Courageous Capital Stewards – Community Foundation of Utah’s Impact Investing Journey with Ian Shelledy

Courageous Capital Stewards - Ian Shelledy
Courageous Capital Stewards
Courageous Capital Stewards - Community Foundation of Utah’s Impact Investing Journey with Ian Shelledy


Welcome. My name is Doctor Steph, and this is our courageous Capital Steward’s podcast with Impact Finance Center. And today I am super excited because we have a special guest, Ian Shelledy. And Ian helps lead the Community Foundation of Utah. Ian, welcome. We are super excited to have you today. 



Thanks, Steph It’s great to be here.



Fantastic. So community Foundations and Impact Investing, I have not actually said this publicly, but I’m gonna say this out loud a little bit. One of the reasons I love working with community foundations is when you think about capital stewards, I what the capital stewards I work with are individuals, foundations, family offices and companies. Now there’s also life insurance companies and pension funds and other capital stewards. But those four are the ones that I interface with a lot. And then you think about civil society, and I think of it as a root system.


And when you think about there’s like associations of money, for lack of a better word, and the association of all the Associations of Foundations is the United Philanthropy Forum. And they used to have all the regional associations and they used to be called regional associations or grant makers or. And then and then they changed that name. I think it’s philanthropic supporting org So you have a philanthropy Colorado, you have the Intermountain Funders Network, you have philanthropy Northwest.


So you had the 43 play space wines and then there’s probably like 200 other thematic ones on communities of interest and identity. And then you have the community foundations, which are really associations of individuals within within different communities. And, you know, I looked at the other day the state of Washington has 73 community foundations. I think Colorado, we had 20 to 30, maybe 30 to 40.


And you think about that’s where regardless of your political affiliation, you have a heart and a soul. You’re tax person, you’re successful, you sell your company and your tax person is like, wait, you need to donate. You can donate to a donor advice fund like Schwab or Fidelity, or you could donate and set up a donor advice fund at your local community foundation.


And so when I think about it, I think of the community foundations are really the root systems of civil society in some ways where you have capital stewards coming together on all different points of view, but really committed to trying to help make their world a better place. So that’s why I’m super excited to have you here today.


And the Community Foundation of Utah is kind of a special community foundation that in some ways. But before we dive into that, we want to hear about your journey, about where did you start your career, where did you grow up and how did you find yourself to this job today? How did I find myself at my job? So it’s a I think like a lot of people wind up working at a community foundation.



It’s kind of a convoluted, circuitous path. So my the short story for me is I wasn’t born in Utah, but I, I grew up there as a kid for the most part. And then when I turned 18, my parents were moving out of state to go down to the south and I was going off to college and I.


I never thought I was ever going to come back. You know, I ended up, you know, going to school and working and living places and going to grad school. And my wife’s family has really kept coming back. Every time I come, we thought it’d be like, Wow, Utah’s actually a pretty special place. So we about ten years ago we moved back and my my job was that in technology commercialization, mostly focused on clean tech and energy efficiency technologies.


And then from there, I ended up starting a nonprofit with my coworker focused on supporting early-stage entrepreneurs in the social venture space and did that for a while. And we a partner with the Foundation of Utah on a couple of projects. I still didn’t really any idea what a foundation was, but we knew some people over there got to the point where I started feeling like it was time to do something different and new.


Some board members and staff members, the incarnation of Utah CEO Alex Eaton said, You know, I’m looking for somebody to come in and manage the day to day so I can get out of the weeds and be a CEO. I was like, okay, well, what what does the Community foundation do? And the more I learned about, the more fascinated I was and end up working out and been here about five years almost.



I love that. I love that story. And you and Alex are make an incredible force of a team to lead that. Alex has a really interesting background. I think we’re a community foundation leader, also Tony Maclin on our team, you know, often pulls from the literature and says there’s four types of community foundations. And so why don’t you tell us how when you think of a community foundation, explain how your community foundations organized and how it may be different or similar to other community foundations?



Sure. Yeah. Yeah. So the running joke with me foundations, I’ll tell ourselves, is that you’ve met One Nation, you’ve met one as we’re all kind of a little different. But we’re unique, I think in that Utah was, as far as we’re aware, the last state have nation. So we’re only about 15 years old, which is pretty young by community foundation standards.


