Blog

Announcing the 2014-2015 RSF Social Impact Fellows

December 19, 2014

RSF Social Finance is pleased to announce the 2014-2015 RSF Social Impact Fellows. This cohort marks RSF’s fifth year of the fellowship program, and the first year professionals have been invited to participate in addition to graduate students.

The Social Impact Fellowship is designed to support the development of the next generation of inspiring leaders in the social finance field. RSF also seeks to bring a fresh perspective to the organization’s business development activities.

Fellows will work closely with RSF’s Lending Team to identify prospective borrowers, conduct due diligence, and structure commercial loans that will become part of RSF’s $85 million Social Enterprise Lending portfolio. The Fellowship is an extension of RSF’s mission to build the field of social finance. Working with graduate students and professionals across disciplines and geographic areas not only allows RSF to build a network of advocates for the industry, it also spreads the work of social finance into places where the concept of values-aligned investing is still very nascent.

Twenty-seven fellows have completed the program since it began in 2010. Nearly half are now successfully working in the social finance field at organizations like Village Capital, Impact Assets, and OPIC.

“I know first-hand, this is an incredibly valuable experience,” said Kate Danaher, Senior Lending Associate at RSF. Danaher was a part of the first cohort of Fellows and now runs the program. “These fellows have the opportunity to identify and engage with pioneering entrepreneurs who are at the forefront of solving pressing social and environmental problems.”

2014-2015 Social Impact Fellows 
                                                                                                                                             

Lisa Fisher is the Founder and President of an independent consulting firm focused on cultivating vision, authenticity, and sustainability in individuals, organizations, and communities with an emphasis on social responsibility and social impact. For 17 years, Fisher has served nationally and internationally as a coach, a facilitator, and an educational, organizational, and development consultant for both for-profit and non-profit organizations. She is a graduate of Wellesley College and holds a Master of Arts in Teaching degree and a Master of Arts in Leadership and Organizational Development. She is currently completing a Master of Arts in Psychology and a PhD in Organizational Systems with a focus on catalytic philanthropy and social enterprise. Fisher is a certified yoga instructor, a former Junior Olympic alpine ski racer, and, most importantly, a mother. She loves to play in the glorious outdoors as often as possible.

 

Nakul Kadaba is currently a Project Associate at the Small-Scale Sustainable Infrastructure Development Fund and helps manage their projects and other initiatives in South and Southeast Asia. He has experience in innovative finance, enterprise development, and poverty alleviation for several organizations. He holds a Masters in Public Administration from George Mason University and a Bachelor’s degree from The College of William and Mary. He is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is excited to add to the social finance conversation.

 

Sam.Kressler_Head Shot CroppedSam Kressler is the Executive Chef of Bom Dia Market, a neighborhood gourmet market in Noe Valley. Before joining Bom Dia, Sam ran Stir Consulting, a consulting agency that focused on menu and product development for hospitality and food businesses. Sam holds a culinary degree from the French Culinary Institute and a Masters in Food Systems from NYU. He is a founder of Slow Money NYC as well as a monthly happy hour that brings together Bay Area professionals across the sustainable food and agriculture industry.

 

Dave Hanold is a loan officer at NYBDC, a mission-based lender in New York State. Dave leads a team of community development lenders specializing in SBA loans of $25,000 and upward to businesses that are not eligible for traditional bank financing, with a recent focus on food and beverage producers. After graduating from Macalester College in 2009, he spent a year in the Americorps NCCC program, performing community service projects across the Midwest. When he’s not evaluating balance sheets, Dave’s probably at the climbing gym or playing soccer!

 

Stu Fram currently works at the High Meadows Fund, an environmental foundation in Vermont, where he supports the administration of the Fund’s mission spending budget. Prior to joining High Meadows, Stu received a BA in Human Ecology from Middlebury College, where he co-founded an organization that works to improve the amount of local and sustainable options available in the dining halls. While studying abroad in Madagascar, Stu received a grant to study local and institutional perceptions of integrated conservation and development projects in one of the country’s national parks. He resides in Burlington, VT.

