at the beautiful Clothworkers House in central London, we were awarded a national charity governance award for “Embracing Opportunity and Harnessing Risk”, recognising the confident and robust approach taken by our Trustees in developing our portfolio of safe accommodation for women and children fleeing violence and abuse.

The award comes with the prize of a £5,000 unrestricted grant which will be used towards the construction of our new purpose-built women’s centre on Preston Road – the first of its kind in the UK for 20 years.

Councillor Mary Glew, who supported the Charity’s application said “ I am delighted that this innovative and forward thinking local charity has been recognised nationally – they are  great ambassadors for Hull”.

Watch our Winners video story here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f48nmhI8u-Q

WINNER was part of a shortlist of charities representing a diverse range of subject areas including LGBTQ, prisoners, homelessness, medical care and support, disability services, the arts, and more. A 20-strong judging panel shortlisted the entries and selected winners in each of seven categories. The winners were announced at the official awards reception in London on 24 May 2017, with former cabinet minister Sir Vince Cable delivering a keynote speech.

Michael Howell, Chair of the Trusteeship Committee at the award organisers The Clothworkers’ Company, said, “Congratulations to our outstanding winners – they provide the charity sector with sterling examples of what can be achieved with excellent governance.

“Highly-skilled trustees, diverse boards and their innovative use of digital technology are all areas that the House of Lords Select Committee on Charities has recommended as a focus for the sector. Therefore, we are delighted that our winners provide real-life examples of how that can be achieved. I encourage charities to download our free e-book which is full of inspiring stories from these superb shortlisted charities – including, of course, our winners! I hope this will provide inspiration for new journeys towards great governance.”

The free e-book is now available to download at www.charitygovernanceawards.co.uk.

The Charity Governance Awards are organised by The Clothworkers’ Company – a City Livery company that supports trusteeship initiatives – in partnership with not-for-profit consultancy NPC (New Philanthropy Capital), volunteer matching charity Reach, and recruitment specialists Prospectus.

For more details visit www.charitygovernanceawards.co.uk. You can follow the awards on Twitter using hashtag #charitygov17. Entry for the 2018 Charity Governance Awards will open in October 2017.

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National Charity Award Winners 2016

Our innovative Safe as Houses scheme has attracted national recognition and praise in the form of a National Charity Award for Grantmaking and Funding. These national prestigious awards showcase organisations demonstrating excellence in ten areas of operation and outstanding achievement in each of ten categories.

Alongside nine other category winners, the Overall Winner and the recipient of the Daniel Phelan Award for Outstanding Achievement, Winner, the Preston Road Women’s Centre, was presented with the award by Patti Boulaye at a star-studded black-tie ceremony at the Mermaid Theatre in London on Thursday 9 June, hosted by former BBC Breakfast presenter Bill Turnbull.

Tania Mason, editorial director at Civil Society Media which organises the Charity Awards, congratulated Winner, the Preston Road Women’s Centre, on winning the highly-coveted award.  She said:

“We had a record number of entries this year, and the standard was particularly high, so Winner, the Preston Road Women’s Centre, should be very proud to have won their category. Their project was very effective.

“For 17 years the Charity Awards have been identifying and celebrating the fantastic work that UK charities do, and the rigorous judging process ensures that only the very best-run charities win awards.”

John Low, chief executive of Charities Aid Foundation, overall partner of the Charity Awards, said:

“This year’s Charity Awards celebrate the inspiring people working in neighbourhoods and communities across the UK and overseas to make the world a better place.

“Celebrating these successes – as these awards have now been doing for 17 years – is an important part of maintaining and building Britain’s proud culture of civil action and generosity.

“The organisations which won awards and those who were shortlisted demonstrate a great sense of teamwork, collaboration and management excellence.

“It is humbling to see the amazing work being done by people who are changing lives in so many ways. Their stories are an inspiration, and my congratulations go out to them all.”

Ann Clarkson, Coordinator of Winner, the Preston Road Women’s Centre, said:

“We are extremely proud and delighted to have won this award. Our Safe As Houses scheme gives women in crisis practical help to support them to rebuild their lives.   This award is for them, for our housing team and for all our volunteers who make a difference every day to women and children in need. We will continue to build up our housing portfolio, and would be delighted to hear from any private landlords who would like to be part of the initiative.”

Lisa Hilder, Treasurer, Patti Boulaye, Entertainer and Ann Clarkson, Centre Co-ordinator

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Our Funders

Winner, the Preston Road Women’s Centre relies on the generous support of a variety of funders to continue to deliver our high quality services to women and children in Hull. We are proud to have the confidence of both local and national funders.

Some of the organisations that support us include:

Hull City Council

We hold a contract with Hull City Council who commission us to deliver support to women experiencing and escaping domestic violence and abuse. We have successfully held this contract since 2009

Children in Need


Children in Need funds one of our Nursery workers to work with children affected by domestic violence and abuse. It also funds our young women’s project, helping young women get involved in their community, learn new skills and confidence and aim high in life.

Comic Relief

Comic Relief funds three workers in our Domestic Abuse team who work with women struggling with substance misuse and addiction and women with no recourse to public funds who are also fleeing domestic Abuse

The Smallwood Trust

The Smallwood Trust helps to fund our training courses for women

The Coutts Foundation

The Coutts Foundation helps to fund the core running costs of our organisation and free up our time to help other women’s organisations elsewhere in the UK so we can extend the way we work and the benefit that comes from it.

Lloyds Foundation

The Lloyds Foundation is funding our Surviving and Thriving Network – our work to bring together women’s organisations who are using social investment and social enterprise methods of funding their work

The Nationwide Foundation

The Nationwide Foundation is helping to fund our housing service and in particular our social lettings agency, Safe as Houses where we work with private landlords to provide safe homes for women in need.

Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC)

SASC have supported our property work with capital funding to expand our portfolio and create more safe homes for women and children fleeing violence and abuse

The Clothworkers Foundation

The Clothworkers Foundation funds us to work with women’s sector organisations across the UK to help them develop their own safe accommodation for women in need

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About Us

WINNER, the Preston Road Women’s Centre provides information, support and advice to women in Hull. It is a multi-purpose organization run by women for women offering a wide range of services under one roof.

Women can drop into WINNER anytime between 10am to 4pm Monday to Friday to access any of our services or to meet other women in a safe environment.

We are situated in the big Purple House on Preston Road.

We offer the following services and activities:

  • Drop in for relaxation and informal support
  • Specialist domestic violence support and advocacy
  • Legal advice and representation through our Family Law firm, Affordable Justice
  • Safe, affordable housing across the city
  • Accredited training in a variety of subjects
  • Registered Nursery provision for 0-5 year olds
  • Comprehensive volunteering programme aimed at improving quality of life and job opportunities
  • Girlz Only Young Women’s Project 10-18 year olds
  • Rainbows Charity shop offering affordable, quality second hand goods
  • Crafts group 

If you have any questions, give us a ring on 01482 790310

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