Key Takeaways from Conversations with Social Impact Leaders
StartingUpGood works with early-stage, high social impact startups and their leaders. Over the past year, we covered a series of conversations with Atlanta-based social impact leaders via Changing Our World’s Atlanta Forging Forward Conference Series.
We learned so much from these conversations that we thought it was worth revisiting some key points from each. Treat yourself to this brief recap, read our written summaries, or watch recordings of the follwing sessions in their entirety:
- Funding Social Enterprises in Atlanta
- Corporate Philanthropy in Atlanta
- Community Engagement, Social Impact, and Social Enterprise
- Women and Giving
- The Impact of COVID-19 On Atlanta’s Entrepreneurs — What’s Next?
- How One Atlanta Nonprofit Supports Entrepreneurs and Economic Mobility
- The Importance of Good Communication with Donors and Stakeholder
1. Funding Social Enterprises in Atlanta
December 1, 2020
- Thomas K. Glenn II, Trustee, The Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation
- Amelia Nickerson, CEO, First Step Staffing
- Christina Szczepanski, Managing Director Southeast, Reinvestment Fund
- For those thinking about starting a social enterprise, local support that plays a risk role is important. You need many different types of capital to support an investment. Diversifying your funding is key.
- Social impact is a buzzword right now — investing dollars are opening up. Educate yourself and learn about all available funding streams, so you can tap into these dollars.
- COVID-19 has exposed the systemic and institutional racism in financial institutions. In order for CDFIs to adequately support the businesses they care about (women-led, BIPOC-led), they need to assess their practices and get out there and do the work giving the fund.
- A lot of foundations have operated differently under the pandemic and have stepped up to address COVID-related needs, giving more in a matter of months than they typically do in a year.
Funding Social Enterprises in Atlanta
2. Corporate Philanthropy in Atlanta
February 2, 2021
- Ann Cramer, Atlanta leader and former Director for IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs for the Americas
- Bentina Terry, Senior Vice President for Metro Atlanta & Corporate Relations for Georgia Power — the largest subsidiary of Southern Company
- Lain Shakespeare, Senior Director of Corporate Citizenship, Mailchimp
- Georgia Power shares its deep commitment to the state of Georgia through a number of innovative 2020 corporate citizenship initiatives, including grants to nonprofits, assistance to customers through the removal of late fees, etc., community partnerships to assist vulnerable groups, the creation of a Small Business Capital Fund, the launch of an HBCU Learning Center in partnership with Apple and more.
- Mailchimp shares how its corporate citizenship programming shifted in 2020, including a campaign to support short film makers affected by the pandemic, an initiative to make voting more accessible in Georgia, efforts to engage employees in the democratic process, strategic grants and inaugural employee giving to smaller racial justice organizations — all in alignment with Mailchimp’s mission to empower the underdog.
- Corporate citizenship is evolving and transparency on ESG (environmental, social and governance) principles is now critically important.
- Companies need to be flexible, innovative and responsive to community needs with their corporate citizenship programs, and what these programs look like is broadening to incorporate virtual volunteerism, support for small businesses (in addition to nonprofits) and support for employees.
Corporate Philanthropy in Atlanta
3. Community Engagement, Social Impact, and Social Enterprise
February 23, 2021
- Rohit Malhotra, Founder and Executive Director, Center for Civic Innovation (CCI)
- Malika Whitley, Founder and CEO, ChopArt
- According to Rohit, a social entrepreneur is someone who starts a business created to go out of business because it actually solved something. A social enterprise should be something that uses the market to solve the market-created challenges of the world. Someone like Malika is a living definition of what this can look like.
- Malika started out as a resident at CCI in 2018 and is now a CCI mentor. As she explains, CCI does not try to force you into a box you don’t belong in; they respect your work and your process. The Fellowship not only provided much-needed funding, but also an incredible network of people to support Malika’s work. As a Mentoring Fellow, Malika is able to help entrepreneurs incorporate the CCI curriculum into their businesses in real time.