Seeding Economic, Social and Environmental Change

December 18, 2014

Recently, a handful of RSF activities were highlighted on a new site that offers online tools and community resources for people looking to challenge the status quo of Philanthropy. The site, called Indie Philanthropy Initiative, features RSF’s Shared Gifting program, the RSF Seed Fund, and our Social Investment Fund amongst many other organizations that offer inspiring stories for creative grantmaking and collaborative funding models.

The below article about the RSF Seed Fund was originally published by the Indie Philanthropy Initiative and Kindle Project.

 

IPI-Kindle-1-RGB

How do you do your funding? Please describe your organization’s approach and process, explaining how it is different from conventional philanthropy.

The RSF Seed Fund is a small grant making program which funds new initiatives that further the field of social finance, or address issues within our focus areas of Education & the Arts, Food & Agriculture, and Ecological Stewardship.The process we follow is similar to conventional philanthropy, in that we have grant guidelines and review proposals, but what is different is that we are looking for new and emerging ideas without requiring “proof of concept” or commitments to and reporting on metrics of success. We try to keep the grant process simple because we know grantees have to jump through a lot of hoops to get funding, and we want to leave them flexible to explore and experiment in their early stages of growth. Another aspect that sets this fund apart is our rotating staff review committee. Each year, we invite RSF staff to be a part of this decision making process by selecting three to four interested people from different departments to join the philanthropic services team in reviewing the grant proposals.

What made you realize this funding style would be important for what you were trying to achieve?

One of the reasons we have this small grantmaking program, with $250 to $5,000 sized grants, is that we don’t have any other unsolicited grant programs. We want to have an opening so that new ideas, organizations, or people can become visible to RSF.

How does your funding practice affect the overall impact you are able to achieve?

Funding new ideas that need initial grant funding gives us the opportunity to support work at the beginning of its growth. It’s the beginning of a spectrum of funding we call ‘integrated capital,’ which is the coordinated and collaborative use of different forms of capital, including grants, direct investments, and loans, to support enterprises working to solve complex social and environmental problems. With these grant dollars we are willing to take risks with projects that may not have a demonstrated track record.

One of our 2009 Seed Fund grantees was People’s Grocery in Oakland. They then went on to participate in our first Shared Gifting circle and we have made an investment in their Direct Public Offering for People’s Community Market. It’s been incredible to see how we can support people and projects throughout the arc of their growth.

What is the most important insight you gained specifically through funding in this way? What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to a funder curious about doing something similar?

The nature of gifts and gifting is something we talk about a lot at RSF. We ask ourselves, “what are gifts best suited for? what can they make possible in the world?” Gifts are a different kind of transaction than say purchase or lending transactions. Our insight is that gift money is best suited for risks and for researching innovation.

My advice to other funders would be to understand the importance of funding new ideas. You have to be open to failure, and you have to be open to trust in the people and projects.

In addition, giving our staff members the experience of being a part of a grantmaking process is really powerful. As I said before, we invite new staff to participate in the Seed Fund process and it’s made a huge impact on people.

Finally, sometimes you need to let go of all the impact assessment and analysis to determine if grant funds are being effective. We talk about something called intuitive grantmaking. It is okay to trust your instincts about how the money can flow into the world.

Why does Indie Philanthropy matter to you?

This particular program fits under our Philanthropic Services purpose, which is to cultivate giving as the source of economic life. We want to transform gifts into being seen as an important part of the economic process. We understand gifts to be at the beginning of the economic process. Personally, that idea of intuitive grantmaking got me more interested in Indie Philanthropy. My experience with the RSF Seed Fund led me to explore the field and ultimately sparked the creation of our RSF Shared Gifting program, which exists to transform the power dynamic present in philanthropy. The RSF Seed Fund ignited that interest in me.

