Courageous Capital Stewards – Jordana Barrack

Courageous Capital Stewards
Courageous Capital Stewards
Courageous Capital Stewards - Jordana Barrack

Dr Steph

Welcome. My name is Dr. Steph, and you’re joining us for our Courageous Capital Steward’s podcast today. We’re thrilled to have with us our guest, Jordanna Barrick, who is the executive director of the Mighty Arrow Foundation. So thank you. Welcome. It’s great to have you here with us today. Thank you. Steph. It’s it’s fun to be here with you today.


We’ve had a few fun conversations in the past, and I’m looking forward to this one to meet you. And I remember thinking, my gosh, we should have had the record button going in the past for these conversations. First, just to introduce everybody. Let’s start with the introduction of who the foundation is, and then I’m going to ask you a question to take a step back and kind of your journey to become executive director.


So tell us, who is the mighty Arrow Family Foundation?


Jordana Barrack

Sure. So Mighty Arrow Family Foundation actually started back in 2012. Its founder was Kim Jordan, who founded New Belgium Brewing Company, along with her ex-husband, Jeff Lee Bish at the time, which was founded back in 1992. Over the years, Kim and her ex-husband started the employee ESOP model, and they shared wealth along the way with the employees working at New Belgium Brewing Company.


And as that went on and business of family dynamics changed in December of 2012, Kim and her two sons, Zach and Nick, they sold their shares, which were the last family held shares in the company. They sold them to the employee ESOP, and that was the event that sort of created the 100% employee owned ESOP model and a Belgian brewing company.


And that event started the Family Foundation. And so Kim was always a very free spirited entrepreneur, a creative thinker, and she made things like energy efficiency and sustainability and shared, well, the part of her business that she grew for over 30 years now at New Belgium. And so when the foundation started, it was intended to be an extension of the values the family had when they ran New Belgium Brewing Company.


And so when we first started with the foundation, it was both intended to be done through grantmaking and through impact investing. So we started in 2012, and by 2014 we actually had a few impact investments that we were already starting to experiment with. Our our purpose and our our impact areas have grown over the years. And we started by working on climate change and food systems.


And then in 2016, we decided to add a land and water stewardship strategy. And then in 2020, we continued to carve out more buckets. We call them our four buzzy buckets. Now because they believe in to one another. But in 2020, we added a social justice strategy. And prior to 2020, we had always said that we wanted any of our investments and grant making placements to have a social justice lens on them.


But in 2020, with the Black Lives Matter movement, we decided that having a lens wasn’t good enough. And so we carved out 25% of our budget to go towards social justice initiatives. So those are our four categories that we like to work in, both within our grantmaking and our impact investing. And within each of those, there are further sub strategies that we can go into.


Dr Steph

That’s fabulous. So, Jordanna, your previous job wasn’t influenced by, was it? Do you want to tell us a little bit about like your story of how you came to get into this position? And then we’re going to talk about like how your past jobs compare to this, this new sector that you find yourself in. 


Jordana Barrack

Sure. Yeah. It’s you know, when I stepped into the role of executive director for the Family Foundation, it kind of felt like my life had sort of come full circle.


And I say that because I spent a lot of my twenties running around the western U.S., traveling across these large landscapes, rock climbing and river rafting and hiking and camping and just really loving the land and the landscape out there. That led me to to start a degree in hydrology and studying water. And then I dropped out of college.


And over the course of my life, I would drop out of college several times. But after that, I stumbled into working in the agricultural industry, and I worked for Cargill. And it’s kind of funny, I say. I don’t always tell my environmental friends that I worked for Cargill, but I actually got a really great experience running a plant breeding and research facility in the canola oil, especially a specialty canola oil unit here in Fort Collins, Colorado.


And I worked there for about seven years and just learned a lot about modern agriculture, kind of maybe corporate strategies on how do you get a million acres of your seed product planted across Canada. Really kind of fascinating blend of science and marketing. And I was still young then, kind of took to that experience into my pocket. I knew that I had wanted to see it continue into more impactful, purpose driven work, but wasn’t sure what that looked like yet.


And being in Fort Collins, Colorado, here, I knew that New Belgium Brewing Company was just a good company to go work for. And so I kind of slimmed down my resume. I got my foot in the door and and I served beers and I gave tours that New Belgium. And it was just a really wonderful way to actually truly live a brand story and get to tell this the founding story of Jim Jordan for for a couple of years.


