Mission Throttle Selected by the Skillman Foundation to Develop Sustainable Solutions for Grant Partners

The Skillman Foundation has selected Mission Throttle to work with Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation to help the 19 year old community organization sustain and scale its programming.

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.

Mission Throttle Featured on PBS’s STARTUP

Watch to learn why the team at Mission Throttle recommends Michigan as a great place to start a social enterprise.

 

Investing for Social Change in Detroit

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to attend Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan’s second State of The City Address. While he highlighted the progress that has been made, ranging from increased lighting on the streets to faster EMS response times, he did not shy away from the challenges that lay ahead for the city.  He outlined five specific areas that he felt were critical for Detroit’s continued recovery: violent crime reduction, blight removal, job creation, auto insurance reform and education improvement.

He also mentioned one other challenge that lay ahead — filling a pension funding gap estimated at $450 million. This raises a serious question: who is going to help fund the areas critical for recovery, if the city also has to fund the pension gap?  The answer is: you! But it is a great opportunity. This is because it does not have to be in the form of increased taxes or charitable donations, but rather in the form of financial investment.

Detroit is certainly not alone in facing a funding gap. At a national level we have trillions of dollars of need for social and environmental programs, but the federal government only spends  $695 billion a year on its “safety net programs” and Medicaid.  Our annual charitable donations account for another $368 billion dollars, which still leaves us with a shortfall in the trillions. However, US households have $33.5 trillion in investable assets, and Southeast Michigan households have $488 billion (adjusted based on population). This money is currently invested around the country and the world; but if we as a community could tap into a small percentage of those investable assets and invest here in Detroit, we could help to close the funding gap to provide support to those most in need.

Let’s take a look at past, present and future examples of the types of investments that could help the mayor and the city move the needle in five key areas.

Crime Reduction: ShotSpotter is a gunshot location system that helps law enforcement locate gun fire in real time, allowing them to react more quickly than in the past.  Detroit has already deployed this solution, and the mayor acknowledged its contribution to the reduction of crime over the past year.

Blight Removal: Loveland Technologies has built a web based property visualization and survey tool. In 2014, they partnered with Data Driven Detroit, a data analytics company, to survey the entire city. This allowed the Blight Task Force to develop a data supported recommendation and implementation plan.

Job Creation: While Mayor Duggan is focused on job creation for all Detroiters, he also highlighted the importance of providing jobs for those who are difficult to employ. Several local organizations are working to address that issue, including Rebel Nell, which sells jewelry made from fallen graffiti, and provides employment for homeless mothers.  Better Life Bags provides employment opportunities for the industrious Bangladeshi women in Hamtramck. And Urban Ashes trains ex-felons recently returned from prison to make custom wood products.

Auto Insurance Reform:  This one might be a bit tougher.  Perhaps the Mayor could help finance the establishment of the D-Insurance program in order to bring down car insurance rates? Of course, I can’t mention auto insurance reform without mentioning the broader issue of increased access to transportation in Detroit. Belle Tire and the Detroit Lions Charities recently helped bring Baltimore-based vehicle donation program Vehicles for Change to Detroit. The program trains underemployed individuals to be auto mechanics who rehab cars that are sold to financially challenged families, at below market rates. The mechanics also provide services for paying customers in order to bring earned revenue into the organization.

Education: The topic that is on everyone’s mind.  Detroiters and the nation continue to be outraged at the conditions school children in Detroit are exposed to.  While it may be difficult for people to invest in DPS unless a bond is issued, community members can and have provided loans to both for-profit and non-profit charter schools for new construction, renovation, and equipment.

Detroiters have demonstrated that they want to invest in the success of their city.  Recently, the beloved Detroit City FC raised a $741,250 investment for their new stadium. If families and individuals throughout the region were willing to rally to that cause, I have to believe we can create the same momentum around investments that provide a hand up for those in our community who need it the most.

Jamie Shea is Managing Director of Investments at Mission Throttle. If you’d like to learn more about how you can use investments to create positive change in your community, please contact him at info@missionthrottle.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

Can software loosen Big Food’s grip on institutions?

Increasingly, large institutions are setting food procurement standards that require local sourcing, and they’re vetting vendors and contractors based on their ability to comply. Broadline distributors like U.S. Food, Gordon, and Sysco have been slow to address the emerging trend. But an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based software startup, Local Orbit, is in the process of bringing to market a new service that does what Big Food has struggled to accomplish. It provides streamlined access to local and sustainable food sourcing for high-volume purchasers like hospitals, schools, universities and prisons.

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The Philanthropy Outlook 2016 & 2017

This edition of The Philanthropy Outlook projects giving for the years 2016 and 2017 in relationship to the year 2015. Throughout this report, we offer detail on those economic factors that will have the most significant influence on giving for these years, as well as other information that provides context for these trends.

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Essentials of Impact Investing: A Guide for Small-staffed Foundations

Seeking to increase their philanthropic impact, many engaged foundations are turning to impact investing. The reason is clear: The field and practice of impact investing have matured—structures are in place, best practices have emerged, and opportunities have multiplied—enabling more foundations to use this powerful tool.

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The Path to Investment Readiness: Asking for Capacity Building Grants

“Capacity building.”

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

For grantees:

  • 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

‘Saving trees and saving lives’: Urban Ashes expands nationally with the help of ex-inmates

During an early September 1988 morning, Calvin Evans and a friend set out on what was supposed to be a routine drug run.

But the deal suddenly went south. The acquaintance they were buying from stole their dope, leading Evans’ friend to shoot and kill the man. The Mt. Clemens police hit Evans, then 18 years old, with a second-degree murder charge.

While Evans maintains he wasn’t the shooter, he doesn’t deny a role in the crime, and he admits that he “lived by the code of the street” and existed in a desperate situation likely to end with his own death or a life sentence.

Thus, he considered the 25- to 40-years he received for the murder a sort of blessing in disguise that forced him to assess his life.

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