View the original article here

 

 About the Indie Philanthropy Initiative

Indie Philanthropy is a creative disruption to the status quo of funding that gives a common name to decentralized, daring alternatives poised to reshape the field of philanthropy. The Indie Philanthropy Initiative includes the launch of a suite of new online tools and offline community resources to help curious funders looking for dynamic grantmaking practices and allies. www.indiephilanthropy.org

Seed Fund Grantee Highlight: Green Meadow Waldorf School

December 16, 2014

gmws

Green Meadow Waldorf School (GMWS) received a $1,000 Seed Fund grant to support Open Saturdays, a free tutoring program brought by GMWS faculty, staff, parents, and students to children in struggling local public schools during the 2014-15 school year. GMWS is located in Chestnut Ridge, New York in the East Ramapo School District where more than 48 percent of students are eligible for free school lunches, and an additional 14 percent are eligible for reduced price meals. The district has faced significant budget deficits in recent years, exceeding $7 million in the 2012-13 school year, resulting in extensive cuts to programming. Last spring, more than 80 district teachers and staff members were laid off, including arts faculty, librarians, and security personnel, and full-day kindergarten has been eliminated district-wide, as has music and art, athletics, and AP and ESL coursework.

gmws2Student Testimonial:

“To be honest, I was very skeptical about [Open Saturdays] because it was free of charge. I was reluctant to wake up early every Saturday, but I…brought my math folder, tests, and homework and expected the worst. At first I worked with a student named Sabine, and she really got me comfortable with the environment here. After a few more sessions, I started to work with Mr. Madsen. He was a great help and he definitely helped me increase my scores in math.” –Julian

Open Saturdays is a way for Green Meadow to reach out to students in this severely under-resourced school district. The program was designed and is coordinated by Green Meadow’s Diversity Committee, a standing group that includes representatives from diverse backgrounds from the faculty, staff, and parent body. The Committee contacted guidance counselors and administrators in local schools during the fall of 2013 to gauge needs and interest in a tutoring program, and based on this input from partners in the district, GMWS moved forward with a pilot program immediately. Open Saturdays, launched in January 2014, provides free tutoring in mathematics, science, and English to local public school students enrolled at Chestnut Ridge Middle School and other middle and high schools in the district. The tutors are GMWS middle and high school teachers, staff, parents, and high school students, who volunteer their time.

gmws3Student Testimonials:

“In the time that I have been coming here, I have had an amazing experience. I was tutored by several different people. My grades went up and my homework was completed more efficiently.” –Elijah

“With these Saturday sessions, I have gotten to understand my work better and meet incredible people. At the beginning, my grades were not where they should be, but with your [GMWS tutor] help my grades have improved dramatically.” –Alexis

 “When I first [started], I had a lot of trouble with the subject Math. I was at the point where I was failing bad. Then I met a teacher named Mr. Madsen. Once I worked with him, he made math a lot easier for me.” –Taron

The principal outcomes for the program are learning improvements by students, evidenced through increased competence with the material, as observed by tutors. GMWS also hopes that the program will promote a culture of service in their community and support an overarching goal to build bridges between their school and the larger community while providing tangible, meaningful services to their neighbors. You can read more about the program in an interview with Vicki Larson, Green Meadow Waldorf School’s Director of Communication and Marketing in their March/April 2014 newsletter.

gmws4gmws5

RSF Makes a Loan to the Pine Forest School

December 15, 2014

PFS Logo.RSF is pleased to announce a new loan to the Pine Forest School (PFS). RSF financing will help fund the acquisition and renovation of a new campus property that will increase access to Waldorf education in the community.

Celebrating their 20th anniversary this school year, Pine Forest School is a publically funded, Pre-8 grade school in Flagstaff, Arizona using the Waldorf curriculum and methodology. PFS was founded in 1995 as a K-4 public school, and was originally funded by the Arizona State Department of Education. Through collaborative efforts by Flagstaff families interested in Waldorf education and enthusiastic, trained Waldorf educators and public school teachers around the country, Rudolf Steiner’s desire to bring the Waldorf model to public education became a reality in Northern Arizona. Over the next five years the school grew to be a complete K-8 program.

Michael Heffernan, PFS Executive Director, standing in front of the school's new property. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Sun.

Michael Heffernan, PFS Executive Director, stands in front of the school’s new property. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Sun.