And I reached a point where I had I, I knew I had these professional skills and it was time to get back to using them. And so before I knew it, I was Kim Jordan’s assistant and her right hand, and which led me to sit in New Belgium’s boardroom. And so I was facilitating our board of directors, which led me to become corporate secretary of New Belgium.


And it kind of sat alongside our leadership team for about eight years as they navigated a few different challenges within the company. And it turns out I learned a lot by sitting in that room. And so during that time, I also started to build out Kim’s personal family office. And part of that was setting up the back office functions for the Family Foundation.


So I’ve been in my executive director role for about three years now, but I’ve kind of been with the foundation for ten years since it started. And over the years, I took on more and more of the grant making strategy work along with the back office functions. And that has really helped to blend my my life of living in these large landscapes, my passion for water and to Western water issues in particular.


And then the agricultural experience from my Cargill days. And then now here I am trying to work on strategies that blend all those things. That’s an amazing story in so many ways and Becky goes so many different directions from this point, I think. Why do you talk about maybe let me ask you this. What has surprised you as you’ve formally moved into philanthropy right there, setting up the back office?


There’s the donations from that perspective. And then there’s this new thing called impact investing. Great. Not only the the money you have and the endowment and the public investments, but the money you might directly invest. You might do a what we call a program related investment or a loan or equity investment short term to a land trust or something else like that.


Dr. Steph

Do you want to kind of give us a sense of like what that was like kind of being thrust into or from this is how we do it in corporations, and now we’re going to take that same ethos and I look at these resources this way.


Jordana Barrack

Well, it’s a really great question, and I think I’m going to take it a little different direction because rather than the corporate lens, I think I want to take it back to the human component.


and what surprised me the most was learning how few funders are asking the people that they give their money to or asking about their own well-being of these individuals. And let me tell you how we as a foundation kind of developed our best practices through the years that led us to this point to care so much about these people.


So it goes back to Kim being an entrepreneur or when she started her foundation, she did not want to hire professionals that had previous experience in philanthropy. She didn’t want someone to come in and say, This is how you do it, and you just put this in place and you send this much money out the door every year and you call it good.


She wanted to make it up as we went. So the first executive director of her foundation was actually her stepdaughter, Lucy Cantwell. And Lucy led the foundation for a few years and started up some of these initial investment philosophies and got a few of our grant making strategies going and a few of our investing strategies going. And then she left and went to go get her MBA and has moved on to working for a large bank.


Now. And so then our second executive director was the daughter of one of our board members, Ryan McPherson, and she continued to build it out. And then I was the third executive director. And along the way, none of us had previous experience in this. So we spent a lot of our time just listening to our partners, listening to the nonprofit organizations, asking them like what in their mind was the best practice that a funder could follow.


And so we started to put in place just general operating grants and multiyear commitments. And we have been doing this since day one, and it is just really been interesting how we are finding that we were actually kind of cutting edge back then because now you’re seeing more and more communicate around the value of that. And so we’re not a we’re not a huge foundation.


We’re a family foundation that’s fairly small but decent in size. And so we’re not going to come in and underwrite a large strategy that is going to, you know, completely change an industry and a region. And so that’s where our general operating dollars are the most impactful. We look for organizations that have general operating budgets around or under 2 million annually.


But well, this has really led to is us having more real conversations. And I think that comes from the fact that we’re in long term commitments with these organizations as they bump into challenges. We’re not walking away. We’re walking through it with them. And part of that is you build real relationships with them. And when you build real relationships, you can have real candid conversations.


And you can ask an executive director like, how are you personally and how like you can allow them to break down this barrier of you’re just a funder that they’re trying to give, say the right words to and you can say, now tell me how you really are and I know you went through this challenge and how are you.


And so that has led us now to try to ask this question, How can we have an impact beyond writing a check? And this will relate a little bit to our spend down strategy that we’re going to be getting into. And so if we’re only around for this period of time and we only have this sized chart to give, but what are the other ways that we can be taking care of our partners?


And so the other thing that I’ve kind of come to realize through that is as a funder, you fund the projects because someone, a person, inspired you about something. And so it’s these people that are inspiring us. How do we do a better job of taking care of the people, the people that are doing that work? Because ultimately that’s how it’s going to get it moved forward.


Dr. Steph

That is so refreshing, so beautiful. You know, we talk about putting the oxygen mask on yourself first. And I know I could. I’m probably familiar with half of your grantees and I’m and there are people who give, give, give, give, give. So the idea that somebody is sitting there going, how do I help you? How are you?


