Mission Throttle Selected by the Skillman Foundation to Develop Sustainable Solutions for Grant Partners
Mission Throttle partnered with the Skillman Foundation in January 2016 to pilot “The Sustainability Grant Challenge.” The challenge was designed to provide a Skillman Foundation grant partner that demonstrated a desire to strengthen and scale one or more of its programs, with professional assistance not normally accessible to a community-based nonprofit due to cost. The Skillman Foundation invited 25 grant partners to participate in the challenge, which benchmarked organizations using a survey designed to assess operational effectiveness, based on Mission Throttle’s proprietary scoring system. Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation was selected as the recipient of the Skillman Sustainability Grant and will work with Mission Throttle to develop a blueprint to enhance their organizational efficiency and effectiveness, develop sustainable revenue models and funding strategies, and achieve increased scale. “We believe in the work of our grant partners, and know they face challenges every day that make it difficult to best deliver their needed services,” said Patricia Hinojosa, Senior Program Officer, Social Innovation for the Skillman Foundation. “By helping to strengthen organizations, they can more effectively serve the community and be drivers of change.”
Conventional philanthropy typically funds direct program related support and often neglects the critical costs of infrastructure. Experience has shown that proper operating systems and human capital are essential for sustained operational excellence. Recognizing this gap, Mission Throttle is working with Foundations across Michigan on similar nonprofit enterprise building initiatives.
About Mission Throttle
Mission Throttle is an advisory firm dedicated to accelerating philanthropic innovation in our community. We advise, invest in, and support mission-driven organizations that seek to use market-based strategies to address social and environmental problems. We are deeply passionate about our work and believe that merging business principles and philanthropic values is the best approach to achieve sustainable social impact.
About the Skillman Foundation
Created in 1960, the Skillman Foundation is a private philanthropy committed to improving meaningful graduation rates in the Detroit region, so kids are ready for college, career, and life. The Foundation has assets of nearly a half-billion dollars, with an annual grants budget of $17 million. The Foundation works to achieve its goal by investing in community leadership, neighborhoods, safety initiatives, high-quality schools, social innovation, and youth development.
About Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation
Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation’s mission is to make a difference by creating life-changing opportunities for youth and their families. We are committed to meeting the needs of our community by providing quality, innovative and culturally appropriate services, primarily in Southwest Detroit. Our vision is to create a stable and safe community where youth and families have quality opportunities for self-empowerment, education, and personal wealth.
Watch to learn why the team at Mission Throttle recommends Michigan as a great place to start a social enterprise.
It’s a nebulous term. It pops up now and again, at conferences, meetings and in various interesting articles about the necessity and often scarcity of resources to fund expansion / growth within impact organizations. Capacity building is not new. It is described by the Foundation Center and generally, as “a broad term that encompasses actions that improve nonprofit effectiveness in terms of organizational and financial stability, program quality, and growth.” These are not small feats. And yet, for all of their importance, not many of my impact partners and clients seem to be asking for this type of support.
I must admit I haven’t given much thought to this topic until now. I’ve spent the last 20 odd years in the private sector, providing financial advisory services to distressed companies. I’ve recently spent considerable time thinking about the role of capacity building as it relates to my work with impact organizations. In the private sector, the term ”capacity building” means funding R&D, IT, talent, continuous improvement, and often, the hiring of outside expertise to develop and implement such strategies. And yet, when applied to a nonprofit organization, capacity building seems to be a well-meaning abstraction, a catch-all, and often, a luxury. Why is funding these critical activities optional for any organization that wants to be successful?
Donors and the nonprofits they fund seek to tackle increasingly complex problems from education and health, to community and workforce development, to global climate change. Collective impact on this scale requires, among other things, high-functioning organizations. However, these vital organizations generally lack the equivalent of a for-profit R&D team to propel this systemic change. Not only are most nonprofits starved of financial capital, they often lack the human capital to be innovative and create widespread change.
Notwithstanding the incredible leadership and knowledge housed within nonprofits, these operating constraints (limited cash, tight staffing issues, and inadequate capacity) often hinder their ability to realize growth. As a result, many brilliant nonprofit leaders are forced to be a jack of all trades, leaving little time or energy to scale their work and create increased impact.
I recently completed an engagement where within six months, my team successfully helped our client create a business plan and revenue model for a scalable social enterprise. The client received board approval to self-fund this important project. Our team provided focus and expertise that would have otherwise been difficult to achieve.
There are, of course, no easy answers to addressing sustainability issues within impact-driven organizations but I offer a few thoughts:
For grant makers:
- Be innovative. Think differently about what your capacity grants can fund – you’re investing in R&D and ultimately growth.
- Do your grantees have sufficient core support to execute their strategies? Capacity grants could provide for this external expertise.
- Capacity building is an investment in an organization’s future. These grants can be used to develop opportunities for scale and earned revenue, ultimately lessening the potential need for grants
- Be bold…ask for a capacity grant. Funders are often overwhelmed with program support requests and may likely welcome innovative requests. Step up and ask for an investment in the sustainability of your organization.
- Remember, you’re not seeking to operate as usual – you’re striving to be extraordinary.
- Provide a clear path to results. Identify and articulate the purpose of your capacity building, including the desired impact.
While these ideas may appear somewhat unorthodox, I firmly believe that unconventional thinking is necessary in order to address large-scale social issues. Don’t be afraid to rise above challenging conditions if you have an innovative strategy you think will help your organization, now and in the future.
“What is now proved was once only imagined.” – William Blake
A dynamic learning opportunity for any mission-driven leader considering social impact investing
Mission Throttle is committed to empowering nonprofit leaders and social entrepreneurs with the knowledge and resources necessary to successfully pursue impact investment funding. We are pleased to partner with the Tony R. Wells Foundation to offer a three-day course that explores the legal, tax and financial considerations of using impact investments to support operations or social enterprise initiatives.
- Understand the broader social impact investing ecosystem and how industry trends are creating exciting new funding opportunities.
- Discover how a nonprofit organization can generate earned income without jeopardizing its tax exempt status by using hybrid legal structures, contract relationships, or joint ventures.
- Learn ways a foundation can leverage its balance sheet to support nonprofit organizations and social enterprises beyond grants.
- Assess your organization’s risk from a lender’s perspective and learn about easy first steps to prepare to receive impact investment funding.
Tuesday, February 10th – 12th 2015
9:00 a.m – 5:00 p.m.Two Towne Square
Southfield, MI 48076
$2,100 (scholarships are available in amounts of 60-100% of the program fee)