The school currently operates on a 1.5 acre campus located in a light industrial park area of north Flagstaff. For the past several years the school has been focused on developing resources and community support for a move to a site offering a more Waldorf-appropriate environment, as well as the capacity to embrace a larger community. With the help of RSF financing the school was able to acquire a 3.5 acre property in Sunnyside, one of Flagstaff’s oldest neighborhoods. The school has plans for over $1.4 million in renovations, and hopes to open the new campus for the 2015-2016 school year.

“Pine Forest School and RSF Social Finance have known each other for many years,” says RSF Senior Lending Associate Reed Mayfield. “I first visited the school in the spring of 2011 when they were seeking to build out new facilities – it was not the right time for a move. But now as the school and community have grown, we are proud to co-create a path to the new space. Talk about long-term relationships!”

The Waldorf-modeled curriculum that Pine Forest School follows uses a child development model that nurtures and embraces learning for the head, heart, and hands of each student. With nearly 250 students currently enrolled, PFS offers Waldorf main lesson blocks intertwined with Southwestern culture, tradition, and history. Special classes and extra-curricular activities include German, Spanish, eurythmy, woodwork, handwork, art, archery, chess, basketball, and volleyball. The school is led by a passionate group of teachers and administrators, and seeks to facilitate strong family and community involvement through events, volunteer opportunities, and communication.

The Pine Forest School is currently the only public charter school in Flagstaff using the Waldorf methodology. PFS believes all children should have access to Waldorf education, regardless of their financial resources, and hope that the move to a new location will provide greater access to underserved children. The new site is more centrally located in Flagstaff, and is surrounded by several different neighborhoods and communities of people from varying ethnic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds.

“I am very excited that PFS has been blessed with the opportunity to expand our enrollment and bring this form of education to more children and families, and move to a location which is in the heart of Flagstaff, surrounded by neighborhoods, other schools, public libraries, city parks and national forest,” says PFS Executive Director Michael Heffernan. “We will be able to build our program with the larger facilities and more acreage, and the possibilities for community collaboration are many.  RSF is the perfect organization to partner with as their mission for social finance is aligned with our mission for excellence in education.”

Video courtesy of Pine Forest School:

About Pine Forest School

Founded in 1995, Pine Forest School (PFS) is the only public charter school in Flagstaff, Arizona using the Waldorf methodology. PFS provides an education of the whole child, with a curriculum that is a truly comprehensive balance of academic, practical, and artistic activities. The school is dedicated to helping individuals achieve their full intellectual, emotional, and physical potential, in a sustainable and beautiful environment that reinforces integrity, understanding, respect, and trust.  www.pineforestschool.org

Spreading the Word About the Next 25 Social Enterprise Stars

December 12, 2014

Word continues to spread about our campaign to add 25 social enterprise stars to our loan portfolio over the next year—over 1700 enterprises and referrers had checked out our campaign page by the end of November. Now it’s time to give thanks.

Thanks to 3BL Media, B Lab, Justmeans, SOCAP, Social Earth, and all of our other partners and friends who have been talking about the 25 #socentstars campaign on Twitter and elsewhere.

Thanks also to Alissa Sears, Amanda Kemp, Jocelyn Demirbag, and others we’ve reached out to who have dug through their contacts and introduced us to some great candidates.

And thanks to everyone who suggested potential stars in comments on our previous blog posts. The lending team is following up on all these suggestions. Keep them coming!

Our campaign is still going strong. We’re seeking for-profit or non-profit enterprises that are doing groundbreaking work in food and agriculture, education and the arts, or ecological stewardship—and could significantly expand their impact with a loan of about $200,000 to $5 million. (See the Social Enterprise Stars campaign page for detailed criteria).

To illustrate, here are a couple of examples from our current roster of borrowers:

training program 2 largeDC Central Kitchen is earning growing recognition for its work to create economic opportunity in the food industry for low-income and at-risk communities while addressing issues of food insecurity and food waste. The enterprise’s Meal Distribution program provides 10,000 healthy meals per day to local schools, homeless shelters, and other social service non-profit organizations. All meals are prepared by students and graduates of the Culinary Job Training program for unemployed people, many of whom are homeless, have been incarcerated, or have struggled with addiction. Find out more about DC Central Kitchen in this NPR story.

playworks-stories-playgroundPlayworks provides structured recess in public schools. Its programs improve school climate, reduce bullying, and increase student engagement through play and physical activity. Playworks provides public schools with trained, full-time coaches who use recess and play to support learning, and it provides training in structured recess for educators and youth workers.