And the interesting, you know, trade off of that age and being in the ecosystem that’s newer for a foundation is that we don’t have a lot of discretionary assets. So a lot of communications have, you know, fairly sizable endowment, discretionary endowment, whereas we don’t our endowments or $1,000,000. And yeah, there are 220 million assets in the foundation is either mostly donor advice funds or community impact funds.


Some people can’t build an interest funds that are set up around different, different issues in the community. So we don’t have a lot of sort of direct direction over the vast majority of our assets, which is a little bit different. But the I think kind of the upside of art or relative youth is that we’re, you know, we don’t have a 30, 40, 5000 year legacy.


And so doing new things, doing different things, doing things faster is a lot easier for us than I think or some other accommodations, because we don’t have that precedent and legacy about how things have been done. And that with the fact that we were founded and still have a lot of board members and folks who are kind of that entrepreneur B.S. kind of person who, you know, is used to moving fast, likes to do things differently, likes to see you know, where we can push the boundaries.


So we think being able to move on some things, you know, pretty quickly and do some pretty interesting stuff considering our age. I love that. Let’s talk about for people who are even completely new. I mean, you and I could go deep into Community foundation, not one on one, but 110 who what kind of person opens up a donor advice fund?



And why do you open up a donor advice fund? And how do people select you Like Do you want to talk about that psychology a little bit?



Sure. So in our case, no, I think some some organizations have a really low minimum on a donor ICE fund. It’s like 20 $500 or $5,000. So in that case is neat because it opens up a an in the whole world of individuals.


You can you can utilize these funds. In our case, most of our donors come are entrepreneurs who set up a fund when they’re selling their companies. So there’s some tax advantages to gifting company ownership and bring in advance of a business merger or acquisition. And so a lot of our donors are business folks who set their fund up during during that time.


And in Utah, obviously, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints plays a big role in our community and that members of that faith tradition have a tie to their church, 10% of their income. And so philanthropy in that way is already really ingrained into a large percentage of Utah’s population. And so a lot of folks set up donor advised funds, at least in the short term, for that tithing obligation.


And then they do, you know, future philanthropy after that. And, you know, and why people choose us over some of the other you know, like a fidelity or other kind of financial institutions that house dafs, as you know, as a community foundation where we’re local or a place based institution. And so donors who want to do their philanthropy locally, we have a pretty decent knowledge of what’s happening in the community in terms of what the organizational profiles are, working in different spaces, what the needs are, where philanthropy can really be additive locally.


And so folks who want to give locally set up funds with us and utilize that expertise. And then I would say we’re also pretty financially ticketed. So a lot of these gifts of company ownership are fairly complicated and we can do them not only pretty well, but pretty quickly. We’re just a lot smaller than our example, like a fidelity is a a huge company and they may need a certain amount of time into to manage a transaction, whereas we are a little bit more nimble and can do it a little faster.



Well, that’s a really good explanation. And later on, let’s talk about your priorities right now, like what the priorities are for Utah. How many other donor advisement providers are there in Utah? 



That’s right. So the only other community foundation is Park City. So Park City Foundation is sort of Summit County in the state amendment or Mercury Foundation standpoint.


It’s really just them and us. And then there’s the Deseret Trust Company has a donor base fund program, so that’s affiliated and with the LDS Church. And then there’s also the know the national players that are everywhere. That modality is the Schwab’s the you know, in you did not know this and this is this is a blast from my past like 25 years, a blast from my past.


But part of my master’s degree was in an NSA National Science Foundation cross site grazing study, and it had seven sites throughout the US and Colorado and Kansas and and North and South Dakota and Minnesota and also had a site on Deseret Land and life sites property. So I lived out it does that range up up and then it told as I did my master’s at Utah state so that’s one little fact into the podcast did not see that coming.



So let’s talk about I asked you before we began, I’m like, how did we even connect? And you’re definitely one of the gifts of the pandemic for me. And so for folks that don’t know this or not, we do a small one on one training program. We call it our fellowship. And and I don’t remember I was just asking you, like, how did you come about or what were you seeking when you reached out to us, if you can even remember that way, not that long ago, with the pandemic fog of all of our lives.



Yeah, totally. So yeah, I did that. How long has it been since I did my fellowship? Like real four years now? Yeah. Yeah. Crazy. But yeah, I think really my initial motivation was, you know, I don’t have a finance background in the, in the technical sense and I, I guess was as aware enough to kind of put the really high level pieces together, the opportunity that philanthropy has.


