Socially responsible investing continues to grow in the finance world as individuals, corporations and nonprofit organizations seek to put their money into enterprises that align with their values. That’s where organizations like Colorado’s Impact Finance Center enter the picture. The center offers financial education and counsel to businesses looking for funding, nonprofits seeking optimal money management and investors looking for opportunities. It serves as a “think-do tank for impact investing and venture philanthropy,” says Stephanie Gripne, the organization’s founder and CEO.
“Just as accelerators such as TechStars, Village Capital, or 500 Startups identify, educate and invest in entrepreneurs, Impact Finance Center is an accelerator for individuals and organizations who want to become impact investors, through a process of identification, education and activation,” Gripne says.
Finance Impact Center connects organizations with benefactors in a marketplace format. Last year, the group’s Colorado Impact Days hosted 60 applicants comprised of nonprofit organizations, companies, funds, agencies, community partnerships and independent projects looking for an impact investment, which is defined as a capital need that can be met with a loan, line of credit or equity. The success of Colorado Impact Days spurred an initiative currently underway to build an infrastructure for a National Investing Market- place by 2030.
Impact Finance Center efforts benefit local communities by facilitating financing opportunities and relationship investing with a mutual goal of positive impact. “You can’t look your 401K in the eye. We need to take the best of Wall Street and bring it back to Main Street in order to come back to investing in each other,” says Gripne. During the 2008-2012 economic climate, the best financial investment was in Main Street businesses and nonprofits, not an approach most people take. Main Street community notes can also be purchased in one-, three- and five-year increments, comparable to a certificate of deposit.
Impact Finance Center takes a holistic opportunity diagnosis. It provides clients with advisory services that can range from custom education courses and consultations to sending in an outsourced chief impact officer. Every entity that works with the center can determine what level of guidance makes sense for them, including the opportunity to participate in 8 to 20 class fellowships. Even when working with well-established organizations, Gripne recommends they check on the performance of their finances and investment allocation periodically for best results.
The other side of the equation is the investors who are coming to the table with capital and are unsure where to direct investments. For these groups or individuals, Impact Investing Institute offers an array of courses. A couple of the popular ones include “If Angels Invest in Unicorns, Do Heroes invest in Racehorses?” and “What About the Champions and Catalysts?”
When educated, investors can then focus on aligning their portfolios with their values by assisting enterprises in their communities and those they are passionate about.
Investor clubs are now being piloted for those ready to invest directly in social ventures in Colorado. Current investor clubs include the Colorado Main Street Lender Investor Club, Colorado Women’s Investor Club, Sustainable Forestry Investment Club and Indigenous Economies Investor Club.
Giving Circles are also a low-risk, fun starting point. Asset owners participate in educational workshops, then invest in social ventures as a group. The Women’s Giving Circle empowers women entrepreneurs and aims to change the statistic that currently only 4 percent of the total dollar value of all small loans is allocated to women entrepreneurs.
Courses from Impact Finance Center are available for free for the duration of COVID-19, including topics on COVID-19 Financial Innovation and Impact Investing and new courses are added weekly.
The concept of private entities coming together to benefit one another while reaching their own goals has a significant impact on the local community. Impact Financial Center has activated 85 investors and catalyzed $300 million in investments which Gripne calls, “an achievement of a lifetime,” and shows no sign of slowing down.
Danielle Yuthas is a Denver native and as the senior marketing director for a national franchise brand headquartered in Colorado, she is passionate about helping independently-owned and operated businesses recover and thrive.
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