Know any loan candidates like these? Please send them to Wanted: Social Enterprise Stars.

And please keep spreading the word! The more #SocentStars posts there are on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, the more social enterprises we can reach and assist. Here are a few post ideas:

RSF_SocentStarsLOGO-for website@RSFSocFinance wants to fund the next 25 #SocentStars. Are you one? Apply: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #socent

Have a breakthrough social enterprise? @RSFSocFinance has #funding for the next 25 #SocentStars: bit.ly/1tH0ytE

Successful #socent with funding woes? See if you qualify for an @RSFSocFinance loan: bit.ly/1tH0ytE #SocentStars

 

Between Land and Money: An Economic Consideration

December 10, 2014

This article was originally published in the Fall 2014 RSF Quarterly

John BloomBy John Bloom

At the newly created Paterson Great Falls National Historic Park on the Passaic River in northern New Jersey, there stands a sign inscribed: “Alexander Hamilton envisioned the great potential power of these scenic falls for industrial development.” This is nature at the service of money and the economy.

Looking around brought with it a chilling reminder of fallen industry in a town that the poetry of William Carlos Williams celebrated and economic history left behind.

Hamilton was an economic visionary. He saw nature as an underutilized economic resource and perceived the opportunities of young untapped markets. For Hamilton, fixing the major structural debt problem in post-revolutionary America’s finances by stimulating industrial manufacturing was both motivator and strategy. In 1791, Paterson became the first industrial park.

The history of Paterson’s Great Falls was about new industries including textiles (especially silk), handguns, rope, continuous sheet paper, submarines, locomotives and, later, airplane engines. With the application of capital and ingenuity, energy was extracted from the water and transformed into power, power into manufacture, manufacture into markets, markets into capital, capital into wealth, and wealth into power.

In the story of how natural resources are used for profit, between land [representing all natural resources] and money, is an economic paradigm in need of reassessment and intervention. In Paterson, what all that industry returned to the water by way of manufacturing and toxic waste was an insult to the living water and eco-system.

The polluted de-natured Passaic flows on as a man-made emblem of what happens when capital or money is extracted from nature without regard for nature’s regeneration; in essence, nature is left to die. Capital moves freely about the world, across space and time; land and natural resources are rooted in place and geologic time. In a materialistic economy, time is money, and money used in this way sadly has no patience for the evolutionary pace of nature.

Hamilton knew the need for natural resources of all kinds would increase continually to support economic and national development. He could see no limits to economic growth, and along the way contributed to what would become the industrialization and commodification of everything, including agriculture. With the emergence of property rights granted to individuals and corporations by the government, the mutuality of “ownership” in common gave way to the self-interest characterized so ably by Adam Smith in The Wealth of Nations, first published in 1776, the same year as the Declaration of Independence was signed. The drive of self-interest is deeply connected to accumulations of wealth.

Paterson Great Falls. Photo courtesy of John Bloom.

Paterson Great Falls. Photo courtesy of John Bloom.

Numerous economists have observed the cyclical patterns of boom and bust, the disparity of wealth and poverty that seem an endemic part of the industrialized and global economy. But, none has addressed it as directly as Henry George with the publication of Progress and Poverty in 1880. George argued that land and natural resources should be owned in the commons, and that private ownership and the control of rents was one of the major contributing causes of impoverishment of the many at the hands of the few. As a remedy, he proposed a single tax on the value of land. This tax would return to the public the monetary resources that in some senses were sequestered in the land and in private hands. What George was trying to do was find a monetary equivalent for decommoditizing the land, to make it in the community’s interest to make sure that the land was rightfully used and stewarded for future generations. George’s was a land-based economy in which the community benefited from the wealth generated by the increasing value of land.