If it can align 100% of its capital towards its mission, whatever it is that the foundation or donor advice on or whatever was established for, instead of what you know, has historically happened for the most part, where you have 5% of your capital at any one time on a mission aligned and then the other 95% is doing, you know, a whole smattering of things, but very few of which are probably aligned with your mission.



You know, just basically to get that that 19 x multiple of capital and into the system seems, you know, just a fantastic opportunity. So I was like, yeah, I want to learn about how, how philanthropy can actually do that. And so that’s what led me to the Fellowship of Impact Finance Center, which was, you know, an amazing experience and really, I think set me up to really understand some of these opportunities much more specifically and tactically.



And as a practitioner, how I begin implementing them 



I think it’s so interesting because you’ve even been a part of our co-evolving in the last 3 to 4 years. Two of you have been how we talk about it, who you say what two from that perspective, but that I’ve never even heard anybody say it like the 90. Next. Our multiplier effect is a multiplier effect, essentially saying there’s let’s say you have $100 million and you have 5 million that are deeply impactful, attempting positive impact and we say a -100% return.


And then you have this other 95 million which may have negative return and or positive return. We’re trying to get that that percentage. So I love the way that you just frame that from that perspective. So we impact finance and are say your philanthropy is an investment and all of your investments have impact. And and I want to run by this simple math problem.


Doctor Kelly Martin joined our team last year and has an achievement gap background versus a wealth gap solving the wealth gap problem and made a comment the other day to us that her and her husband Chris, donate $10,000 last year to a foster or foster organization that was building housing for kids, aging out of the foster system. And I haven’t made a graphic of this yet, but it’s a it’s a super interesting way to illustrate what you were just bringing up.


And so let’s call it $10,000 is our unit of impact. So they get one positive unit of impact for that $10,000. And then most people don’t realize when you ask them that that’s the average for a ten k return last year was -20%. And so we’re just going to use this math. I’ve already done the math that a calculator would take $80,000, but they get a -20% return.


So if you combine that money, you essentially have $90,000 that got a -30% return in one positive due to the impact. And then we would probably say those eight units relative to Main Street would probably be negative impact. So even if you’re positive ESG, I’m going to I’m going to call those negative for the purposes of our conversation.


So the at a -30% return on that $90,000 and you get a net negative seven units of impact versus had had there been an easy button for like a self-directed IRA, an investment cooperative, like corporate investment property, we could have taken $80,000 out of Wall Street, got a 10% return on that, invested into housing, blended it with the 10,000 you were in a give that would give you 30,000 at -2%.


Now you have nine units of positive impact and that -2% money impulse factor in capital language can be lent out at 1% and you get 30 Kellys and Chris’s together as a group and you have 1% mortgage to refinance a housing project for foster kids and aged out of the foster system that potentially can save that foster care organization $500,000, which is another 50 units of impact.


And I think that’s that’s what we’re talking about. Like tactically, how do we how do we make that happen? And think about that, essentially think about our expenses and our plan to be as investments, right? Yeah, I love I mean, I think anytime you can create a unit of measure that you can apply both to the quote unquote grantmaking side of the equation and the investment side of the equation.


So you start to look at those two things holistically. You know, all of a sudden, you know, a whole new universe of possibilities starts to open up. It’s super magic. And I think we in we call this concept full spectrum. And part of it is the reason also why we have it is blended finance, It is integrated capital.


We like those terms a lot too. But part of what we’re trying to do is challenge the capital stewards, the those with resources to do the blended finance internal to the organization. Because when you try to blend an affordable housing project fund on the outside, there’s magically never enough grant money. Have you ever known that? Like, I don’t know how that works, but if we all if you think about I haven’t looked at how many millionaires there are in Utah, but there’s 300,000 millionaires in Colorado.


If we do the internal blending of our finance like we just did on that story of Kelly and Chris, then there’s magically plenty of money to pay for our housing, pay for our nonprofits, for paper, our businesses, part of it’s a mindset shift. Do you want to talk? And you were telling me a story the other day about, let’s say let’s say you’re a small nonprofit and and I wish somebody had said, Stephanie, would you rather have a $50,000 grant or a $100,000 with a -50% return, meaning practically, it would be a $50,000 grant and a $50,000 recoverable grant, but we’ll say a $50,000 grant to $100,000, -50% return, maybe an entrepreneurial nonprofit.


