Impact investing expands to $30 million program

Leveraging the success of a $1 million pilot, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation is expanding its impact investing program to a $30 million initiative over the next five years. The Foundation is committing $15 million of existing resources and will seek the remainder through private fundraising.

Driven by a generational commitment to racial equity and inclusion since 2016, the Foundation is concentrating an increased share of resources among people and places that have been subject to declining or absent investment through the years. The Foundation uses impact investing as one avenue for creating jobs, providing access to capital for small business development and helping build personal wealth, which directly influences one’s ability to improve the quality of their life and those around them.

In the context of the current public health, social and financial crises, impact investing is among the strategies the Foundation can deploy to fuel an equitable recovery in our region.

“The COVID-19 outbreak coupled with large-scale civil demonstrations for racial justice have only heightened the need for greater action and investment in our local communities,” said Ellen Gilligan, Foundation president and CEO. “Our success in supporting job creation and small businesses owned by women and people of color sets the stage for an expanded wave of impact investments as part of our comprehensive approach to boosting the local economy in the most equitable ways possible.”

An innovative tool for a thriving community

Impact investing is a practice that enables the Foundation to provide capital to businesses or organizations with the dual goal of producing a measurable social impact while also generating a financial return. Examples include low- or no-interest loans, loan guarantees, real estate or public and private equities. The dollars that are reclaimed can then be reinvested in new projects in a virtuous cycle.

The Foundation’s pilot program supported the growth of 47 new small businesses, helped create more than 85 jobs, redeveloped dilapidated properties into productive commercial spaces and attracted $4.9 million in additional public investment to local neighborhoods.

Read about the impact investments we featured in our Fall 2019 Greater Together magazine

The Foundation is now taking the program to a $30 million scale as part of its holistic approach to recovery that centers the voices and priorities of people most affected – collaborating on solutions that help families, neighborhoods and businesses while also focusing on long-term systems change. By doubling the $15 million already mobilized by the Foundation, community philanthropists and investors can join in catalyzing significant economic activity through impact investing.

The Foundation’s expanded program focuses on three core priorities:

  • Equitable Economic Opportunities – improving job access and wealth creation for Milwaukee residents through place-based job and business growth.
  • Affordable Housing – creating or enhancing affordable housing options that retain existing residents as well as attract new residents and household types.
  • Early Childhood Education – increasing the supply of quality, affordable, early childhood education services, leading to workforce development and upward economic mobility.

“Thoughtful projects that would bring excellent value to the community but are encountering barriers to traditional financing are often strong candidates for impact investing,” said Kathryn Dunn, senior vice president of community impact. “We’ve shown how this instrument cancultivate entrepreneurship – particularly in communities of color – increase employment opportunities and support creation of vibrant, mixed-income communities. Such investment is needed now more than ever.”