Henry George’s approach to economics represents a view that land and all natural resources are not economic unto themselves. That is, they do not enter the economic stream until someone works on that resource; the product of that work is economic. Rudolf Steiner in his lectures on Economics given in 1922 put forth a similar concept and elaborated further that this work on the land generates one kind of value. He also identified a second kind of value stream: that which emerges when intelligence is applied to labor. These dynamically related principles lie at the heart of economic life. However, the land-based stream has been devalued as it tends toward place, and stands against the imperative of capital and global markets.

Jane Jacobs, in her study of economics in an urban environment in the late 20th century, developed a vision of self-sustaining regional economies based upon what she called import replacement. Hers was a vision of small-to-medium-scale entrepreneurs and manufacturers who would find ways to make things based upon regional natural resources. She indicated that this approach would also reduce the environmental degradation that results from extensive transportation of goods. Her vision also includes that which Hamilton missed—a mindfulness of organic systems that finds innovative ways to transform waste into new value.

Each of these visionary economic thinkers saw the economy as a whole system, and brought a new perspective based upon the reality of their respective times. The purpose of narrating these various views of land and money is to tease out of them some sense of how we can actually live in a dynamic tension between the two, and to resurrect the shared reality and importance of land and natural resources, not as economic in and of themselves, but as part of a livable economic future—and before it is too late to do so.

The money economy is global. It allows for trade and the movement of manufactured goods across political boundaries, and money can move around the world at electronic speed. It supports scale and efficiency and has made the accumulation of wealth a bedfellow of unparalleled poverty. It has, unfortunately, pervaded all aspects of economic life to the exclusion of other ways of being economic.

The scale and consequences of recent events indicate an unhealthy disconnect between money and land to the extent that land itself has become a treasury measured in ever-rising prices, which, in turn, have presented barriers to access, especially for farmers. In the land economy, people are connected to what is made from it, and to the soil and to stewarding the resources themselves.

We need both facets of the economy, but with a renewed awareness of land. By and large the land economy has been adumbrated by the money economy. Everything, it seems, has been monetized. What numerous contemporary movements are doing is trying to reawaken the local-regional land-based economy consciousness. In essence they are encouraging communities and individuals to take back authority for the development of economic life out of a sense of interdependence.

We need an economy that raises the land-based on equal ground with the global, recognizes the value and role each play, and manages capital in a way that supports the interplay between them. To change our economic being will require a radical reconsideration of ownership—how we own, why we own—and a major disruption of the myth of self-interest. The reality of our interdependence in economic life will celebrate the importance of community-interest, both local and global. But nothing will happen in this direction unless each of us steps out of self-interested consumer-owner consciousness—one endgame of the money economy—and finds a way to really reconnect with land, not as real estate, but as the source of life.

John Bloom is Senior Director of Organizational Culture at RSF Social Finance

RSF Launches Arts Shared Gifting Circle in Los Angeles

December 5, 2014

In the past four years RSF has been experimenting with a new model of giving called Shared Gifting. Shared Gifting aims to transform the power dynamics in philanthropy by giving the decision making authority for grant funds to the non-profits who will receive them.

Previously RSF has facilitated this process with organizations focused on sustainable food and agriculture. However, in January of 2015 we will be hosting the first Shared Gifting circle focused on the Arts!

In order to determine where to host Shared Gifting circles, RSF looks to our borrowers who are our partners in the field. RSF supports two wonderful borrowers in Los Angeles; LA Stage Alliance and 18th Street Arts Center. We worked with both of these organizations, as well as our community of grantees, donors, borrowers, and investors, to identify great non-profits working to provide services to the arts community in Los Angeles.

We are excited to announce the participants of Shared Gifting Los Angeles:

Representatives from these organizations will participate in a full day meeting to distribute $50,000 in grant funding through a collaborative process in which the grantees will become grantors to each other. To learn more about the Shared Gifting process please visit our website at: http://rsfsocialfinance.org/services/donors/shared-gifting/

We are excited to be working with these organizations and look forward to sharing our experiences from the Shared Gifting meeting!