I’d be like, give me the 100,000 all day long. But but that’s that’s how most people in in nonprofit I mean, that’s not how we in nonprofits are taught to behave. Do you want to talk about your experience or how you’ve been thinking about that and taking those the like? How do you explain that to a nonprofit that it’s like, Oh, you might be better off taking a loan?



Sure, Yeah. I mean, I think the word loan is a really scary word for a lot of people, especially when you’re used to the word grant. And we’ve we’ve done some loans, but for what they really are recoverable grants to nonprofits over the years. You know it it was, you know, challenging at first, I think, to get organizations to kind of get comfortable with that.


Yeah, because it was it was pretty new and make sense. Most new things kind of have an adoption barrier. But, you know, we would you know, we spent a lot of time talking with these organizations and, you know, kind of try to communicate to things around these these kinds of investments. So one was, you know, like you said, it’s like really figuring out what how much capital do you really need to achieve, what you’re claiming you want to achieve.


And the nonprofits are used to kind of just trying to get by with just enough, but really saying, okay, if you ask for a $50,000 grant now, if we gave you $100,000 0% loan and I know that sounds risky, but we the riskier thing is trying to deliver on a set of expectations when you’ve been undercapitalized in order to do so.


And by having the capital, you really need to achieve what you want. You know, that’s that’s certainly the less risky path with two. That’s one, you know, one piece we try to communicate and then the other thing, you know, we tried to say is we use we did use the term loan, which is to do some things over again.


I prefer to use a different nomenclature. But, you know, but just trying to say like, look, these are yes, this is technically a loan in that we’re going to be, you know, giving you money and you have to give it back over a period of time. But, you know, they’re not they’re not the loans you typically think of.


I mean, these loans we did they weren’t they weren’t collateralized, they were non-recourse. There was no interest, you know. So is this a screaming of, hey, we we believe in this project. We believe in your ability to execute on it you want to invest in. And we want to do it in a way that if it’s successful, it’s going to be revenue generating.


So in that case, we would like to get our investment back from those revenues that you’re generating. And can you we just hope that like if it’s successful, can you please give us the money back so that we can do it again for somebody else? And that’s really all we’re asking. And I think once we had those those kind of conversations and helped folks get more comfortable.



The two words that come to mind is trust and alignment, right?


I mean, you want you definitely like problems happen when the capital steward has a different expectation than the community steward. That’s like the misalignment piece. And then but when there’s alignment and when there’s trust, you know, from from if I was in your shoes, I’d be like, okay, I’m going to set aside, or there’s this bucket of resources we normally give away at -100%, and there’s a chance we could recycle it once or twice or three times or four times.


And that is, is I you know, Ian, I think of it like ten years from now. My dream is with Utah and Colorado is we’ve activated enough wealth spectrum capital stewards where we’ve essentially filled a cupboard of capital. And I think of it right now, it doesn’t matter if you’re a startup or a small business or a nonprofit.


When you go to that covered up capital, you have like you have three ingredients. You have a lot of butter and salt and flour, and it’s like those are grants. It’s the butter and the salt or the loans and the flour is the ten x money or the ten 15% money. If you’re in real estate and you’re kind of like, you know, make a beautiful mill out of salt and butter and flour and what this offers, if we can, you know, grow investors at scale is in we don’t know how many it will take a thousand investors, 5000 investors, 10,000 investors that you essentially can like grow these full spectrum capital investors at scale and create a cupboard with all these beautiful food and veggies and grains that people can open up and say, this is the capital, I need to do the work that I want to do at scale. And and I think community foundations are in such a really unique position to to be an honest broker, for lack of a better word, to hold that space of the capital steward.


And the community steward in that space is that how you see a little bit your charge? 



I do, yeah. And also it makes me a bit hungry. I think I’ll go eat out after this. Yeah I do. I think you know community foundations are really unique in several ways, but I think maybe what your analogy is getting at is that we’re on the one hand where we we can be fairly sophisticated financial institutions and also sort of understand or at least kind of have an understanding of how the traditional financial world works and and be able to play in that space.