It’s beautiful. And I will magic wand a day when we have programs for anybody in nonprofits, especially where we refinanced their personal debt to increase their wages and get them into homeownership. Like how do we encourage that ethos? Before we talk about the history of how you came to like the concept of spending down, why you chose to spend down?


Can you speak a little bit about how different? I don’t. For people who are in philanthropy, they may not realize that power dynamic, that that point that you just made is so radical in some ways. And you are right, there is now a movement to do participatory grantmaking and to explicitly discuss power in that power dynamic and differential.


And how how do you show up with peers in this way? Because this whole industry has kind of been developed and doing it a different way. So can you talk a little bit about conversations you might have with peers and are they surprised on how you go about it or all the things?


Jordana Barrack

Yeah, let’s see. We certainly talk about our strategies and the way we operate with our peers and we get a lot of positive receptivity to it.


But I think because we have been empowered to be a little bit more creative and how we think about our practices and still a lot of our peers are operating in these preconceived structures as to how how this work gets done. You know, and part of that one example I think of is when in a group of peers I was talking about how we do multiyear grant commitments and we have a rolling three year budget that we are constantly adapting based on what we’ve committed to for the next three years.


And someone was just surprised that, wait, you can build you can build out a budget like that and project what a multi-year commitment could look like. And so it’s kind of just breaking down these preconceived notions of what structure is supposed to be and reinventing it, adapting to the way that you want to operate. You know, and you also talk a little bit about power sharing.


And one thing that I’m thinking about right now, we’re trying to write that something I don’t have an answer to yet, but I want to figure out how to better influence. It goes along with this shared shared power concept of how do you bring in more individuals from the community to help decide who and how and where these funds should go.


And one thing I’m a little bit concerned with right now is pooled funds are seen as a is a large strategy to help direct more capital. And at the same time, I’m concerned about how how the voices in the room are helping to make those decisions on where that capital goes. And one way that I I’m just observing how this is, these structures are popping up more and more in philanthropy and just kind of reflecting on what what I’m hearing from our actual partners on the ground in some of these communities and how they perceived pooled funds.


And it’s led me to just change the question in our grant application process of So in our grant application, we used to ask a question around demographics and we would want to sort for supporting programs and organizations that are serving communities that have been left out historically. And so we asked the question, who are the demographics that you serve?


And the answers that we’d get to a question like that are very numerical and statistical. And so we decided, how do we ask that question in a better way? That’s more of a conversation and more gets to the point of what we’re trying to encourage, which is bringing more voices in from the start. So we changed that question and now we ask, How are you incorporating more diverse voices in your planning, a decision making process for your program and the answers that we get on the grant application now related to that are just so I’m learning so much by just reading the answers to these questions and they’re much more conversational and you can really


pick up a journey that our organization has been through to actually embed more diversity into their work. And it’s just been fascinating by just changing the way that you ask a question in order to both learn better, hear better, and then also encourage the proper way of sharing power, essentially. I love this. Talk about power, keeping a foundation in perpetuity, growing a foundation or spending down the foundation.


There’s huge I mean, you can’t talk about those three things without talking about power. Do you want to talk about the foundation’s decision to stand down, how that came about, why you’re doing the pros and cons. Would you invite others to do it to talk about that? Sure. Yeah. And that is is really coming from the personal philosophy of Tim Jordan, our founder.


Again, since her early days at New Belgium. She’s always believed in shared wealth and with the foundation. And she, you know, she sold her shares in the company and was paid for that. But ultimately, the foundation’s role is to give away the majority of her wealth by the time she passes. And that’s a personal philosophy of hers that she wants to see it given away and spent down during her lifetime.


And she wants to be part of that. And, you know, Kim is also done some reading on a few different philosophies around Stand Down. And there were some statistics that we ran into. I’m not going to get them all right off the top of my head, but I can give you a general idea of it. There was a report back in 2020 that talked about how wealth creators for every $1,000 of wealth created, $4.74, will be given away to charity and for wealth inheritors for every $1,000 of the next generation that inherits the wealth, only $0.76 will be given away for for positive purposes and charity.


And if there’s you’re hearing a lot about how there’s going to be this great transfer of wealth coming and and the actual and I think the tax incentives really drive the difference between these two numbers. But your greatest opportunity to have the greatest impact for your dollars is with that first generation of wealth creator. And so so those are some things that were interesting to Kim, and she felt like her sons had enough of their own wealth and that she wanted to make sure that that her money went towards something positive for the world while she was here.