The Day of Giving and the Commonwealth

December 3, 2014

John BloomBy John Bloom

December 2, 2014—a Day of Giving. I cannot tell you how many e-mail requests I received yesterday. Each made the case for why I should make a charitable gift for their cause or mission, and to do so at the simple click of a “donate now” button. Giving could not be made easier. And so it should be, except that I felt suddenly on demand. As one who researches money and gifting, and practices within the fundamental assumption that life itself is a gift, I found my head reeling at the unaddressed assumptions vibrating inside these virtual asks. Not that I have any doubts about the worthy work of the organizations participating in Giving Tuesday, or any doubts about the legitimacy of the requests. The state of our culture and the disparity of wealth in our society are glaring indicators that not enough gift money is moving out of private ownership and back through the economy. But, starving the beast is no way to tame it. So one could look at Giving Tuesday as a binge-feeding day, a temporary fix with raised awareness of a host of problems that need to be addressed at a much deeper and more difficult systemic level.

There is a certain marketing savvy behind the concept of Giving Tuesday. It is a little like the invention of Mother’s Day or Father’s Day, but with a tax-deductible twist. It does speak to the in-the-moment crowd-sourced consumer culture in which we live. And I hope that it has generated an extraordinary outpouring of gift along with a broadened and sustainable donor base. But this touches my sadness nerve—the notion of generosity generated through a one-day marketing strategy. How did generosity get so disconnected from the flow of our money and our time? When did gifting get written out of economic life such that we have to market it back in?

Giving is a way of freeing capital, liberating its power to renew and support initiative that has a public benefit, in service to the common good. But this statement assumes that if you have money, you realize that that money, currently in your possession, was made possible by your contribution (and maybe leadership) to the collective economic activity of the commonwealth—even if that money is inherited. This picture of reciprocity, if it is indeed bidirectional, nearly necessitates giving and generosity. I am compelled by the pressure to flow gift money back into the system because in the end that also supports my wellbeing. I don’t control, but rather am part of. I am not a contributor, but rather a “contributary”.

In the short term, let’s celebrate Giving Day. It is a moment to raise awareness and popularize the importance of generosity. And while I can assuage my sadness nerve, I cannot let go of the notion of our commonwealth. Mostly our culture views the capacity to give based upon having more than enough—whether that is money or time. I would propose that the opposite is true—when one gives one experiences the reality that enough does not exist without giving. That is, giving makes us whole. My hope would be that the joy of giving on the Day of Giving begins or continues to rebuild an everyday culture of gift.

John Bloom is Senior Director of Organizational Culture at RSF Social Finance

RSF Makes a Loan to the East Bay Waldorf School

December 2, 2014

10685579_10152799061635734_4161669210641885723_nRSF is pleased to announce a new loan to the East Bay Waldorf School (EBWS). RSF financing helped the school complete renovations to existing classrooms and facilities and lease additional classroom space.

The East Bay Waldorf School was founded in 1980 when a group of parents and friends opened a kindergarten in the Julia Morgan Center in Berkeley. Each subsequent year another grade was added toward the full complement of eight grades. The school moved to Emeryville in 1984, where it remained for 12 years. When the school district reclaimed the Emeryville site in 1996, EBWS purchased its current home – an 11-acre hillside campus in El Sobrante, California.

Born from the insights of Rudolf Steiner, the Waldorf model of education unfolds an enriching and rigorous synthesis of academic, artistic, and practical pursuits for intellectual, moral, and physical development. The mission of the East Bay Waldorf School is to ignite the spark of individuality in each child, developing a lifelong commitment to learning, creativity, and excellence. The school’s curriculum integrates the sciences, humanities, mathematics, music, movement and the arts to offer a diverse and profound learning experience.

IMG_7128RSF’s relationship with the East Bay Waldorf School dates back nearly two decades, when RSF provided the mortgage loan for the purchase of the El Sobrante property. Two additional loans were made, in the fall of 1996 and in 1999, and were used for construction costs, classroom renovations, and the purchase of computers and science lab equipment. The new loan has allowed EBWS to complete renovations and lease three new portables.