And then on the other hand, you know, we’re nonprofits. I mean, we’re and we’re embedded in our community and understand, you know, what a grassroots community organization is and does and what what the world is like for. And I think there’s there’s very few entities that are able to do both of those things and play and both of those worlds.


And I think, you know, community foundations are one of the few that are and that just sets us up to do a lot of really interesting things over time. 



It sure does. We were recently hired by the Essex County Community Foundation to help them develop a strategic plan, and there were four parts to that. We we basically did the philanthropic opportunity scan and we asked our nonprofits, we did two webinars and we said, you know, we asked four simple questions Do you have any debt?


Do you have any assets? Do you have a social enterprise? Why did you have a pay, as you say, and and we asked over 300 nonprofits that question and we sourced 129 yeses of investments within those grantees, which I think is still I knew that would be the case, but I’m still shocked every time I’m like, Wow, look at how many investments are in nonprofits.


Number one. And number two, we did a intermediary landscape scan and we going to get to that question in a second. Then we we did some engagement with donors and then we did a essentially like a who’s who with community foundations and impact investing. And and we’re going to release that report soon. And on June 15th in Denver, you’re going to be a guest teacher with us to to share your story.


And we are showcasing nine rock star community foundations in the space. And part of why you were selected also is this tricky thing that I’ll just say, Cami, nations are in a tricky situation because you need this infrastructure. If you think about it from the capital story, the capital steward wants to have a very seamless experience, but software has not been developed, nor because there’s only 850 of you.


Right. So so you’re in this really tricky space of there’s not a beautiful dashboard set up and technology systems set up to provide that seamless single user interface. And so community foundations are experimenting with call it fragmented intermediary solutions from CDF ISE to intermediaries such as low cost are I give getting that wrong from intermediaries such as CDFIs, locust impact, charitable cap shift and also realize impact.


And in the case you’ve been working with realize Impact for a while and I would also say community foundations are a bit up in a rock. In a rock, right? Like, like you’re already doing more work than, say, a fidelity and or Schwab locally, right? So you have more expenses. And so you’re sitting here and you’re like, wait a minute, might some of we we want to do this, this is the right thing to do.


Some of our donors are asking for this and we don’t necessarily have the capacity and staff, but we don’t want to charge more fees that I capture that rock in the rock situation. Well, for community foundations.



yeah, I think so. I think, you know, we’re presentations are from my perspective, we’re operationally designed to do grantmaking additional grant that our software systems are built for it, our staff are trained for it, are kind of legacy donors let’s say are expect that now.


And so when we talk about and have a more full spectrum approach which has a very high impact and so we’re not always operationally able to do that very well, at least not not at first. And so that that’s really been our experience. We did, you know, a lot of these measurement related investments which are, you know, these direct investments in tech funds or companies that are having impact.


And, you know, we’re not we’re also not investors. And then in that like technical sense of that word. And so not only we’re not operation design for we’re not yeah. Know how to do diligence that, you know, a TV deal got no one else on our staff does. But we have donors who want to do it and we want to do it because it’s cool and it can, you know, and it creates an exponential, you know, amount of impact and.


Right. So we have really been on a journey to figure out how do we operationally design ourselves so that we can we can really do those things without necessarily having the internal capacity or expertise to all of them. So realize impact has been a great partnership for us because it’s allowed for us to really offer additional aid and investments that scale for any donor of ours who wants to do them.


And we don’t have to worry about, you know, due diligence thing it deal and we don’t have to bury that deal on our books for a life of the investment can be quite a long time. So those sorts of partnerships have been have been really helpful. And I do think there’s a big opportunity on the software side. So we’ve talked about that next step.


There really is isn’t some sort of hackathon or something for better software. There’s certainly a need for it. 



And in actually one of the outcomes that came about, the Community foundation impact investing landscape scan is for where we’re going to release a report soon. And we ended up saying as a thank you, would you like to, to meet each other?


And that’s been fun to bring you all together and, and when I think about it, I could see like us adding another ten community foundations to this report and that 20 of you of like, okay, how do we how do we create a financially self-sustaining software that will actually work for you all to have that dashboard right? It doesn’t have to be a huge moneymaker.


It just has to be something that would work. If it worked for 20 of you. It could then roll out work for the rest of the system from that perspective. So I think let’s just put that out there to the ether. The universe. If you had a magic wand right now, what what are your magic wand wishes around the next chapters you see for it?


