The reality of uncertainty: valuable lessons and leadership coming out of the COVID–19 pandemic

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to wreak havoc on our social agencies, we need to think differently about how to “capitalize” these organizations. Even in a strong economy, our 2.3 million 501(c)(3)s in the U.S. struggle to raise sufficient social capital to sustain and scale their impact. The pandemic has drastically adjusted our perception of normal and creates fertile ground for thinking differently about sustaining mission-driven organizations focused on supporting those in-need. To quote Einstein, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” Mission Throttle believes that our country needs to adopt a more capitalistic culture embracing social justice with an equity lens when caring for those less fortunate. In a PC (post-COVID) world, we need to use this enlightened awareness to lead culture reform for innovative social capital tools like Impact Investing. If we revert to our BC (before-COVID) solutions, we will have jeopardized our chance to act into a new way of thinking about what our social impact agencies need to survive and thrive.

Giving USA estimates the total amount of contributions to impact organizations approximated $427 Billion in 2018. Mission Throttle estimates that the annual capital required to solve our country’s social needs exceeds $3 Trillion. This delta between sources and uses we call The Philanthropic Gap. As important as donative capital is, it is but a small fraction of the capital needed to properly support those in need. We need to challenge donors to go beyond check writing, towards dedicating a small percentage of their net worth to invest in equitable social change.

With the COVID-19 pandemic comes the reality that many of our social impact agencies will not survive the crisis. Emergency campaigns only add to the fatigue donors have by continually funding structural deficits.There will be consolidation, mergers, and bankruptcy of fiscally vulnerable agencies. Most social organizations focus solely on donative capital to sustain themselves. Although you may argue that there are too many providers already, social impact agencies continue to resist working together in order to protect their donor relationships; while the demand for life-saving services is exploding. If we are going to change the culture of philanthropic capital, we need to expand and disrupt conventional thinking and embrace sustainable sources of funding.

In capitalism, enterprises with profit motivated culture, sound best practices and free cash flow are creating scale and profitability. They understand how to manage risk and lever capital. Acquisitions, mergers and sales are commonplace. Collaboration and partnerships are encouraged to manage efficiently, effectively, and strive for unique differentiators. This culture must bleed over into philanthropy for our sector to be sustainable and scale its impact.

You may be asking, what can I do to lead forward? Learn more about Impact Investing and become an advocate for this fast-growing field. In board rooms, advocate for innovative forms of capital as a supplement to contributed income. Finally, as the author John Hagel suggests, we must become a catalyst for change towards hope, excitement and inspiration. If we stay frozen in uncertainty and fear, we will become irrelevant over time. Let’s adopt opportunity-based narrative as our call for action. Your suggestions are welcome!

 

Founder’s Holiday Message: Dedicating Ourselves to Listening in 2020

As we return to what’s important during this holiday season, let’s reduce the volume of this crazy world in which we find ourselves to focus on our loved ones. We are buffeted daily with noise that affects our lives like injustice, prejudice, politics and global terror. Why not return to a time when life was much simpler, truly feel the benefits of quieting the onslaught of (social) media, and dedicate ourselves to the power of really hearing each other?

As I reflect on the last decade of Mission Throttle’s work, I feel grateful for my team who inspired and pushed me forward to activate innovate solutions. The team’s past six years work advising over three dozen mission-driven organizations created tremendous value-add and culture change, yet came at a cost that couldn’t be financially supported by me alone going forward. I was positively impacted by my team and proud of the change they brought to our community. The advisory practice was spun-off on June 30 of this year, leaving space for self-reflection and reaching out to my valued national mentors to push new opportunities in the decade to come.

Actualizing our culture of transparency, I questioned myself and set-up a series of interviews with my amazing network of mentors to hear their thoughts on past developments in the Impact Investing ecosystem, identifying current and future gaps that need filling going forward. Thanks to Ian Makowske, Jennifer Oertel and Kathy Smith, a consolidated report of findings suggests each of us might play a role in what “can be possible” going forward. I am grateful for the leadership they inspire in this critical work.

Mission Throttle continues to believe in the important role social capital plays in strengthening capacity, sustaining impact and evolving culture in “for-impact” organizations. Each of us has the power to change the trajectory of social supports for underserved populations. As The Starfish Story recalls the importance of personal restoration, we need to also lead forward scalable approaches for community impact. It is not enough to satisfy our charitable hearts by writing checks — we also need to activate, engage, and accelerate philanthropic innovation for the underserved. Let’s commit to be active listeners and determine how we might use our hearts, networks and resources to create sustainable supports for them. It’s our obligation to support each other to create equitable social justice.

Ultimately, making the world a better place requires not just generosity, but a dedication to gaining a better understanding of the problems we are solving for, while constantly evolving the tools needed to give every person a chance to realize their life’s dream.