- Black and Brown social entrepreneurs often start their work out of necessity, and the fear that no one else will. They don’t want to have to do this work because they don’t want these problems of inequality to exist, and they wear a burden to do this work that should be accounted for in funding.
- Too often, social entrepreneurs are at the will of the expectations of funders. Rather than asking what social entrepreneurs need to do to feel confident in getting support from investors, investors need to start asking themselves what they can do to better serve these organizations doing community-saving work. Investors should question their qualifications for setting standards for work outside of their lived experiences and in communities they likely have privilege over.
- There is a point where we need to ask whether something is actually creating the impact it was intended to, but we also need to investigate: Why is it that those questions are usually only asked of Black and Brown social entrepreneurs at the early stage? There is a lack of trust in Black and Brown leaders. We can’t get to the conversation around metrics because we haven’t agreed on values.
- When thinking about how investors can become more equitable and less risk averse when investing in Black and Brown communities, the question is not for BIPOC — Black, Indigenous, people of color — communities to answer. It is a question of bias. Funders must find ways to unlock bias in funding and granting policies.
- Risk mitigation is at the core of this conversation. One tactical thing for investors to think about is giving more unrestricted capital. We have to trust that the people living and working in the communities we’re trying to help will do the work in the best interest of those communities.
- Along with funders, intermediaries, like the Center for Civic Innovation (CCI), should redefine their definitions of risk and who they are willing to support — both to make their own funding more equitable, but also because other funders may be using intermediaries as a risk mitigation measure.
- Atlanta is a place that constantly challenges one’s own identity. There is a need to create a community in which people can show up in their entirety and reclaim their identity in all its layers.
Community Engagement, Social Impact, and Social Enterprise
4. Women and Giving
March 30, 2021
- Birgit Smith Burton, Executive Director of Foundation Relations, Georgia Tech and the 2021 Chair-Elect of the Global Board of the Association of Fundraising Professionals
- Christy Butler Eckoff, Chief Foundation Officer and Managing Director, Atlanta Jewish Foundation
- While many women have been disproportionately financially impacted by the pandemic — losing jobs, leaving jobs to stay home to care for children, etc. — many women who have the funds to do so began investing. A record breaking 10M new brokerage accounts were opened last year. Given that philanthropy is often money we give away after investing, we may see an uptick in women’s philanthropy.
- There are many ways to interact with a nonprofit other than just giving a grant — such as making a loan or impact investment through a Donor Advised Fund (DAF). Nonprofits would benefit from being creative about different funding streams. Atlanta is probably 5–10 years behind some West Coast cities in leveraging these new ways of funding.
- Women are leading the way in being open to nontraditional ways of funding such as impact investing. Women in philanthropy tend to be more entrepreneurial, collaborative and open to taking risks than their male counterparts. They really care about the impact of their support on people.
- At this stage, nonprofits are more accustomed to asking for grants from foundations and/or individuals, so finding impact investing opportunities is a challenge.
- Despite criticism that funding to DAFs is not immediately distributed to nonprofits, there are positives to this giving mechanism as it allows for funds to be deployed in an emergency such as COVID-19. For example, giving at the Atlanta Jewish Foundation was up 30% from this time last year. The Foundation distributed $40M last year — about 15–20% of its assets. Much of this was from women mid-level donors who saw and connected with the human need.
- Mackenzie Scott gave $4B in unrestricted funding to nonprofits during 2020, which doubled or tripled the budgets of many recipient organizations. Her giving serves as an example for other donors; showing that we can invest in nonprofits like we invest in companies and trust the nonprofits to direct the funds in the ways that help them most.
- Although Mackenzie Scott’s giving efforts are impactful, all the focus in philanthropy is now on how to get to Mackenzie Scott. There are lots of women is similar positions to Mackenzie Scott, and we should focus on encouraging them to follow in her footsteps.
