Fisher Seeks Investors Who Want to Make a Social Impact

Phillip Fisher plans to create a fund to work on social issues and support social entrepreneurs.

What if money invested in organizations working to improve social conditions could be redeployed over and over, while providing a financial and social-impact return for those supporting the work? The concept isn’t new; a few large foundations have been making investments—in addition to grants—in work related to their missions for years. But Phillip Fisher, founder of Mission Throttle L3C and vice chairman of the Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Family Foundation, hopes to attract a new class of investors, from individuals to corporations and government, to support Michigan-based social-impact efforts and social entrepreneurs through investments in a new social-impact fund that he hopes will attract $10 million to $50 million. That, experts say, is a game changer.

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Going Beyond the Grant

Momentum is picking up for investments that can produce a financial return while improving social conditions, as pressure persists on traditional funding sources and the ranks of social entrepreneurs increase.

Rising interest in so-called impact investing has many foundations either already making investments or considering them as an extension of their traditional philanthropy or grant-making.

Foundations such as Kresge are making program-related investments from their grant budgets for below-market or zero-percent returns. Those can take the form of loans, equity stakes, loan guarantees in which foundations agree to back other loans, and cash investments.

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Why Program-Related Investments Are Not Risky Business

Program-related investments (PRIs) hold incredible potential for the social enterprise arena. Rather than giving away money through grants, PRIs allow foundations to make investments as loans or equity stakes in the hopes of regaining their investments plus a reasonable rate of return. This arrangement allows foundations to increase the amount of money available to the social sector, while simultaneously building stronger and more sustainable socially minded entities.

As part of a broader strategy involving impact investing and the market-based solutions of target recipients, PRIs stand to tackle tough social issues on a scale never before seen by moving beyond traditional notions of charity that, in many ways, continue to restrain large-scale progress.

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Program-Related Investments Gaining Traction, Study Finds

Report examines recent trends, challenges and opportunities for PRIs

Program-related investments (PRIs) are gaining attention from foundations for their potential to meet charitable purposes while generating financial returns, but their use remains limited, a new study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy finds. Leveraging the Power of Foundations – An Analysis of Program-Related Investing, which was sponsored by Mission Throttle, analyzes key trends in foundations’ use of program-related investing. The report examines funders’ motivations and strategies for making PRIs and identifies potential obstacles and opportunities for expanded use of PRIs to advance charitable goals.

Among the study’s key findings:

  • Housing, community development and education were the program areas that received both the highest total dollar amounts
  • More than half of all PRIs were loans
  • Peer networks play an important role in supporting and educating foundations in the use of PRIs

“Our research shows that there is significant interest in and potential for program-related investments to help foundations advance their charitable goals, and many foundations that utilize PRIs report that they frequently produce successful results,” said Una Osili, director of research for the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy. “There was notable growth in PRI use in the past decade compared to the previous decade, but to date they are being used by a relatively small fraction of all foundations.”

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Detroit’s New Economy Initiative Receives More Than $33 Million In New Funding From National, Regional And Local Foundations

NEI to continue success in transformation of Southeast Michigan through support of entrepreneurs

Ten national, regional and local foundations have committed $33.25 million in new funding to continue the work of the New Economy Initiative (NEI). NEI launched in 2008 when ten foundations came together to form a unique $100 million philanthropic initiative to address economic issues in Southeast Michigan. NEI, which is a special project of the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan (CFSEM), will now have funding to support its efforts over the next three years to not only foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, but also build a network of support for entrepreneurs and small businesses throughout the Detroit region.

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The Biggest Social Impact Bond in The U.S. Will Keep At-Risk Young Men in Jobs and Out of Prison

Roca, a 26-year-old Massachusetts organization that aids high-risk young men who are on track for incarceration and early death, has proven its worth with an effective model for keeping its participants out of jail and in steady jobs. Now the organization is getting a big boost from a seven year, $27 million social impact bond–the largest ever in the U.S.

Social impact bonds are a relatively new type of philanthropy where donors put money in social impact programs, which have specific and tangible goals and make money back (paid by the state of Massachusetts, which has received $11.7 million in funding for the project from the U.S. Department of Labor) only if those goals are met. In this case, Roca is participating in a randomized trial to see how its efforts in keeping young men out of prison compare to the norm.
This is a group of young men in the country that we leave on the street.

The funding, which comes from loans and grants provided by organizations including the Goldman Sachs Social Impact Fund, Living Cities, and New Profit, will allow Roca to help 929 at-risk young men between 17 to 23, all of whom are either exiting the juvenile justice system or are in the probation system currently. Nonprofit advisory firm Third Sector Capital Partners organized the effort.

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The Beginning

A Note From Mission Throttle’s Founder

In 1955, my parents founded the The Max M. & Marjorie S. Fisher Foundation on the philosophy that life’s purpose is found in service to others, in creating opportunities for those who lack them, in supporting human community in all its forms and empowering individuals in self-sufficiency. My father, ahead of his time, always said that he was interested not just in philanthropy, but in social responsibility to meet the obligations each one of us owes to society and introduced me to the idea of “Tzedekah” – giving to others not as charity, but as a mutually beneficial interaction.In 2009, I founded Mission Throttle, an impact investment firm dedicated to bringing those concepts to life by helping evolve the role capital plays in philanthropy and our communities.

As experienced investors, philanthropists and community leaders, the Mission Throttle team is privileged and uniquely positioned to deliver on what we see as our social responsibility, and we stand on the shoulders of other pioneers around the world who are already using their hearts and their heads, proving increased value to society while seeking financial returns.

What’s the Future for Impact Investing

If the world is to solve its huge environmental and social problems, it’s going to take more than government spending and private philanthropy. These sources can bring in billions of dollars, but what’s really needed is trillions—the sort of money only business and the markets can provide.

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