December 11, 2017

NFG moves into grantmaking with a multimillion-dollar collaborative fund

Neighborhood Funders Group (NFG) steps into the role of collaborative grantmaker with The Amplify Fund—a new, multimillion-dollar pooled fund focused on investing in equitable, community-led development. The fund, which is seeded by Surdna Foundation, Ford Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations, is an opportunity for funders to support work to shift local power structures and put decisions about local development in the hands of residents.

“Neighborhood Funders Group’s core purpose is to build philanthropy’s capacity to move more resources more effectively to low-income communities and communities of color,” said Dennis Quirin, president of NFG. “The Amplify Fund is a catalytic opportunity for NFG to live its mission and provide a vehicle for funders to resource this critical work in a more impactful and collaborative way.” 

Jerry Maldonado, program officer at Ford Foundation said, “The Ford Foundation sees NFG and its network of field leaders as a driving force in organizing philanthropy to move resources to equitable and sustainable community development. That's why we at Ford are so excited to be launching the Amplify Fund alongside other funders that share a vision of equitable community development.”

NFG has hired Amy Morris, former NFG board member and former Surdna Foundation program officer, to serve as the fund's Director. The fund will invest in regions of the U.S. that are grappling with development, displacement, and gentrification—where sustainable community power will support long-term wins.

“The strategy and vision for this fund builds on the hard work of field leaders who have developed the guiding analysis and strategic thinking in the very early stages of the fund’s conception, and will continue to remain at the center of the effort,” said Amy of the fund’s grantmaking strategy.

The goal of the fund is to bolster the ability of communities of color and low-income communities to guide decisions about just and equitable neighborhood development to shape the places they live. This ambitious goal is grounded in the funders’ shared belief that, as a society, we need a sustainable political and governing infrastructure that prioritizes the needs of people above corporations, and empowers communities that are underrepresented in our civic culture to be authentic stakeholders in the decisions that affect their daily lives.

Deidre Swesnik, program officer at the Open Society Foundations, said of the Amplify Fund’s focus, “The barriers to making local and regional development truly equitable are substantial. By combining forces and sharing analysis and strategy, we can maximize our impact and our reach—building the power, influence, and direct decision-making authority of communities of color and low-income communities in regions across the country.”

“The Amplify Fund will bolster the ongoing efforts of residents in historically marginalized communities and support local movements toward equitable community development,” said Phillip Henderson, president of the Surdna Foundation. “We are truly grateful to partner with Ford Foundation, the Open Society Foundations, and the Neighborhood Funders Group to launch this ambitious initiative that will build and strengthen the field of community-engaged development to create just and sustainable communities for the future.”

The fund is looking to raise at least $14M to support grantmaking and programming in up to ten sites over a four-year period. To date, the seed funders have pooled the majority of this budget goal, but we’re not all the way there yet. The Amplify Fund invites other funders in the NFG network and beyond to join this exciting effort. Foundations or donors that join the fund in 2018 may have the opportunity to sit on the national steering committee, help select sites, guide strategy decisions, and determine structure and grantmaking practice.

For more information about how to join the Amplify Fund, please contact the fund’s director, Amy Morris, at amy@nfg.org.

April 10, 2019

NFG speaks with place-based funders on how they are using impact investing to further justice and equity

A newspaper page with graphs and charts for the stock market.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

An increasing number of foundations are embracing impact investing as a powerful strategy to potentially make use of all of their assets — not just 5% — to advance their place-based and justice-oriented missions. Last month, several Neighborhood Funders Group members attended Confluence Philanthropy’s 9th Annual Practitioners Gathering to explore how the philanthropic and investment sectors can accelerate movement-building for equity. In reflection, a few folks from NFG’s funder network share their perspectives on, and experience in, mission-related investing.

Beyond grantmaking for racial equity

Soon after Confluence Philanthropy’s Gathering, NFG member Amalgamated Foundation launched the Hate Is Not Charitable Campaign. The campaign brings to light how Donor Advised Funds (“DAFs”) have been used to finance hate groups — often times anonymously — and calls on DAF providers to stop this trend that can fund in direct opposition to some of these foundations’ missions. While the campaign highlights how DAFs can be misused when they are eventually dispersed, Amalgamated is also considering how these funds are being used while they are waiting to be dispersed.

