Beginning in 2020, Essex County Community Foundation (ECCF) in Massachusetts began pursuing a collaborative, cross-sector approach to delivering philanthropic resources to address the root causes of systemic social issues across the county. In an effort to learn from peers, ECCF participated in the Massachusetts Investor Club hosted by the Gilson Family Foundation and Impact Finance Center. This introduced ECCF to full spectrum capital, financial innovation, and the opportunity to source impact investments from their existing philanthropic portfolio.
Gilson Family Foundation philanthropically supported ECCF to develop a strategic plan. ECCF hired Impact Finance Center in Spring of 2022 to develop an impact investing strategy aligned with their systems philanthropy approach. Alongside portfolio strategy, ecosystem mapping, and internal education, a crucial component of this work was sourcing impact investments for ECCF to estimate the size of the impact investment opportunity in the community. To identify investment opportunities, ECCF and Impact Finance Center implemented a Philanthropic Opportunity Scan focused on ECCF’s grantees. Together we delivered the nonprofit financial innovation and impact investing course to dozens of grantees and followed up with a survey over a three week time period. The survey was sent to 380 grantees. Seventy five grantees responded with 128 potential investment opportunities.
ECCF and Impact Finance Center are analyzing the responses. At the same time, Impact Finance Center and ECCF and Impact Finance Center are developing a National Intermediary Landscape Scan and a National Community Landscape Scan. ECCF will use these resources to develop their strategy in partnership with Impact Finance Center for the foundation. ECCF believes the Philanthropic Opportunity Scan will serve as a model for other community foundations to take the first step on their impact investing journey while supporting their grantees in a meaningful way.