Momentum. That's the word of the day every day at Impact Foundation. We're trying to achieve and maintain enough momentum to accomplish our mission - helping donors invest in businesses that do good and make money. As we say a lot, "You can't steer a parked car." We've gotten going and now have enough activity so there's something to shape. It's exciting and sometimes we forget to share what's been happening. So here's a short update.
New Team Members
Jeff Johns joined as our CEO. He's the former EVP in charge of growth for National Christian Foundation. Jeff loves Jesus, his family, food, serving Donor/Investors - most of whom he knows because he's one of the most networked guys I know - building a great business, and adventure (in that order). As the former national collegiate skydiving champion, Jeff is reliving his glory days by jumping out of a steady job at NCF to do something brand new. Read his bio.
Bev Lathrop joined as our Operations Manager, or as she prefers "Queen of Covert Ops". With a high capacity for organizing chaos, Bev does a commendable job wrangling all the activity that Jeff and Aimee stir up. She spent the past 4 years working with Jeff at NCF and has enjoyed making the jump with him to Impact Foundation.
Though we think of ourselves as business people and have a revenue model, we're fully a charity and can raise donations to fuel our launch. We are excited to report that we've recruited 10 of the 20 founders we need to provide sustainability over the next 36 months until our revenue model covers our operating expenses. We'll keep working to find the remaining founders but for now we celebrate God's provision. Yay! Paychecks are nice.
Closing Deals and Building Processes
As our friend Dan Viall reminds us, "innovation happens at the speed of execution". It's his nice ways of saying that no one cares how cool our ideas are unless we actually follow through and do something. For us, the critical moment happens when we help a donor invest charitable capital in a business that makes money and has spiritual/social/environment impact. Happily, we've completed investments for 11 Donor/Investors with 3 more set to close in the next week. Talk about momentum.
To keep up with all these investments is no small task, which is why we're so pleased to be working with Capin Crouse, a prominent national accounting firm. Capin is helping build our accounting processes and will perform quarterly mini-audits to make sure we're following them. We've also hired Sunesis Advisors, a multi-family office that is expert at helping their clients vet, make, and manage private investments. This team provides those same services to Impact Foundation. As amazing as Jeff and Bev may be, we will never be investment experts, which makes Sunesis a very important part of our secret sauce.
Our 501c3 status came through. If you want to read more about why it's such a big deal, click here.
I was 17 when my dad died. It was sudden and deeply disorienting. Those days and weeks immediately afterward were a dense fog of grief and cleanup. He died without a will or estate plan (mainly because he had nothing to plan).
As the youngest of 5 kids and the only one still living at home without an adult job, I received the largest "inheritance".
Part 2 in our "Defining and Measuring Series"
"I own a company and I'm a Christian. Does that mean you can invest in my company?" - We get a version of this question at least once a week at Impact Foundation. Consequently, we've spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to say deploy capital for social and spiritual impact alongside financial gain. Is it enough to have "christian" management? Must the organization sell "spiritual" goods or services?
Part 1 in our "Defining and Measuring Series"
To reach broader adoption, kingdom impact investing needs a unified definition and a basic set of metrics to help determine if it works. Over the next few blogs, we'll explore these issues but first can't we find a better phrase?
"Kingdom" in our usage refers to the kingdom of God, as Jesus described it in His teachings. Not every follower of Jesus is comfortable with this phrase. For us at Impact Foundation, the hope of this Kingdom drives everything we do. Thus, it seems a suitable adjective to differentiate our version of "impact investing" and the least bad option.
part 3 of 3 in our "Defining and Measuring Series"
Tracking performance of investments to determine if we're meeting our goals for spiritual transformation feels like the holy grail of Kingdom Impact Investing. It’s time to put forth a working version that can be implemented now and improved over time because we have seen the power of Kingdom Impact Investing and want to unleash it for more good.
Sitting between Thailand and Vietnam, the country of Laos is marked by rugged mountains and one of the lowest per capita incomes in the world. This poverty fuels the two largest industries in the Golden Triangle (Laos, Burma, Thailand, and Myanmar): opium trade and human trafficking.
Jobs and the hope of the Gospel - they're needed here perhaps more than anywhere else. Fortunately, the Lao government has been implementing reforms meriting attention from US investors. For those interested in alleviating poverty through sustainable business, it's an attractive place. That it why Laos Agriventure got its start.
In their own words, Craig and April Chapman describe their experiences investing for impact.
Historically, we have set aside some amount of our personal financial resources to go to non-profits; i.e. organizations that improve the lives of others, with the goal of impacting not only their physical, emotional or educational needs, but also pointing them to God. FThe problem is that once we give the money away, it’s gone – and we have to continue making money in order to give more away. Clearly, that is not a sustainable strategy unless we have an unlimited capacity to make money. That’s where impact investing comes in.
Winding along dirt roads South of San Pedro Sula for two hours gave us plenty of time to talk. As we drove, Pete pointed out the truck window at the rows of young coffee, yucca, and pineapple. "All those fields are new. The first time I came out here [on a five hour donkey ride] there was nothing in these hills. Can you guess why that changed?"
Drought ended? Drug cartels stopped fighting in the region? Some nonprofit moved in with an agriculture program?
No, no, and no.
Over five days, we took 24 people to see eight projects in two countries. It was a bit of a whirlwind, so I recruited some help to describe what we saw: Jackson Johns, age 10 and Andy Minnich, age 9. I figured if two young boys can explain these social businesses, nearly anyone can understand. Certainly, these businesses are robust enough that we could write MBA case studies on each of them, but hopefully the simple explanation can help paint a quick picture of impact investing and spark your imagination.
Pete, David and Bob my friends of over 20 years model not only a personal work ethic that empowers their employees, but have also elevated the conversation of how to best help the poor by providing productive work environments that facilitate replicable and sustainable business models that radically increase a person’s potential to care for their families. Rita and I heard from two joyful recipients of this holistic approach to charity: a mom beamed of her ability to daily have a physically clean child and a farmer proudly told us of his capacity to pay for the education of his entire family. Indeed, responsible ways to help people help them grow more responsible.
I had a series of bad interactions with a Charity Enterprise that I love. It's caused me to reflect on my own work and the social enterprise industry at large. I don't want to identify this company, but they're one of the dozens that sells consumer products that have been made by at risk populations - people for whom a job means they can avoid jail, trafficking, putting their children in orphanages, etc.
To be fair, we all make mistakes. Every day. I'm not stellar at returning email and I can't remember names sometimes even my own kids. So the lessons I'm sharing in this blog are ones that I'm trying to take to heart for Impact Foundation. Maybe they'll help you as well.
Why does this matter? The long-term viability of investing for impact is at stake.