A Letter from Our Executive Team
Jan 7 2019
Happy New Year! As we step into 2019, we would like to express our deep gratitude to and for our community of clients and partners—thank you for your ongoing support and inspiration.
RSF’s work toward creating a compassionate and regenerative economy has never felt more needed or important. This sense of urgency is moving people to act. In 2018, we experienced unprecedented demand for funding. With the help of our motivated community of values-driven investors and donors, we exceeded our goals and flowed over $80 million in loans, investments, and grants to groundbreaking social enterprises.
Funding highlights include RSF’s largest-ever school loan, to the Chicago Waldorf School. The loan enabled the school to purchase and renovate a historic building that will serve not only as the school’s permanent home but also as a cultural resource for the surrounding community.
Another standout story is the funding RSF provided to Commons Energy, which helps owners of affordable housing, community centers, and other public-purpose buildings to reduce their energy and water use. Commons Energy has an unusual model that made finding growth capital a challenge, but RSF’s integrated capital approach is allowing the enterprise to bring energy efficiency to more underserved communities.
As exciting as successes like these are, moving financial resources is only one way RSF is pursuing transformative change. We also put enormous energy into expanding the field of social finance and striving to ensure we live up to our highest ideals.
Advancing the field of social finance
Our first cohort of 22 Integrated Capital Institute (ICI) fellows graduated in June, and they’re actively applying what they learned from the fellowship. One example: Tiffany Brown and Kate Poole became business partners during their ICI fellowship, cofounding Chordata Capital, a financial advising firm that works with wealth holders to activate investment portfolios that embody a commitment to racial and economic justice. In November we welcomed our second ICI cohort—an impressive, diverse group of 24 fellows that promises to be equally influential.
We’ve also renewed focus on a project of our own: promoting and supporting alternative business structures that allow social enterprises to grow without compromising their mission. Our work with Organically Grown Company (OGC), a produce distributor based in Portland, Oregon, is a prime example. In July OGC became the first U.S. company to implement a perpetual purpose trust. The structure takes selling OGC off the table and maximizes purpose by creating long-term returns for mission-aligned evergreen investors and sharing the balance of profits with stakeholders. RSF provided a loan to help buy out OGC’s previous shareholders and recapitalize the business.
Advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion
Deepening our work on diversity, equity, and inclusion—as individuals, as a team, and through our practices and the enterprises we support—was a major theme in 2018.
Our Women’s Capital Collaborative (WCC) is one manifestation of this ongoing work. We met our goal of raising $3 million for the WCC, which unlocked a $1 million challenge grant from our lead donor. This funding is allowing us to support enterprises like Jessica Norwood’s Runway Project, which bridges the racial wealth gap by providing “friends and family-style” seed funding and advising to African American entrepreneurs.
Deepening our roots and broadening our reach
During the last few months, we revisited our mission statement and theory of change and developed a seven-year strategic plan. The plan takes a deep dive into RSF’s role in the world, defining how we can meaningfully grow our assets, flow capital to where it will have the most impact, and create an economy that works for all people and the planet.
As we look ahead, one exciting aspect of our work is an initiative to deepen our 35 years of expertise in food systems, education, and the environment with a new commitment to associative principles and social justice. Stay tuned—we will share more about this journey as it unfolds.
We close this letter with heartfelt thanks to our community. In the shadow of a year that felt laden with tragedy and dislocation, we see the RSF community’s successes as a glimmer of hope and confidence for the future. It is a privilege to work every day with social entrepreneurs who have the courage to take on the most complex problems, and with the donors and investors who are helping them do it. We are continually inspired by your commitment.
Jasper van Brakel, Chief Executive Officer
John Bloom, Vice President, Organizational Culture
Chris Cook, Chief Financial Officer
Tim Green, General Counsel
Susie Lee, Chief Investment Officer
Deb Nelson, Vice President, Client & Community Engagement
Katrina Steffek, Chief Operating Officer