And we can’t talk about a potential project we will get to work on, but I’m super excited to potentially help grow investors in Utah. But what types of what types of projects are exciting you going forward and what are the priorities for the Community Foundation in Utah? 



You know, I think something that’s really exciting for us is the we’re noticing a big shift in the philanthropic landscape here in Utah, at least that I think is tied to a broader shift nationally, although I’m not as well positioned to really speak to that.


But it’s kind of this we’re getting the sense from donors that, you know, for donors who have been giving for a while, there’s sort of this realization that for some folks in issues where they’ve been giving to an issue for decades and they’re seeing that issue get worse, not better, and that’s prompting them to reexamine their approach and say, okay, I’ve been giving you this for a long time and this issue is now worse than when I started.


I really need to take a deep look at what’s happening, what’s going on, and what might I do differently in my philanthropy in order to help the ecosystem get to a different outcome? So you have that happening coupled with a generational shift that we’re all experiencing. And I think, you know, our newer generation of philanthropists kind of by nature of being a newer generation has, you know, is curious about different and new ways of doing things.


So I think those two things are going to have a really, really significant influence on the Utah ecosystem over the next ten years. And I’m hopeful that part of that is going to be, again, this this sort of full spectrum model of philanthropy, donors really thinking about how they can align more and more of their capital around around these goals.


So I think that’s that’s something that I get really excited about. And we’re starting to do more and more donor education in that space. And I think we’re also just seeing some of the assumptions that have embedded philanthropy for so long, starting to be questioned. And I’ll take one example that’s top of mind right now for me is, you know, the idea of perpetuity.


I think the system of philanthropy is sort of starts with this assumption that if you’re a philanthropist, you want whatever you’re doing to be perpetual and like foundations are designed to be perpetual, you know, that’s whatever all our infrastructure is designed to perpetuate that that model, which is not a bad model by any means, it’s just but it’s one model of number models.


And I think we’re starting to see things get reframed where instead of starting with some of these assumptions, you have donors really starting to say like, what? What do I actually want to achieve? And can I get really clear about then if I can. And the answer to that question dictates every dictates my model takes my vehicle. It takes who I have involved in it.


You start with the end in mind and you build backwards, which I think historically philanthropy is kind of been the inverse. You kind of start with all the infrastructure and all the stuff and you kind of figure out how to get it out to the world. But we’re starting to see that whole thing flip around, which and I think will have some pretty, pretty big consequences.



I think that plus one of that all around, I think one of the I’m working with and what part of the Just Economy Institute and one of the fellows in that is we’re kind of playing around with this idea of there is a concept called death over dinner. I don’t know if you’ve heard about it. The you it’s a structured conversation about dying where you get together a bunch of friends and you have you go through this, let’s have death, let’s have dinner and talk about death and I’m thinking we need to have that same conversation of like, let’s have dinner and talk about money.


And there’s a piece to what you said. I’m seeing the same thing. And people getting clear like, how much do I actually need to feel safe? And for myself, my kids, my family, all of those things. And then after that, that’s kind of potential that those additional resources are have the potential to have deep impact. And then the next part of the conversation is what does the community need, you know, of the subject area that I care about and I find a community to steward.


I want to place the baton, for lack of a better word, like the idea of going to them and saying, hey, community steward, like if you had your wildest dreams come true. Like what? What are those full spectrum capital needs for time travel, treasure, talent and and let’s reverse engineer that, especially when it comes to the capital side to give you what you need so that you can solve the problems of your community at the both the pace and the scale that we need to.


You know, whether you’re working on solving the the wealth gap or the achievement gap or working to make our solve our climate problems, that shift in that mindset is this beautiful at plus one and everything you said. So I’m interested and in helping like stand up, let’s have dinner and talk about money. And Kathleen McLagan is a very well known for asking people like, what’s your number like?


How much do you need? And it’s just not a conversation we often have in this way. No, I mean, we’re not culturally conditioned hug about money, are we? But that’s I love this generator, you know, our death or God forbid, both at the same time. Yeah. Oh, for sure. There you go. Talk about both at the same time.


I’m excited we get to see each other in June 15th and we just had so we kind of launched our series. We’re to have you all publicly on a series. And Seth Baker from Van Wert County Community Foundation was on the first webinar and could not believe it. It’s a I don’t know if you’ve heard a story very much, but he leads a community foundation, one of the older ones, and it’s almost all in doubt and out dollars, right?


