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Growing the Foundation Circle: Third Cohort to Launch in 2018

“An ounce of practice is generally worth more than a ton of theory.” E.F. Schumacher

Community foundations are uniquely positioned as community catalysts: they have place-based missions, local relationships, and the capacity to drive impact both through philanthropy and investment. In 2015, American Community Foundations represented more than $71 billion in assets while making $14 billion in gifts and grants – imagine what would be possible for their communities if those assets were invested locally in ways that aligned with their philanthropic missions?

This work is already beginning – and it’s an integral part of how BALLE envisions meeting our mission to create local economies that work for all across North America.

BALLE’s first Community Foundation Circle (CFC) launched in 2014. The CFC is a community of practice for pioneering leaders at place-based foundations who are working to align their foundations’ investments to directly support their local philanthropic missions.

Our second cohort began convening in 2016, and we are beginning recruitment for a third cohort to launch in 2018. For more information on recruitment, please contact Jess Daniel.

“The impact investment movement is increasingly turning its focus to near-in local investments, and BALLE has been ahead of this curve in its work with community foundations.”

– Steve Toben, Flora Family Foundation

The 2016 Community Foundation Cohort first met in Rhode Island in October, 2016.

The 2016 Community Foundation Cohort first met in Rhode Island in October, 2016.

As part of this unique community of practice, participants advance their personal effectiveness in overcoming barriers to place-based impact investment, share with and support one another, learn from domain experts, and intentionally create new knowledge and practices. CFC members also hold a commitment to advance the larger field and to make their resources and knowledge available to others doing related work. The curriculum includes a focus on racial justice.

Our program partners include FB Heron Foundation, RSF Social Finance, Mission Investors Exchange, and The Democracy Collaborative.

The first two cohorts of the Community Foundation Circle include 27 leaders from 25 community and place-based foundations that collectively represent $5.26 billion on assets under management. The first cohort has collectively committed or deployed more than 10 percent of their assets toward place-based impact investing. (BALLE defines “place-based impact investing” as a set of tools utilized to intentionally leverage assets to support values or causes that the investor wants to encourage in a particular community or region.)

Participants in that 2014 cohort include Rhode Island Foundation, which over the course of their participation in the CFC created an impact investing policy and made an initial commitment to shift five percent of their investments to place-based impact investing. The Hamilton Community Foundation committed 20 percent of their donor advised funds toward place-based impact investments.

“The Community Foundation Circle is accelerating my learning and our organizational work on impact investing in ways that would not otherwise be possible. It is a carefully curated and well executed experience, and is transforming our opportunities in our community.”

– Mauri Ingram, President & CEO at Whatcom Community Foundation

Participants also benefit from the larger BALLE Leadership Network, including BALLE Fellows – leading practitioners and pioneers who are developing community and business solutions on the ground to create healthy, equitable local economies – and members of the Local Economy Investors Circle, who are advancing the impact investing field from their positions managing large private and public funds.

The Arkansas Community Foundation – part of the 2016 cohort – recently made their first ever impact investment in partnership with two other leaders in the BALLE Leadership Network. This $1 million investment, inspired in part by leadership from Investor Circle member Pat Riley, created a loan fund for low-income entrepreneurs that is administered by Little Rock-based CDFI Communities Unlimited, run by BALLE Fellow Ines Polonius.

“This collaboration puts us in a much more interesting position to make an impact in our community, which is entirely what our mission is about,” says Sarah Kinser, CFC participant and chief program officer at the Arkansas Community Foundation.

Recruitment is underway for our 2018 cohort: eligible for participation are people in leadership positions with either community foundations or place-focused private foundations. These leaders and foundations may be at the very beginning of their mission investing journey or may have already jumped in the water (or put in a toe). The cohort will represent significant diversity including rural and urban foundations that vary in asset size, geographic location, and in terms of how much discretion they have over the use of their assets. What they will all have in common is a determination to use their institutional assets more effectively in pursuit of their mission.

Do you know a foundation or leader that might be interested in participating? Send them our way! To connect us with a contact who may be a good fit for the 2018 CFC or if you have questions or would like more information, please send inquires to Katheryn Witt.

You can also read more about the program, get a sense of what the immersions are like, or learn more about the leaders represented in both cohorts.