- Many foundations won’t consider nonprofits that don’t have at least one full-time equivalent (FTE) or a budget of more than $500K. Some of these thresholds are too limiting and are not relevant to the work these organizations are doing or whether they are fiscally responsible. Black-led organizations in particular face barriers to funding and were left behind in the pandemic.
- Atlanta tends to be more traditional in its approach to giving, especially among foundations. It’s usually easier for nonprofits to secure funding for a building than for general operating support, to hire a development director or to diversify revenue streams.
- Foundation leaders should introduce and educate donors on lesser-known organizations that potentially align with their interests but may not be in their existing networks. For example, the Atlanta Jewish Foundation put together lists of lesser-known organizations and Black-led organizations to introduce them to donors. Donors have responded well to these lists and have been giving funding.
5. The Impact of COVID-19 On Atlanta’s Entrepreneurs — What’s Next?
April 27, 2021
- Latresa McLawhorn Ryan, Executive Director, Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative (AWBI)
- Grace Fricks, Founder and CEO, Access to Capital for Entrepreneurs Inc. (ACE)
- Because of the heightened disparities brought on by the pandemic, existing issues of income inequality in the US are no longer in question, particularly for the Black community. Supporting Black entrepreneurship is a great avenue to reducing disparities. While data shows that white families are on average 10X wealthier than Black families, according to Grace Fricks, that figure drops to 3 when comparing a white entrepreneur to a Black entrepreneur.
- As funders, we have to do our part to re-evaluate risk. Many Black-owned businesses have trouble accessing capital because the access to generational wealth is different, among other things. For example, Atlanta Wealth Building Initiative gave Brown Toy Box founder Terri-Nichelle Bradley $10K to help with COVID-related losses. While a small amount, the $10K allowed her to stay on her feet for a few months, during which she secured a national partnership with Target.
- Another barrier is access to networks. Do not underestimate the power of relationships. Introduce BIPOC entrepreneurs to your networks and vice versa so their businesses can grow.
- To truly remove barriers for social entrepreneurs and social impact organizations, particularly Black-led organizations, it is critical to be proximate to the organization’s work — either directly or by partnering with organizations that are proximate. You can’t evaluate how risky an organization is if you don’t know the organization and/or the community it serves.
- If we don’t take a chance on what is perceived as risk and give people with ideas and determination the assets and resources they need to create economic opportunity, whether that’s a small business or nonprofit, the risk is a lesser quality of life in which we don’t have the restaurants, coffee shops, local nonprofits, etc. that make our communities vibrant.
- The most important thing for entrepreneurs and/or small business owners to do is to understand their financials. Accountants and business development centers can help with this if needed. Cash flow and money management — rather than a small business owner’s skill, service or product — is typically what can save a small business in times of need.
- With federal stimulus packages coming into play for COVID relief, funders, nonprofits and entrepreneurs alike have an opportunity to embrace the idea of a blended finance model — combining cross-sector grants, loans and investments. This is the time to listen better and create new innovative ways of financing that are really going to help people, particularly those who have experienced disproportionate barriers in accessing capital for generations. We need to have the right people at the table driving these shifts to avoid doing more of the same.
- In regard to forging forward after the pandemic, organizations — funders, governments, businesses and nonprofits alike — need to work together to identify what each other’s core competencies are and partner to help each other where possible.
The Impact of COVID-19 on Atlanta’s Entrepreneurs — What’s Next?
6. How one Atlanta Nonprofit Supports Entrepreneurs and Economic Mobility
June 29, 2021
- Rachel Davis, The EDGE — Greater Wealth Works*
- Daisy Latimore, Founder and Owner, The Chocolate Box
*To reflect its expansion of services geared toward long-term economic mobility for all, The EDGE plans to formally roll out a new name and branding — Greater Wealth Works — in January of 2022.
- Recently, the Harvard Business Review released a study stating that 17% of Black women are in the process of starting or running new businesses, compared to just 10% of white women and 15% of white men. Despite this early lead, only 3% of Black women are running mature businesses. There are many potential causes for this gap between startup and mature businesses, including a lack of access to assets — the funding necessary to start and maintain a business — among Black women.