In the quiet of this holiday season, consider the possibilities of how you will become a more effective change agent in the new year and act yourself into a new way of thinking. Inspire your network to support others by turning down the noise of social media and self-needs and focus on what’s important: our fellow life travelers.

To the future…together!

Have a blessed and peaceful holiday season,

Phillip

Impact Investing Strategy Development Project

Consolidated Summary of Interviews

After 6 years of success in its Advisory pillar, Mission Throttle decided to spin-off the practice effective 6/30/19. This spin-off has afforded Mr. Fisher, founder of Mission Throttle, time to refresh, rethink and redirect the organization’s journey, while leveraging his assets and energy to accelerate the impact investing field. 

To inform Mission Throttle’s future impact investing strategy, a series of interviews were held with national thought leaders driving the impact investing space to better understand the ecosystem’s current state. These thought leaders represent significant expertise and a variety of perspectives, including leaders at large foundations, development finance institutions, and intermediaries; advisors working with family offices and foundations; founding board members of social enterprises; educators, and ecosystem builders. Our mentors were immensely generous with their time and thoughtful in their responses, providing valuable insight and perspective. Mission Throttle has developed a summary of key themes emerging from these interviews.

Read the Report

Mission Throttle Advisory Services: Reflections on the First Decade of Mission Throttle

I first launched Mission Throttle in 2009 to pursue our vision of “a world where capitalistic solutions and philanthropic values converge to accelerate community impact.” I was inspired by the legacy my mother and father left on our community through both the business and impact sectors. I saw the opportunity to the blend the best of both worlds, bringing capitalism’s efficient systems, innovative culture, and flexible financing tools to enhance the impact sector’s financial sustainability and accelerate philanthropic innovation.

Over the past ten years I’ve been fortunate to support the sector’s national thought leaders, make investments in innovative local social enterprises, collaborate with some of the most impactful agencies, and partner with Mission Throttle’s talented, dedicated advisory practice team. As we have collectively taken time for thoughtful contemplation, I intend to transparently share some of our candid reflections on the past decade and sincere aspirations for the decades to come.

Read the case study

Invest for Better Launches Investment Club Model and Toolkit For Women Impact Investors

While several initiatives have sprung up in recent years to address the need for impact investor education, none have concentrated specifically on helping women bridge the aspiration gap between interest and action. Invest for Better is a nonprofit campaign on a mission to help women demystify impact investing, take control of their capital, and mobilize their money for good.

Knowing that women often prefer to learn from and with peers, the initiative created a model for Invest for Better Circles – communities of women investors that help both novice and experienced investors overcome barriers, increase their knowledge, and hold each other accountable for moving money into purposeful investments. Launched by a group of ecosystem pioneers and investors as an open-source, non-transactional initiative, their new Invest for Better Circle Toolkit is aimed at seeding and supporting such communities around the world.

Learn More

Advisory Services Spins-Off From Mission Throttle

Dear Partners and Colleagues:

When I launched Mission Throttle in 2009, I set out to accelerate community benefit through philanthropic capital, innovation and culture change. In the decade since the company’s formation, Mission Throttle has evolved from a startup, dedicated to supporting innovative fundraising tools and impact investing, to that and more. In 2013, Susan Gordon joined Mission Throttle to grow the advisory practice from scratch, recruiting a group of talented consultants, intending to validate the strategic service offering to promote positive change in the foundation and mission-driven communities. Originally, we imagined Advisory would add to the investable pipeline for impact investments into social enterprises. In the end, the team engaged with over 40 mission-driven organizations to create sustainability, innovation, earned revenue and ultimately, culture change.

Over the past five years, Advisory has provided exemplary outcomes for dozens of foundation, philanthropic and mission-driven organizations. However, we continue to experience the market dissonance between the critical need for capacity building support, and the limited resources available to sustain these services. Over the past few months, we continue to reflect on this reality.

We concluded the time has come for Mission Throttle to return to its roots, while celebrating Susan and our team’s success. As a result, as of June 30, the Advisory practice, under Susan’s supervision, will spin-off from Mission Throttle to allow her the capacity to thoughtfully consider future next steps.Mission Throttle, under my direction, will continue to search for platforms, tools and solutions to accelerate philanthropic innovation and the impact investing ecosystem going forward. We hope to engage with you going forward.

I am amazed at what our team has achieved as evidenced in our 2018 Impact Report. The cultural impact on our clients, and consequently the community, has set a high bar for others working to bring sustainability to social impact organizations. Over the past five years, 100% of Advisory clients responding to a post-engagement survey rated the quality of work High/Very High Quality and 90% responded that they were Very Likely/Extremely Likely to recommend Advisory to a friend or colleague. Furthermore, as a result of their work:

  • 79% of clients realized a positive culture change in their organization
  • 84% of clients identified cost savings
  • 76% of clients implemented cost savings or scaled effective programs/products
  • 96% of clients identified earned revenue opportunities

I honor and celebrate Advisory‘s impact and wish these pioneering geniuses great success. Please feel free to contact Susan at sgordon@strategicgrowthgrp.com or on her cell at 248.320.6174. Any questions related to Mission Throttle can be directed to Phillip Fisher at pfisher@missionthrottle.com or 248-415-1438.