So it’s kind of the opposite of what your foundation looks like. And Eric DOWDEN, who I met through our team, and Karen Eller and and Greg Sherman in Fort Wayne, Indiana, we got connected to Eric and Eric and basically challenged this town. And there’s a lot of towns, unlike Salt Lake City and Denver, which were having an expansive growth population that part of the world is seeing the kids are not coming back to work and live in those towns.


And so they basically said, you know, is your foundation set up for perpetuity? And they said, yeah, we’re good. Yeah, we’re really proud of that. And then Eric said, Is your town going to be around in 100 years? And they’re like, Oh, maybe not. So they’ve taken their endowment and purchased 55 buildings on Main Street. 55 building. Wow, that’s amazing.


Isn’t that amazing? So super interesting story. It’s up recorded on on our Impact Investing institute but super excited to to get you all in kind of the same conversation sharing that those stories together because now he has a liquidity issue right we need to make sure that he can still meet the obligations because there’s long term commitments to nonprofits that they’ve been surveying.


And so I’m super interested if we can use the philanthropic opportunity scan. So I’m super interested to see if we can use the philanthropic opportunity scan to essentially find savings in that nonprofit immunity and use part or all of those savings to help resource the nonprofits. While they’re also deeply taking that money and investing in Main Street. So I think that’s so selfishly, I’m loving reconnecting with you and the space, reconnecting with South, you know, individually and collectively and it’s going to be a lot of fun as we as we stand up this first one day workshop and then move it around the country at different times so that we can learn from each other


and also help solve these problems. I think you and Seth give me hope. And Alex, who you work with, like it is possible. Like it’s not just the hypothetical. You can actually make money for out of Wall Street into Main Street, taking the best of Wall Street to to make that so and so that people are still getting the return the risk liquidity they want with the impact in our closing minutes, is there anything else you’d like to talk about or share with the audience as we wind down our conversation?



You know, I think my only like parting soapbox style comment would be that just kind of how I think about really foundations and this particular space. You know, a lot of people hear that phrase, you know, philanthropy is society’s risk capital. And while I don’t like to generalize too much about what philanthropy as a result, I, I generally agree with that statement and I see community foundations as like a risk capital of capital who in the sense that we must be foundations, you know, they have some discretionary dollars, right?


But there are a lot of other funders in their ecosystem and a a lot of they have good relationships with most of them. And so for me, a lot of what I see as foundations role is really to show the ecosystem. What is possible is there is so much you can do in philanthropy and create a way to make new things safe and accessible and interesting for anyone else who might want to do those things.


And so when I when I think of full spectrum capital, you know, I think of every foundation as on its own point him along that journey and we’re certainly not even close to the end on ours, but just, you know, importance of staying active around this and as when whatever that means to your own foundation. But think about how how how might we do things differently and deploy more of our assets in alignment with our mission?


And I think a lot of it is going to feel new. It’s risky. It’s going to feel different. But I would argue that as a as a community foundation, that’s our job is we have to our job is to show be the risk capital. There’s capital and show what what you can do and create that space for other funders to do it, too, Should they get inspired to do so.


So I would just hope that everybody, you know, wherever they are on that journey, especially if your family foundation was be thinking about.



I cannot think of a better way to end the courageous Capital Steward’s podcast with the call to action to be brave. I mean, you’re essentially saying it is your opportunity, responsibility, your joy to be there, to take those risks, to figure it out and I’ve also heard you many times say the importance of you’re not going to have all the answers upfront.



Yes. You’ll never have at least I never take have all the answers. 



Right. And so thank you for you and Alex and the rest of your Kiki and the rest of your amazing team for being not only brave within Utah, but brave amongst community foundations. We’re super grateful to be in community with you and love being a part of your journey along the way.

So thank you for spending time with us today. 



Of course, it was a pleasure being here and it’s great to have, again, relationships like you because as you just said, I, I normally don’t have the answer. And so the only way to get it is to be in community with other people who who might have it. And then having those community relationships to go seek it out. So I’m grateful to be a part of your organization.



Well, thank you. And we will see each other very soon. 



Yes. See you in Denver.

Join our Impact Investing Community

Latest Posts

News & Media