So we’ve we picked out a sunset strategy. And it’s not a short strategy. It’s a long strategy. So we’re looking at the year 2040 as our spend down target. And with that, you know, we are managing both our investments and our multiyear grant commitments towards this horizon line that is about 17 years out at this point. And so the way that that impacts our investment strategy is, you know, for the last ten years, we have invested in funds and priorities and direct investments and a variety of things.


And because of some of the locked up terms of being 10 to 12 years, we’re kind of in our last couple of years of placing any of those venture capital and fund investments. And so we’ll start to scale back or impact investing strategy in the next year or two, and then we’ll kind of ride out our grantmaking as investments return to us that’ll fund our last few years of grantmaking down the road and high level.


Do you know the big level of buckets in terms of like how much money, how in the stock market versus direct like in funds versus prize versus grant making? Do you know the high level? Yeah. Thanks for asking that. I actually just recently crunched that number for the first time, and about 31% of our portfolio is of the value of our portfolio is in impact and it’s right now, but if you count all of our commitments and so some of these investments in venture capital funds are fully culled.


So if you counted everything that we’re committed to, about 55% of our portfolio is and is committed to direct impact investments. Fantastic. For people that are hearing about you, do you want to talk about your you talked about the program areas, you talked about the geographic restrictions and do you do invited proposals? Do people contact you? What’s the best way you know for everybody, like to to honor everybody’s time, your time, their time?


What are your geographic focus areas? If you didn’t mention that earlier? Sure. Yeah. Thanks for asking that one. We fund in the state of Colorado and then the Bay Area of California, but this is also a very western bay. And so we also stay at the Intermountain west. And then when we added our social justice strategy, we also acknowledged that state of Colorado and Bay area of California might not be the areas that need the most resources.


And so some of our social justice work actually falls across the southern U.S. and we fund a bit in Georgia and Louisiana and Arizona. Texas. And so it can vary based on our strategy, but we primarily stick to Colorado and California and then we do we we don’t have an open grant process. We are invite only that has really come from our relationship.


And so just we really try to go build relationships with organizations before we invite them in to apply for grants, especially since we know we commit for three years upfront. And just doing that relationship building early on is an important part of that process.


Dr. Steph

As you’re seeing this ball transfer, as you’re seeing other START foundations maybe come to you and say, How are you doing it?


How what’s your recommendation for how we would do it? Do you feel like there’s more energy around the I’m just going to call it the innovative progressive ways that you’re doing this. Do you feel like there might be an appetite to do more of this the way that you’re doing this, which is just awesome?


Jordana Barrack

Yeah, I think there is more of an appetite.

I’m starting to see more and more articles and Nonprofit Quarterly and just other philanthropic journals that are sharing more of the same practices that we’ve been doing for a few years now. So it’s fun to see that it’s I don’t know if it’s growing in momentum or if the momentum’s always been there. And we’re just now paying attention to some of those outlets.


But but it is fun to see it grow and see more funders commit to multiple years upfront. 


Dr. Steph

So I want to ask you about your ability to be flexible and innovative. And I believe you have this really awesome story where you are working with a grantee and they were applying for some public funding and you were able to pivot and help them heal, like, right, that application. You want to share that story with us? 


Jordana Barrack

Sure. Yeah. I think this was a great example of, as you said, of us being flexible and not always following the rules, taking a risk. So one of our partners, Land Corps, they’re an organization that works on policy related to regenerative agriculture, sustainable agriculture practices. And they had one. They had written for a grant and won some funding to work on a software platform that helped to provide some dataset or the policies that they are working on developing.


And part of that that grant was the requirement of bringing X number of matching dollars from private sources. And part of those matching dollars was going to be an increase and donation from a software company or time spent helping to build out this listening software piece. And once the one Plan car received word that they had won the grant, they went back to the software company and the company saw, well, we actually don’t have the bandwidth now to help you with this.


So that left a large dollar amount that ran more than needed to come up with new matching dollar sources in order to get this grant over the finish line. And and so they needed help brainstorming who that might be and I was one of the people they happened to call and this was the week before Christmas this last December.


And they had about ten days from that point over the holidays to try to raise this. And so we did some brainstorming and they were pretty stressed out. And I said, you know what? I’m going to take a risk and I’m just going to write the letter. They needed a letter from one of their funders saying that they had those matching dollars.