To the future…together!

Phillip Wm. Fisher
Founder, Mission Throttle

Business Sustainability and the Power of Female Entrepreneurs

“Who here wants to save the world?” Carolyn Yarina, CEO and Co-Founder of Sisu Global Health, asked a ballroom full of female social entrepreneurs at the Empower Change Summit last summer. Nearly every hand rose high in the air. Nine months later, on February 27, a group of 10 finalists drawn from that ballroom pitched their business concepts to an audience of judges and supporters, bringing the 2019 Empower Change MI program to a close.

The annual Empower Change MI program, a joint effort between Michigan Women Forward and The Ford Fund, launched in 2017 to provide a series of conferences, workshops and seminars to existing or aspiring Michigan-based female social entrepreneurs. The program kicks off with the Empower Change Summit, a collection of speakers, panels, and workshops that provides female entrepreneurs with an introduction to basic business concepts and examples of how to take a socially conscious idea and turn it into a sustainable venture. The program culminates in a Pitch Competition through which several finalists are selected for cash grants and support services provided by other Michigan-based organizations.

Pitch participants compete in three categories, based on the stages of business development: Ideation, Launch, and Growth. This year’s finalists were Brittany Rhodes of Black Girl MATHgic (Ideation), Gina Adams of Buttons 2 Button (Launch), and Arielle Johnson of Fierce Detroit (Growth). Other prizes included a $1,000 award given to the “Best Idea That Will Change The World,” which was a People’s Choice Award, as well as an award of advisory services provided by Mission Throttle. This year, Jeanette Brown of Dutton Farm, Inc. was the winner of both.

In a male-dominated business environment, resources are often scarce for female entrepreneurs. As a result, there is a shortage of female, entrepreneur role models. While this gender disparity is shrinking, progress is slow, as many women do not receive the same opportunities for mentorship as their male counterparts. Additionally, female entrepreneurs often lack access to capital, as they regularly approach male investors, who often fail to relate to the entrepreneur and/or her business concept.

Female entrepreneurs benefit greatly from initiatives, like EmpowerChange, that strive to level the playing field for women in business. Through the Summit and the Pitch Competition, women receive mentorship and learning opportunities, as well as the opportunity to obtain financial capital. While these resources are integral to starting a new venture, the network of driven and supportive women that EmpowerChange creates is especially inspiring.

In a panel discussion during the EmpowerChange Summit, participnats from the 2018 Pitch Competition talked candidly about starting a social venture, and Deana Wojcik suggested “there should be less competition and more collaboration between women entrepreneurs.” Conversations that occurred during the Summit emphasized the benefits of joining a network of like-minded individuals, which include alleviating feelings of isolation and building confidence.

This supportive attitude carries throughout the EmpowerChange initiative, which aims to strengthen both business acumen and soft skills. Mentors are available to provide support and business advice to those who enter the pitch competition. The competition process is designed to offer participants several experiential learning opportunities, such as the opportunity to pitch to a live audience to receive feedback prior to the competition day.

Judging by the strong, qualified group of women at the Pitch Competition, the process is successful. The finalists ranged in experience level, from college students to mid-career entrepreneurs, each working on impactful business ideas to transform a variety of industries, including providing meaningful work opportunities for adults with disabilities to technology-based tools to help young adults become more financially secure. While unique in background and business ideas, each entrepreneur was equally energetic and passionate about her social venture.

The positivity, creativity, and grace of the women who participated in the 2019 EmpowerChange MI program was astounding and inspiring. It only takes one investment of time and resources to elevate impactful ideas, and EmpowerChange does just that. Mission Throttle is pleased to continue accelerating women’s entrepreneurship by participating in the EmpowerChange advisory council, and working with 2019 award recipient, Dutton Farms, Inc. Mission Throttle previously worked with 2018 award recipient, Motor City S.T.E.A.M., to develop a model to enhance youth S.T.E.A.M. development.

For more information, please visit miwf.org/events1/EmpowerChange.

Accelerating Our Community Impact

Mission Throttle’s history reflects a series of collaborations that merge business solutions and philanthropic values to scale social impact for those in need. We know great efforts are required to effectively address our most pressing social issues and we feel truly privileged to serve our clients, and in turn, communities across the Midwest.

Though 2019 is well underway, we are mindful to reflect on the last year and to thank our clients, partners and friends who made our work possible. Without you, we couldn’t have achieved these accomplishments. We hope you’ll continue with us on our journey as we move forward. Our very best wishes to you in this coming year.

The Mission Throttle Team

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