Quote by Tyler Nickerson of Amalgamated Bank: “This is an opportunity for foundations to put all of their resources towards mission alignment and supporting enterprises that center a racial justice strategy.”“DAFs provide a set of resources... that can be risk tolerant, quick moving, and significant in their scale. Utilizing current IRS tax codes, DAF holders are allowed to make program related investments with their resources,” says Tyler Nickerson, First Vice President for Philanthropy Banking at Amalgamated Bank.

By choosing not to invest in some of the market’s largest companies in the fossil fuel, gun manufacturer, and private prison industries, Amalgamated is proactively aligning all of its assets with its values of environmental and social responsibility.

Incourage Community Foundation invests all of its endowed funds, including DAFs, in the same investment pool that includes their impact investments. According to Heather McKellips, Director of Learning & Engagement, "Incourage looks for investment opportunities that advance its vision of an inclusive, adaptive, and sustainable community.” She says, “Prudently thinking through how the principal portion of an investment portfolio (the 95%) can be effectively deployed to positively impact an issue, in addition to the traditional grantmaking portion (the 5%), greatly increases the ability to impact the real issues facing our communities.”

Impact investing strategies

For Incourage, this includes an African American-led private equity fund that seeks to provide business ownership opportunities for entrepreneurs of color and regional Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) that channel capital and technical assistance to underserved populations including entrepreneurs and households of color, and nonprofit organizations serving communities of color. Heather explains, “By investing in CDFIs that do small business lending in a community, area businesses can then more readily access needed funding to start up, retain, and expand operations, meaning more families have jobs and then have less of a need for support services that are often funded by grant dollars.”

Quote by  Mark Paley of The Hyams Foundation: “Hyams does, however, have a long history of utilizing PRIs… These investments are examples of using issue-specific investment models to further Hyams’s racial equity work beyond direct grantmaking.”For foundations just starting with impact investing, it can be helpful to look at these alternatives. NFG member The Hyams Foundation considers itself to be at the beginning stages of its impact investment work and is exploring investment strategies to further its mission to increase economic, racial, and social justice and power within low-income communities in Boston and Chelsea, Massachusetts. In addition to its affordable housing PRIs, Hyams is exploring additional social, economic, and racial justice investment opportunities including social enterprise, wealth building, and solidarity economy models.

“Hyams does, however, have a long history of utilizing PRIs, including two active loans to affordable housing loan funds. These investments are examples of using issue-specific investment models to further Hyams’s racial equity work beyond direct grantmaking,” says Mark Paley, Director of Administration & Finance (and NFG board member).

Quote by Heather McKellips of Incourage Community Foundation: “We have found it to be much more effective to start with the problem or issue, and then look holistically at what the resources are that you, or someone you can collaborate with, can bring to bear.”There are many approaches to impact investing. Unlike Amalgamated Foundation, Nia Community Fund's approach is to invest directly into solutions-focused companies with diverse leaders, rather than screen out sectors. Founder and Director Kristin Hull says, “We begin with our end goal in mind, rather than with traditional investment philosophy. We think about how we can use each dollar to maximize our positive impact.” Their investment dollars go to women and people of color-led businesses working to address social justice and environmental sustainability.

Amalgamated is also exploring new models seeking to expand capital to Black, Brown, and Native communities. “This is an opportunity for foundations to put all of their resources towards mission alignment and supporting enterprises that center a racial justice strategy,” says Tyler Nickerson.

Impact investing should always be centered around core values. Evaluating how a foundation is putting its values into practice can even start with how they interface with the investment industry itself. For example, Nia Community Fund looks for companies, funds, and investment managers that use a racial justice lens, and predominantly works with women and people of color.

Quote by Kristin Hull of Nia Community Fund: “Our investment dollars far outweigh our grant dollars and so we are really strategic with both buckets and do as much to leverage what we have and have every dollar be as effective as possible.”Incourage Community Foundation takes their role as an investor even further by being “active owners who vote proxies and practice other forms of shareholder engagement to encourage inclusive and fair labor practices, strong governance, and responsible environmental practices by corporations doing business in our state,” according to Heather McKellips.

