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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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 state of social entrepreneurship in Detroit

In recent years, Detroit has been the setting of several prominent business success stories, from the growth of restaurants like Slows Bar-B-Q to the rise of high-end watch manufacturer Shinola. These profitable companies have contributed to and benefited from the Detroit revival narrative and we are all familiar with their stories.

But there is a growing number of Detroit business ventures concerned with more than simply making products and earning profits, and their success is equally as important to Detroit’s future as that of traditional businesses. They’re called “social enterprises,” and their story deserves the same amount attention we give to traditional business development in the city.

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Impact investing: What’s in it for your nonprofit?

Are you a nongovernmental organization wondering how to benefit from impact investors? You are not alone. The Nonprofit Finance Fund recently surveyed U.S. nonprofits, and 20 percent of respondents said they will be seeking funding other than grants and contracts — such as loans and other types of investments — within the next year. In addition, 26 percent are considering pursuing an earned income venture as a way to diversify their sources of revenue. And the timing couldn’t be more perfect. Global investors are expected to commit 19 percent more capital to impact investments this year than they did in 2013, according to a joint study from JP Morgan and the Global Impact Investing Network. A growing percentage of their portfolio is projected to be deployed to sub-Saharan Africa and Asia as well.

It’s safe to assume that impact investing will play an increasingly important role in the funding of organizations involved in making an impact in developing countries. While the appeal of impact investing is undeniable, nonprofits should know that taking investors on board is a major step, and implies a vast number of changes in the way their organization operates — changes that might conflict with their mission. When would it make sense, then, to transition to a revenue-generating model and when would it be better to remain a “traditional” nonprofit? This guide will hopefully allow you to get a better sense of what impact investing means for your organization.

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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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