“The new classrooms needed to be in place and the upgrades had to be completed in time for the start of the new school year,” says Ted Levinson, RSF Senior Director of Lending. “The East Bay Waldorf School community was extremely helpful and cooperative in completing the process. It was exciting to be of assistance in the completion of the improvements to the school!”

ourbackdoorAn extraordinary feature of the East Bay Waldorf School is their remarkable hillside campus, adjacent to thousands of acres of regional parkland accessible by foot. The campus and adjacent wild lands function as an extension of the school’s classrooms, providing fantastic opportunities for students to spend time learning and playing in nature.

“This location provides us with rich opportunities to venture regularly into the natural world,” says Kelly Chappie, Interim Administrator at EBWS. “We are committed to offering Waldorf education to a broad constituency while cultivating a school resonant with the impulses of the first Waldorf school: a development of thinking, feeling, and willing in children, which offers them an education in service of realizing and making their own unique contributions to the future.”

javelin

About East Bay Waldorf School

Founded in 1980, the East Bay Waldorf School is situated on a remarkable 11-acre hillside campus adjacent to thousands of acres of regional parkland in El Sobrante, California. The school offers an infant through 8th grade program and is committed to offering Waldorf education to a broad constituency. The East Bay Waldorf School ignites the spark of individuality in each child, developing a lifelong commitment to learning, creativity, and excellence. http://www.eastbaywaldorf.org/

Community Foundations Deploying All Resources to Build Community Wealth

November 24, 2014

The following preface was written by RSF President & CEO Don Shaffer for the Democracy Collaborative’s recent report, A New Anchor Mission for a New Century: Community Foundations Deploying All Resources to Build Community Wealth. The report highlights “The Innovative 30″ community foundations and their cutting edge work focused on deploying resources, in many cases not just grants, in support of rebuilding community wealth. RSF is particularly excited about this report as it ties in well with the ongoing work we are doing with pioneering community foundation leaders who are determined to align their individual foundations’ investments with their deep commitment to place.

community foundations

Preface

Many thanks to The Democracy Collaborative for this insightful paper. As so many of us push for innovation, it’s important we pause today to celebrate–as this paper does–the wide range of benefits that community foundations already generate.

Of many great quotes in the paper, one by Janet Topolsky from Aspen Institute Community Strategies Group brilliantly sums up the challenge: “A community foundation can do anything… But it has to decide what it wants to do.”

On the one hand, community foundations are nonprofit public charities with flexibility in their legal structures to create direct loan funds, loan guarantee pools, collaborations with community development financial institutions, and many other new approaches to working with different kinds of capital to meet the needs of local social enterprises. On the other hand, community foundations face many barriers in trying something new.

Yet, as this report shows, exciting innovation is already underway by community foundations, in both economic development and impact investing. Both are ways of moving toward the vital new anchor mission of deploying all resources to build community wealth.

The anchor institution work that The Democracy Collaborative has pioneered is a no-brainer for community foundations to embrace. Yes, it is resource-intensive and requires skillful partnering. But what is the alternative? It is a challenge community foundations will be wise to embrace.

Regarding impact investing, a massive cultural shift is still needed. There are very few foundation leaders who can say, as Clara Miller from the Heron Foundation does, “Our fundamental question for deployment of all capital will be, ‘what is the highest and best use of this asset for furthering our mission?'”

Short-term paper gains in a portfolio of public companies are just that–paper gains. They do not represent real wealth. The aspirational investment goal for community foundations is deploying 100 percent of assets for impact in their local communities. As this paper reports, Kelly Ryan and her board at Incourage Community Foundation in central Wisconsin are the first among community foundations to make this commitment. It will be exciting to watch as they move toward realizing this ambitious goal. At RSF Social Finance, our vision is of 100 community foundations reaching the 100 percent goal in the next decade.

I send my best to all of you taking on these worthy challenges.

Sincerely,

Don Shaffer

President & CEO, RSF Social Finance

Click here to read the full report.

Blog

Page 1 of 3812345...102030...Last »

Categories

Latest posts

Archives

Blog Roll