Amalgamated’s Tyler Nickerson suggests that investors and grantmakers “listen to the communities in which they seek to support. They know what the community needs and the type of businesses it can support. Community members also know who is a fair employer and a good steward.” He notes that centering those voices and racial justice is key in developing solutions like a fair and equitable business strategy, whether it involves grocery stores or clean energy or manufacturing jobs.

Takeaways and lessons learned

1. Much like a healthy business model, communities need diverse forms of investment.

“Communities need multiple types of capital to become inclusive, thriving places. Charitable grants can’t be the only the tool to build greater equity within community,” says Tyler Nickerson. “Grants coupled with investment capital will create an integrated stream of resources to build communities where all people can succeed.”

2. For some funders, the grant-to-investment ratio can be strengthened, even while preserving an endowment’s lifespan.

Nia Community Fund’s Kristin Hull points out, “Our investment dollars by far outweigh our grant dollars and so we are really strategic with both buckets and do as much to leverage what we have and have every dollar be as effective as possible.” Nia Community Fund focuses on working beyond the status quo and investing into a just, sustainable, and inclusive economy, which means having an investment policy statement and investment practices that keep equity and justice as the core principles.

3. Focus on community needs first, and develop your investment model accordingly.

While foundations often start with an investment product that they then try to figure out how to use to address their focus issues, Heather McKellips of Incourage Community Foundation says, “We have found it to be much more effective to start with the problem or issue, and then look holistically at what the resources are that you, or someone you can collaborate with, can bring to bear."

4. Spread the risk and enhance the impact through collaboration.

This collaboration is key to moving the philanthropic and investment sectors to a more integrated and effective model. Confluence Philanthropy and NFG are creating spaces to explore ideas around impact investing, such as the Hyams Foundation’s interest in engaging with other organizations on what racial justice investment metrics could look like.

Amalgamated’s Tyler Nickerson advises, “Find your allies and ask them to join in community-based solutions. Doing so spreads the risk, expands the capital stack, and helps move other institutions in their learning journey.”

April 11, 2019

Introducing the 2019-2020 Philanthropy Forward Fellows

Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship

Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions are excited to announce the second cohort of Philanthropy Forward. Launching in September 2019, this dynamic group will add to the program's first cohort in a growing network of visionary CEO leaders focused on supporting grassroots power building for racial equity and social justice.

Philanthropy Forward is a dedicated space for leaders to organize together and boldly advance the transformed future of the sector. Each cohort of Fellows works together as strategic thought partners to address philanthropy's most challenging issues. Together, these leaders are aligning to build a financial engine for social change.

  

2019 - 2020 Philanthropy Forward Cohort

A grid featuring the faces of the 19 fellows in Philanthropy Forward's 2019-2020 cohort.

    
Learn more about each Fellow in the 2019 - 2020 cohort
  • Don Chen, Surdna Foundation
  • Amanda Cloud, The Simmons Foundation
  • Michelle J. DePass, Meyer Memorial Trust
  • Anna Fink, Amalgamated Foundation
  • Kiki Jamieson, The Fund for New Jersey
  • Reginald Jones, Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation
  • Anna Lefer Kuhn, Arca Foundation
  • Jeff Kutash, Peter Kiewit Foundation
  • Jennifer Lockwood-Shabat, Washington Area Women’s Foundation
  • Laura McCargar, Perrin Family Foundation
  • Tia Oros Peters, Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples
  • Michael Roberts, First Nations Development Institute
  • Dolores E. Roybal, Con Alma Health Foundation
  • Alejandra Ruiz, Youth Engagement Fund
  • Kashif Shaikh, Pillars Fund
  • Simran Sidhu, HIVE at Spring Point
  • Lateefah Simon, Akonadi Foundation
  • Sherece Y. West-Scantlebury, Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation
  • Teresa C. Younger, Ms. Foundation for Women
      

Philanthropy Forward: Leadership for Change Fellowship is a joint initiative of Neighborhood Funders Group and The Aspen Institute Forum for Community Solutions.

For more information, contact Sheri Brady at sheri.brady@aspeninst.org, or Adriana Rocha at adriana@nfg.org.

 

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