- The EDGE, which was founded in 1998 through a partnership between United Way of Cobb, Cobb Family Resources, Cobb County YWCA and Kennesaw State University’s Coles College of Business, is working to close this gap between startup and mature businesses for entrepreneurs across Georgia. Through its mission to help Georgians achieve economic self-sufficiency through entrepreneurship, the organization has guided over 4,000 individuals through the entrepreneurial process.
- According to Rachel, many entrepreneurs don’t know how to execute on all the necessary elements of business operations — from marketing to accounting and bookkeeping. The EDGE is a resource to provide guidance and support to help entrepreneurs stabilize, grow and expand their businesses.
- Part of its programming is helping people determine whether entrepreneurship is the right path for them, and that their business endeavors will lead to a financially solid and sustainable business. Aside from entrepreneurship, The EDGE offers financial literacy education and/or trade skills training to clients.
- The Edge is currently expanding its programming around economic literacy to meet the needs of clients who have debt issues that are preventing them from advancing their businesses. This approach focuses on long-term wealth creation — building your business into an asset that will support you now and through retirement, and one that you can pass on to future generations.
- Daisy’s small business, The Chocolate Box, was part of The EDGE’s programming. Through the programming, Daisy networked with other small business owners and secured a small grant that allowed her to stay open during the pandemic.
- Daisy reiterates the value that The EDGE brings in helping entrepreneurs with long-term wealth creation. Take retirement, for example. Before joining The EDGE, Daisy had not thought about an exit plan: “I just thought I would work forever.” The organization helped her get financially ready to retire or sell her business.
How One Atlanta Nonprofit Supports Entrepreneurs and Economic Mobility
7. The Importance of Good Communication with Donors and Stakeholder
December 14, 2021
- Elyse Hammett, Vice President, Marketing and Communications, Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta
- Kristina Newton-Smith, Founder and Executive Director, Hope for Youth, Inc. (HYPE)
- Transparent communications increase donor engagement. The culture around fundraising has shifted — donors and potential donors today want more updates and information, provided in more concise formats, and to see clearly the impact of their dollars (or potential dollars).
- Make communications the right kind of priority for the size and season of your organization. Nonprofits are all different sizes, with varying resources, and all have different goals. When thinking through a communications strategy for your organization, don’t try to mimic what other organizations are doing. Rather, think through your organization’s biggest priorities and make sure your communications reflect them. And, recognizing resources are often limited, always choose purpose over task — it matters less whether the newsletter goes out the first Thursday of every month, for example, and more that the newsletter has authentic content that engages donors and potential donors.
- Take time to be thoughtful about your social media. Social media can be one of your most effective communications tools, but like all communications, it takes planning and strategy to best serve your organization. With every post, think about how the content you share fits into your organization’s overall plan.
- Tailor your social media content to the appropriate audiences. Social media is ever-changing, so there is no “one size fits all” solution. It requires work to keep your content fresh and relevant.
- Proper planning prevents poor performance. Planning ahead is pivotal for running effective communications within an organization. For fundraising events, leave yourself more time than you think you need to plan, and think through how you can best leverage your resources, like social media, to make events (in-person or virtual) successful.
- The content means more than the packaging. The past two years have caused us to rethink the way we do things, across all departments, sectors, and in our day to day. For communications, take this time to reflect on your strategies to date. Identify what has been most impactful, and scrap the rest! For example, you may find that a 6-page annual report is more digestible and effective than a 60-page annual report, as it is more likely to be read in full and not overwhelm the reader.
The Importance of Good Communication with Donors and Stakeholders
Connette Blake has extensive experience advising organizations on their marketing, communications and fundraising strategies. Since joining StartingUpGood, Connette has worked to promote social impact in startups and advance impact investing. You can contact Connette at email@example.com.