There’s just one problem: the sector needs deals. Badly. And they really want nonprofits to take the lead on proposing and structuring those deals. That’s right, you.
So, what if someone gave you $5 million, and then asked for it back? What would you use it for? How would you advance your organization’s mission? How would you insure repayment? Perhaps most importantly, how could you use this opportunity to grow?
You know, about a year ago I was having breakfast with a good friend over at Services for the Underserved – a well established nonprofit social services provider and affordable housing developer (Hi David!) – and we got to talking about corporate social responsibility. I mean, there are an awful lot of good intentions out there, and a lot of self-serving hoo ha to go right along with it. Where, we asked, could we have a substantive dialogue that advanced our little sector while addressing the needs of the most vulnerable?
We’ve been reaching out to lots of very smart folks to create content that’s meaningful, and we’ve heard a bunch of really great ideas. I wanted to share with you just a tiny bit of the thinking that’s gone into this conference.
Why is SUS hosting this conference? Innovation and change are all around us. SUS strives to play an active role in the trends that shape our collective efforts, and the emerging social impact investment sector holds both promise and challenge.
Nonprofits like SUS are becoming more complex. SUS manages both for-profit and nonprofit entities; makes regular use of structured finance in its work; draws upon management best practices from both the nonprofit and corporate sectors; has earned revenues as an important part of its plan for growth and stability; and can deploy larger capital allocations. These are all the hallmarks of an emerging class of complex nonprofits that blend a mission orientation with a sharp nose for business and the ability to operate at much greater scale.
For-profit social benefit corporations are both partners and competitors. There are a number of areas (affordable housing, education, healthcare, economic development) where for-profit corporations are taking on work previously provided by nonprofits. So you’ve got complex nonprofits intersecting more and more with social benefit corporations, or even traditional corporations seeking to meet needs closer to the bottom of the pyramid.
Convergence is good for social impact investment. Where complex nonprofits and social benefit corporations converge investors can frequently find revenue models capable of repaying principal, and even generating returns.
Social impact capital is no panacea. In spite of the opportunities of social impact investment, we must also carefully balance these against the need for grants, contracts, technical assistance and other resources.
Nonprofits need to drive more of the conversation. Nobody understands the needs and challenges of nonprofits better than the nonprofits themselves. By placing the voices of nonprofit leaders front and center on this issue, we’re advancing the entire sector.
We view this conference as a beginning. We hope to carry the ideas, alliances, and aspirations of this conference into an ongoing conversation with you and our collective stakeholders. We hope to see you there, and thereafter.
Your Man About Town’s middle name is Moderation, Dear Reader; and although it is a somewhat awkward locution when making a full introduction, it nonetheless conveys the important fact that your Man About Town’s middle name is not Tom, Dick or Harry. I moderate. I facilitate. I have even been known, at times, to adjudicate.
Dear Reader, I’m writing to you from Man About Town’s Brooklyn redoubt – where we have been spared from the very worst of hurricane Sandy. We never flooded, and we never lost power. Like so many of you, Mrs. Man About Town and I have been glued to Twitter, NY1, WNYC, the NY Times, and a host of other news sources trying to grapple with the scale of the devastation caused by surging storm waters and wind. And, like many of you, we’ve wept over the terrible loss of life, and been inspired by the ingenuity and dedication of emergency personnel, public leaders, and generous neighbors.