And so I went ahead and said, I will write the letter for the entire gap that you guys need. But that doesn’t mean that I’m writing a check for that same amount, but it does mean that I’m going to get on the phone with you and I’m going to help brainstorm and how we can raise this money. And so I wrote the letter.


They got the grant over the finish line. And really by the end of January, we had brought in several other funders who all came in together. Everybody threw in a little bit, and we managed to get them the entire amount that they needed to fundraise for. And so that was just a really fun way to kind of roll up my sleeves, you know, take a risk just to help them, you know, kind of get over that finish line and then work with some of our partners and friends and philanthropy and our Rachel to help close that for them.


Dr. Steph

So that is one of the coolest stories I have ever heard. And I think there’s going to be a lot more that comes out of like our ability to take those risks. Right. And we have a tool called a philanthropic opportunity scan, where you asked your grantees, do they have investments? And you say, do you have a line of credit?


Do you have an asset that could be made more efficient? You have a social enterprise. Do you have a something that can save somebody else money or do you just are you just have a great idea and a charismatic team and you just need fundraising help to help fundraise? And what I love about your story and how we reframed that tool is, you know, the fact is we oftentimes give a $50,000.


We might give a single small grant, but the fact is we might be able to give 100,000 where you pay back, you keep 50,000 and you pay back 50,000, or you could give 250,000 and you only are keeping 50,000 from that perspective. And that only thing shifting is the risk. And philanthropy is right positioned to take that risk.


And I don’t have that many stories and cases of that and you have a real a real time case there where you said, listen, you’re a good partner. This is a good idea. You’re in a jam. I’m going to legally take the risk. And I believe in our but I only want to contribute this much. But I will take the risk knowing if we do it together, we can we can cover that gap.


And that’s just a beautiful story.


Jordana Barrack

Well, Steph. I really love the way that you guys are working to help educate people that that’s an option to to do these different forms of capital like is there a way you could take investment dollars instead of just grant dollars? And another example of that is and something we’re trying to ask with part of this spin down strategy is, okay, if we were going to commit to an organization $50,000 a year for five years versus giving them a 250,000 check.


Now what’s more impactful, and every organization’s going to have a different answer to that question, but there’s a group out in California, California firm Link. They work quite a bit on helping to generate capital for small and bipoc farmers across the state of California help connect a lot of like lending, low interest lending for land purchases and equipment purchases and a variety of things.


And we they’re actually one of the organizations we’ve funded the longest for about eight years now. We funded them from a grantmaking standpoint and from a price standpoint. And they during COVID, became an entity that was helping to get COVID relief dollars out the door for the state of California. And through that, they kind of developed this low interest, zero interest loan program to some of these farmers.


And when our PRI matured and it was time to pay us back, they came to us and said, All right, it’s maturity. What would you like to do? Do like you paid back? Would you like to roll it over? Would you like to do it again? Would you like to double down? And we so we ended up doubling down and instead of having the PRI in the same lending profile that it was previously, we doubled our check and we did it at zero interest and we said we did a certain near term on our funds being used in this pool.


That will be that will go towards zero interest lending to farmers out in California. And so that’s another way that an organization that’s been able to leverage both grant dollars and investment dollars. And we participated in both ways because we believed in the work so much. 


Dr. Steph

That’s just a beautiful example of. I sometimes call myself a restoration ecologist in the financial markets and and we think of our rivers as being channelized into small rivers now.


And a lot of us work to restore the flows of the river. And and what I’m speaking about is what we’re talking about today is restoring the flows of the river of capital. And if you will, listing we look at that capital. All of a sudden there is a enough when there doesn’t feel like there might not be enough.


And so I have a feeling we’ll be having this conversation again or continue to point out for this conversation. Just really want to thank you today for coming on the Courageous Capital Steward’s podcast and sharing your story. And and my hope is inspiring a tremendous number of other people, especially that are have are our new newcomers into the philanthropy and also long timers who can say, there’s no reason I can’t do it that way.


And it’s stories like yours and leaders like your entire team and board that are saying, why not do it this way? So I just want to have a huge gratitude and appreciation for you and your team and your board for for really taking that risk and being courageous. So thank you. Thank you so much for joining us today.


Jordana Barrack

Well, thanks for having me on Steph and thanks for the opportunity to be able to share our story. 


Dr. Steph

Absolutely. And I look forward to connecting with you soon.


Jordana Barrack

Thank you.


Dr. Steph

Thank you.


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