Social Impact Investing–Venture Philanthropy Part 1

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The challenge and benefit to society to convert a social venture philanthropy movement into a true force for change was part of many topics addressed by Jean Case, the CEO of the Stephen Case Foundation, during her keynote address at the Yale University School of Management’s Conference on Philanthropy held on February 1.

The Case Foundation, a leader in impact investing, thinks of tackling big projects, and Mrs. Case urged nonprofit organizations, foundations, high net worth individuals, and other stakeholders, to always “think big.”

“Venture Philanthropy” is a term first used in 1969 by John D. Rockefeller III, grandson of the Rockefeller Foundation founder.  What he meant by venture philanthropy was an adventurous, risk taking approach to funding unpopular social causes.  It took a more narrowly defined form in the mid-1990s when it began mirroring the techniques of Silicon Valley’s venture capitalists. It merges the idea, capital and business expertise in one place.  However, social venture capital is more patient and long-term capital than traditional venture capital.  In its best form, social venture philanthropy capital is collaborative capital, working with the the nonprofit organization’s team, and not making all the rules.

In upcoming posts, I will highlight the innovative approach of groups of philanthropists—including the Case Foundation—and new financing techniques and metrics being implemented by philanthrocapitalists to measure success, including social impact bonds, loan guarantees, and PRIs, which are program related investments made by foundations.

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