Every foundation’s impact journey is unique. In the case of the Gilson Family Foundation, it started with a trustee attending an Impact Investing Institute event preceding CO Impact Days in Denver, and next two of the three trustees completed a ten-session Impact Finance Center Fellowship and made their first and second program-related investments. Following the Fellowship, two of Gilson Family Foundation’s trustees attended CO Impact Days (Gripne et al. 2016). After attending CO Impact days, the Foundation engaged Impact Finance Center to execute an impact investing strategy in order to increase Impact Finance Center’s capacity and create a smaller local marketplace, the Massachusetts Investor Club. Impact Finance Center’s investment clubs are Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) compliant demo days that include both an education component for investors and social ventures and pitches from potential investment opportunities seeking full spectrum capital focused on health, education, and human services. Next, Gilson Family Foundation and Impact Finance Center implemented a Philanthropic Opportunity Scan to source potential investment opportunities to pitch at the Massachusetts Investor Club. In partnership with Impact Finance Center, Gilson Family Foundation administered a Philanthropic Opportunity Scan with their 32 grantees. Because pay-as-you-save/pay-for-success is so complex, Gilson Family Foundation only asked three of the four questions. The response rate was high; fourteen grantees responded, resulting in a 44% response rate and 17 potential impact investment opportunities across 11 organizations. Some of the opportunities revealed by the Philanthropic Opportunity Scan included refinancing a passenger van and making capital improvements to a greenhouse to enable year-round production of produce.
Grantees with potential investments were invited to participate in the Massachusetts Investor Club. The club convenes potential impact investors interested in Massachusetts and social ventures seeking investments. Interested social ventures simply filled out a short catalog entry describing themselves and the full spectrum capital investment they are seeking. The clubs include two panels and a series of pitches. For the investor panel, impact investors share their journeys and approaches. For the social venture, social ventures share their journeys. The investor club concludes with a fast pitch session where a number of social ventures pitch their full spectrum capital investment opportunities.
The three Massachusetts Investor Clubs have included over 750 attendees, including 124 potential investors and 21 potential impact investments ranging from $75,000 to $30 million, totaling $100+ million. Furthermore, Impact Finance Center has helped the foundation provide technical assistance to grantees and other investors to help structure and facilitate transactions.
Since CO Impact Days, the Gilson Family Foundation has made seven program-related investments and collaborated with others to co-invest, leveraging their investments. Additionally, they have supported several community foundations to build their own impact investing infrastructure. Gilson Family Foundation has demonstrated that asking the community to define their needs, educating other investors, and bringing the two together is more powerful than acting alone.